The Store That's Changing How City-Dwellers Buy Plants

Add to
By Heather Corcoran / Published by Dwell
Manhattan plant shop The Sill takes the guesswork out of indoor gardening.

Eliza Blank, the 30-year-old founder of The Sill, grew up watching her grandmother garden and believes that every house needs a plant. Here’s how her team is greening the urban jungle. 

The Sill, which began as an online plant store in June 2012, tailors its offerings to busy urban lifestyles. Its in-house line of ceramics is paired with a selection of low-maintenance plant varieties curated for apartment life. The New York City flagship opened in fall 2014.

Why did you start The Sill? 

“Our specialty is really big and really small,” says Eliza Blank, founder of The Sill, where popular offerings range from towering fiddle-leaf fig trees to tiny tabletop succulent sets.

Owning a houseplant in a city like New York is so important. When it came time for me to move out on my own, one of the things that I really wanted to do was fill my apartment with greenery; immediately I realized how difficult that would be. It wasn’t just the access, it was the missing element of design. You have your choice of 100 shower curtains—why isn’t there that breadth when it comes to buying a potted plant? 

"There’s definitely a level of anxiety among this generation, and they just don’t know where to start. We begin by educating them about choosing the right plant—for their environment, for their lifestyle, even for their budget." — Eliza Bank, Founder of The Sill

Do you sell anything besides plants?  

The staff at the 240-square-foot Chinatown shop aim to teach new plant owners everything from proper potting to when to water.

About a year into the start of The Sill we started designing and manufacturing our own line of ceramic planters. All the tabletop items are designed with input from our plant team. The pots are well suited to the plants, they’re the right size, and they incorporate drainage when appropriate. 

“I want to see more Sill stores,” says Blank (seen here), who was inspired to create her own line of planters after being disappointed with the lack of functional, design-forward options on the market.

What’s the most common question you get from beginning gardeners?

Popular planters at the shop include (from the left) the Jules, $48; the Ezra, in Sonora finish, $38; and the August, $48. Each plant comes with detailed care instructions on a magnet.

There’s definitely a level of anxiety among this generation, and they just don’t know where to start. We begin by educating them about choosing the right plant—for their environment, for their lifestyle, even for their budget. 

What advice do you have for someone looking to give a plant as a gift?  

Half the people walking in are buying for someone else. A plant has longevity; it’s not like fresh-cut flowers that will kick it a week later. It’s a little bit less romantic, too—you can get a plant for a colleague or for your dad. We always say, "Go with something really easy if you don’t know the person’s ability." What you don’t want is to give a plant to someone who has no idea how to take care of it, and then they kill it and have a bad experience. 

Why is having a brick-and-mortar store important to your business? 

The product that we sell is very emotional because it’s a living thing, it’s often given as a gift, and it requires an immense amount of education. Giving our customers the opportunity to learn in person is something that we just didn’t want to pass up. It’s easy to come up with cool things to do online, but there’s nothing that replaces that in-person interaction.