Grower of exotic houseplants reaping what she sows

A beloved hobby has grown into a new business for one Sarnia woman – literally.

Like many of us, Nicole Warner, 33, found time on her hands during the pandemic lockdowns and looked for a creative outlet. “I’ve always loved house plants, especially exotic ones that I import from overseas,” she said. “I’ve got hundreds in my home.”

Last fall, a friend suggested making a YouTube video as a fun project, with Warner in front of the camera and the friend helping edit. “It was just something different to do. I’m not a public speaker but I’m a bit of a character and I wanted to show off my plants,” she said.

The videos they produced feature Warner primarily unboxing imported plants. “I buy thousands of dollars worth of plants at a time and you never know what will come out of the box,” she said. She has made 54 videos since October and named the show That’s What She Grows.

Meanwhile, Warner realized Sarnia didn’t have a rare and exotic plant shop – at least not one with species that interest her. And she was encouraged to open one by someone willing to help with the investment.

“It all happened quickly,” she said. “I did the due diligence, got incorporated and got the permits. Then I hunted for space downtown. There was no question in my mind that’s where I want to be. It’s more artsy and everyone’s a big community down here.”

That’s What She Grows opened at 149A Christina St. North in April. It carries succulents, common houseplants like ferns and philodendrons, cacti, carnivorous plants and rarities she sources from Thailand, Indonesia and Ecuador, such as anthurium villenaorum and philodendron billietiae.

Foot traffic at That’s What She Grows has outstripped expectation.“I thought most of my sales would be the online market. I am shipping right across Canada but I’m finding most business is in-person. I feel really humbled,” said Warner. “People are so supportive, it brings me to tears.

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