The founder of The Sill on why turning your home into a green oasis might do wonders for your mental health
When Eliza Blank moved to Manhattan for college, she struggled to incorporate greenery into her small city apartments. “There wasn’t a consumer brand or even a resource in the houseplant space that spoke to a novice like myself — who was trying to make city life sustainable by incorporating plants into it,” she told Wake-Up Call.
Blank founded The Sill in 2012, working from a borrowed desk in Chinatown. In the years since the online plant store has sprouted into a multi-operational business delivering across the U.S. Blank told us why plants are imperative right now for brightening up our homes — and our moods — while social distancing, offered some tips on how to seamlessly add them to your space.
Wake-Up Call: What inspired the concept behind The Sill?
When I thought of plants and gardening before I started The Sill, I thought of Martha Stewart and other iconic women. And that didn’t resonate with me. I wanted to create a brand inclusive to people who weren’t perfection-seeking, but who were just trying to keep a snake plant in a dark NYC apartment alive.
Your actual written vision is to “bridge the gap between people and plants because plants make people happy.” During the pandemic, why can people especially benefit from having greenery in their homes?
Near the beginning of 2020, we put out a campaign relating plant care to self-care. I had the insight that the conditions of my plants mirrored what was going on in my life.
And then, of course, the actual taking care of plants is a form of self-care because it’s very meditative, introspective, and forces you to slow down. You’re nurturing something that’s alive and have sort of this symbiotic relationship, where you’re giving and getting. During shelter-in-place and the pandemic, we naturally assumed people’s interest in plants would skyrocket. Plants are critical for anyone who really wants to think holistically about the spaces that we live in. And now that we’re spending more and more time at home, plants are sort of that bright spot in our otherwise challenging existence.
What are some specific, proven things that plants do for one’s health?
Being surrounded by plants boosts your mood, reduces stress, anxiety, and increases creativity and productivity. They’ve done studies that have suggested that being surrounded by plants can help reduce recovery time if you’re recovering from certain ailments or injuries.
They increase the amount of humidity in the air and can reduce the impact of sick-building syndrome. I mean, Americans before Covid-19 spend 90% of their lives indoors, so now in Covid-19, it’s probably even higher than that.
How does The Sill practice sustainability? I read that you source your plants domestically. Could you tell me more about what you do?
First and foremost, I think connecting with plants naturally is sort of a platform to talk about sustainability, to talk about our planet, to talk about our impact.
In terms of practices, The Sill takes sustainability very seriously as a company. We’re constantly evolving our packaging to reduce any single-use plastic dependency, and are offsetting the carbon footprint of our shipping. We also encourage the use of our ceramic planters, which I think is just an indicator that plants shouldn’t be part of our throwaway culture.
And how do you curate your selection of plants? What are the unique plants you sell that you might not find if you live in New York, at a bodega, or at a garden store in the Midwest?
We have our core plants, but then we also layer in seasonal newness, things that are unique or that we just don’t carry year-round.
We have a few unique snake plants. We just launched a moonshine snake plant, which is a very interesting color of green. We have a small fiddle leaf fig and a monstera plant. And we recently started carrying orchids and anthuriums, which are blooming plants that people really love. Ours is pink. Generally, people see the red ones, so the pink has been really popular for us.
A lot of people are working from home right now and they want to brighten up their living spaces. What are three types of plants beginners can choose from?
I have some recommendations that offer a great mix of different patterns and textures. Some grow upright, some trail downwards, and some spread wide. We always recommend ZZ plants. They’re indestructible and very easy to take care of. Pothos plants or philodendrons are great trailing plants for beginners.
And then a bird’s nest fern is pet-friendly and has a unique look. It’s part of the fern family, but much easier to take care of. You don’t have to water it as frequently.
What do you recommend for people who have somewhat dark living spaces?
The ZZ plant and the snake plant are definitely the better plants for dark spaces, but I always tell people to not be afraid to move your plants around! My mom keeps her plants on a rolling tray and chases the sun around the house.
What are some tips for taking care of succulents?
I have succulents and keep them in my south-facing windows because they get the most sun.
People think they’re easy to take care of because they don’t have to water them frequently, but the flip side is that they need a lot of sunlight.
So I have had some plants die on my watch. What advice do you have for aspirational “plant parents”?
I think people underestimate how much sunlight you need and overestimate how much water you need. And like anything, learning about plants takes time and practice. If you aren’t into plants, now is absolutely the time to try your hand at them. We’re in August, and not to be a pessimist, but we’re going to enter fall and winter soon. As the weather shifts back to being cool and we spend more time inside, you’re going to want to have them around.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
This interview originally appeared on Medium.