Nothing brings a room to life more than a stunning statement plant. Minneapolis’s Mother Co. quickly established itself as an It business in the spring of 2018 and, as nature would have it, has expanded into an incredibly vast space just across the river from bustling Northeast. We chatted with founder Erik Hamline about the exciting growth of his business, the spaces where plants best thrive and his top tips for new (or struggling) plant owners.
How was Mother Co. born and what was the process of launching your business?
I launched the seed of the current iteration of Mother Co. just under two years ago in a little storefront in Northeast focusing on cacti and other rare semiarid plants, alongside a handful of Japanese tools and plant care accessories. I never expected it to go anywhere, and I initially treated it as sort of a hobby project.
I very much enjoy traveling to find strange plants and the work involved in bringing them all back into the shop, which in turn, brings an insane level of back-end work. Business became far better than I had anticipated, so I made the call in mid-2018 to shut the shop down that winter and move into a larger space in order to bring on more products, secure loading docks, and have onsite and on-level storage. The old shop shut down in November 2018, and I immediately got to work in our new space, spending all day every day swinging hammers, welding metalwork, building walls and fixtures, hauling demo, plastering, and so on.
My wife, Sam, has since come on board to run the front of the shop, and I handle all things behind-the-scenes (she’s better with people!). We opened in early May, and we’ve been working as hard as we can to keep bringing in more cacti, semiarid, tropical and aroid plants alongside handmade terra-cotta pottery, and useful care goods for both plants and home. We’re also very excited to be expanding out a bit further over this winter as we get our new little event space off the ground: in essence, an elevated extension of our retail space designed for private events. We’re calling it “Each Other.”
Where do you source your plants?
We source our plants from independent collectors and growers from all over the United States, predominantly the Southeast and Southwest as well as locally whenever possible. We work to bring in plants that cover an extraordinary range of species, with native origins reaching all across the earth, and currently, we’ve got roughly 200 species rotating through the shop with nativities from 100+ countries across the globe.
Are there certain spaces in homes where plants best thrive?
A space that meets these four conditions will generally harbor plants quite easily:
1. Ample natural sunlight
This seems like a no-brainer but just for the sake of clarification, we like to make sure plants are located near southeast-, south- or southwest-facing windows. A cactus or semiarid species will need more direct, full-frame light (i.e. right up in the window), whereas a tropical or aroid can be pulled back into more dappled, medium or indirect light (depending on the species, of course).
2. Consistent airflow
This one is key, and it’s more often overlooked than any other, but regular, clean and temperate airflow is crucial to long-term plant health, just as it is for humans. A small fan creating a gentle breeze across your plants or a central air system with its fan on to create air movement is extremely helpful to ensure your plants are healthy and cycling properly. Just a note: A big killer of plants is placing them too close to heat and air conditioner ducts. Super dry hot air during the winter or blisteringly cold air during the summer will quickly dry out and kill most plant species.
3. Temperature control
As a basic rule of thumb, cacti can survive happily between 45 to 110 degrees while tropical plants live more comfortably in the 55 to 85 degree range. Flash exposure to temperatures outside these parameters can cause issues, especially during winter dormancies.
4. Appropriate humidity levels
Most people fortunately do take this into consideration, although it’s one of the most easily combatable issues impacting plants. Cacti like it dry; tropicals like it wet. A cactus will love our super-dry winter atmosphere, but a tropical plant would like a good misting every few days. Just keep it in mind!
What are your top tips for new plant owners?
Caring for plants really isn’t as daunting as many newcomers think it can be. Really it’s only a matter of understanding the basic needs of the individual plant at hand, and more often than not, that can be solved by a quick Google search or by taking a few notes from whomever you acquire the plant from. We can’t say this enough: Google your species and learn about its care preferences! Winging it or going by your gut very rarely lines up with what the plant actually needs at any moment (trust us, we know). Plant care is a learned experience, and the more failures and successes you rack up, the more concrete your footing is to do a better job moving forward.
What tips do you have for styling a room with plants?
I’ve been known to be a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to styling and layout. One of the most enjoyable aspects of plants, in my opinion, is that they are wholly void of any human direction in regard to their individual characteristics, leaving a sculptural form inherent to each individual plant. Using this to remove the “designer” so to speak and letting the plants pair naturally with each other and within the space they occupy can actually be very magical. People tend to overdo things, especially in regard to design. Letting the individuality of the plants sing is important to me.
I first like to match regional plants to the region in which the space is drawing from if at all possible. It seems simple, but I so often see folks creating a disparate environment between the plants and the space they’re in. From there, I take notes on the scale and spatial fitment. What sizes of plants seem comfortable in the space? What plants seem comfortable nested with one another.
Next, I like to think about furniture or other fixtures that will impede the plants’ growth habit and sightlines. Columnar or tree-form plants do best if they need to be backed into a corner with furniture in the immediate periphery, while lower and fuller plants do best standing alone with room to visually breath. Height is also something I like to consider. Create variances in height using platforms or flipped-over pottery, or in an in-ground planter by bringing in boulders and rock to help stage as nature would in habitat.
Finally, I make sure every plant in the space is within proper care parameters. Trust me, I know how hard it is, but that giant cactus isn’t going to fare well in that dark corner even though it looks perfect there.