Gifting the Green Thumb | Features

Hundreds of houseplants await at TC’s I’m Planty AF
By Brighid Driscoll | November 19, 2022

Along with wicker furniture, shag carpeting, and macrame, houseplants were a beloved part of many American homes in the 1970s. Mid-century modern architecture had exploded decades earlier, and interior designers were using houseplants to soften the straight lines, maintaining the concept of bringing the outside in.

In recent years, houseplants have become popular decor again, and it’s a trend worth keeping. In addition to the satisfaction of caring for something green and alive, there are stress-relieving, air-freshening, and brain-boosting benefits of keeping plants in your home. If you’re ready to take the plunge as a plant owner, the I’m Planty AF store in downtown Traverse City offers inspired options.

“Last October, the space where Planty is now was the Bookie Joint,” owner Karen Hilt tells us as she walks through the store. “It was an iconic downtown store that had been here for 50 years. Attic [Weslock] and I saw them put the sign in the window and they just stopped and looked at each other.

Leaving on a limb
Hilt and Weslock are no strangers to being business owners. They also own the popular My Secret Stash (MSS) gift shop. “We opened My Secret Stash in 2014. That first year it was consigned from different manufacturers – some based in Traverse City, from UP, Detroit and Grand Rapids. I worked seven days a week that first year. I’m grateful now to have a full team,” says Hilt.

After her older sister’s passing, Hilt honored her by selling some aerial plants on MSS. “She and her wife had a huge and beautiful garden. She brought home some of her plants. She put them up for sale upstairs at MSS and was surprised when people were eager to buy them and asked about other plants. Hilt and Weslock began propagating and bringing in different houseplants. They also joined the local Facebook page TC Plant Exchange, where plant exchanges take place regularly and knowledge is shared freely.

Hilt has brought that welcoming vibe to the new venture, so if you struggle with the health of your existing plants, Hilt and the Planty team encourage you to ask questions. “I have a great team who are super helpful and passionate about plants. They will come talk to you.

As well as a selection of plants in all shapes and sizes – from tall cacti to creeping plants and rare beauties – the store also has an array of cute plant-themed gifts and accessories. Books, vases, plant foods and more can be found alongside lush green leaves. And if Hilt doesn’t have something in stock, she’s happy to send people to other plant stores.

“Vegetable tourism is something that is happening,” she says. “I think I see more because we’re posting on Instagram about our plant babies, but people are going to come in and be so excited that we have so many great plant stores. It’s something we should be embracing.”

Plant Parenthood
When it comes to finding the perfect plant for your home, Hilt says it’s important to keep in mind that different houseplants have different temperaments. While some can go long days without water, others need frequent watering. Some varieties need a lot of sunlight, while others thrive in very little.

The plant Hilt recommends for beginners is a succulent. These low-maintenance plants are prized for their various shades of green leaves and adorable little stature. They are also easy to care for because they require very little water, as many succulent varieties originated in dry, desert climates. Hilt says your leaves determine when to water; tender leaves are usually an indicator that the succulent needs watering. Aim to water them every two weeks from spring through fall, and once a month in winter when they are dormant.

Ready for some more? The store offers regular terrarium building classes. “We call it a terrarium bar, but it can be used to build any plant. We do birthday parties with children or adults, bridal parties and team building. We have all the tools here, walk you through what you need to do, and it’s a really fun way to break the ice.” Options for terrarium bars are created based on the budget and how much time you can devote to care.

Planty also offers live wall-building workshops in-store, teaching you how to assemble rows of plant pots that will eventually grow to look like a floating wall of greenery. “You can buy as many shelves as you want. They are stackable. We can make a living wall as small or as big as you want,” says Hilt.

As we approach winter, Hilt recommends caring for your current houseplants by watering a little less, stopping fertilizer use, and moving them closer together to increase warmth. She says that some yellowing or drooping leaves are to be expected in the colder months, but if you start to have more problems, head to the store for expert advice.

“The most common complaint with plants is that the leaves turn brown or yellow around the edges. What does that mean? Easy: too much water, too little water, too many nutrients, too little, too much light or too little. That’s the historical joke,” she says with a laugh. “We’ll ask some questions and see if we can’t figure it out.”

Find I’m Planty AF at 124 S. Union St. in Traverse City. (231)493-6440,


The secret behind my secret hiding place

My Secret Stash is an easy option for unique handmade gifts. Hilt sources many of its products from dozens of manufacturers ranging from local to the Midwest, keeping up with the seasons and trends, always having a few classics and throwbacks in stock.

How does she do it? Background: Prior to becoming a business owner, Hilt worked in retail.

“For a while, I worked in luxury retail, making millions of dollars for other people,” she says. “When I stopped that, I started working with artisans and galleries in the interior of the state, and they were all spaces focused on creators. One place was huge with over 100 makers selling their items. Each rents its space to sell items and pays a commission to the house. We all took turns running the place in shifts. It was a collective. I’ve done this for a long time, and when I opened Stash, this was the mindset I had going into it.

From eclectic to exciting, Hilt has put together a store that makes gift-giving easy this holiday season. Fan favorites are socks, patches, and a variety of Michigan-themed gifts. Find the store at 122 Cass St. in Traverse City or shop online at

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