Learning to Be a Plant Parent

When I bought my new house and was preparing it to become both my home and work space, I realized that I needed to freshen the place up. To inject a little more life into these spaces that I was making my own, I asked Shylah, plant stylist at Des Moines’ Art Terrarium to come over and impart some much-needed advice on how plants can invigorate my space and, maybe more importantly, how I can be a good plant parent and keep them alive and happy.

 Pictured: Andrea Metzler, owner and Shylah, plant stylist at Art Terrarium.

Pictured: Andrea Metzler, owner and Shylah, plant stylist at Art Terrarium.

When Shylah came into my home to begin our consultation process, I think she knew right away that this space would benefit from some greenery. She is, after all, a professional plant stylist: a career she began recently when she realized that many people coming into the Art Terrarium shop wanting more plants in their lives but weren’t sure what or where or how. And with a background in art and event facilitation, she decided to let her creative spirit guide this burgeoning consultation business.

“Plant styling is a title I made up to describe a role where I show up with plants for people, and put those plants in places,” Shylah says. “For Whitney, having just moved into a new house, I get to be a part of the creative process that brings her home to life. It’s so special.”

We started room by room, identifying whether each will be a personal or work space, and what my goals are for each. Shylah assessed the amount of natural light that would be reaching every corner. (The lighting proved to be a bit challenging because of all the gorgeous mature trees around my house. I love them, but they sure block a lot of sunlight.) We also talked about how often I’d be able to pay attention to them and water them. This particular factor made me want to lean more minimalist. I didn’t want the chlorophyll of dozens of dead houseplants on my hands!

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Shylah took down my goals and feedback on a notepad and returned to the shop to start pulling some plants that would be suitable for my space. “I worked with Whitney’s budget, picking out some specific things. Keeping her goal of moderation in mind, she wanted greenery in every space. This was a little tricky because they all had to live near the windows, but luckily there are many types of plants that thrive in lower lighting.”

She invited me to come check out what she had pulled and to bring in the few vases and vessels that I already had in mind to put plants in, plus pick out some more from the shop. I was so impressed by both their selection and by Shylah’s styling suggestions that my initial impulse to keep things minimal went straight out the window.

When she brought the plants over to my house to finally stage them, I could barely contain myself. The difference that a dozen or so fresh, green, lively houseplants made was unbelievable. I was totally hooked. And I might have mellowed out right then and there, but Shylah assured me so thoroughly that I can indeed keep these plants alive and thriving, beautifying my home and impressing friends and clients alike, and they looked so amazing in little groups, rejuvenating each room...well, I got more plants. I am now the proud parent of 33 happy plants, breathing life into every room in my house.

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How, you may ask, did I go from killing cacti to confidently raising so many houseplants? I have Shylah to thank for that. On top of her wonderful styling skills, she gave me some very simple, straightforward advice that seemed to take the mystery out of plant parenting.

Shylah’s Simple Tips for Raising Houseplants

  1. Most of the problems with plants come from overwatering them. People think that watering them equals caring for them, when in fact, most plants just kinda want to be left alone.

  2. Light = food, so pay attention to how much your plant is getting. South-facing windows get more direct light than north, so stage your plants accordingly.

  3. Plants are very resilient. If you notice them turning yellow, it’s most likely either from overwatering or not giving them enough light. Move them around in your home and find a spot that makes them happier.

  4. Having daily contact with your plants gives you a chance to check the soil, prune any dead leaves, and make sure they don’t have dust building up. This also ensures that you are watering them as needed, and not just when you think about watering them.

  5. Practice with your plants. Don’t be afraid of killing them, and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. There are lots of great resources on the Art Terrarium website, plus the folks at the shop love sharing their plant knowledge!

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If you’re still unsure whether plants are right for you (spoiler: they are), or are looking for someone to come in and tell you exactly what plants you should get, where to put them, and how to care for them, Shylah is your gal. Check out this great new styling service here and start the process of elevating your home or office space. The best part is, their $75 consultation deposit is redeemable toward your plant purchase of $350 or more. Shylah also does plant rentals and staging work for parties and large events.


I can’t thank Shylah enough for her styling skills, advice, laid-back approach to plant parenting, and most of all, her confidence in me. If I can successfully care for 33 plants in the middle of my nonstop schedule, anyone can!