There is still hope for folks who adore a good #plantstagram account but struggle to keep an easy-peasy ZZ alive — and that hope is fairy greenmother Shayla Owodunni.
The Lakeville native, who spent a few years in Seattle before buying a loft in Northeast Minneapolis last fall, is the proud parent of 84 thriving indoor and outdoor plants. But it was her new home — with its gorgeous architectural bones, crazy-good light, and wall-to-wall greenery – that gave birth to The Plant Penthouse, a botanic-centric interior design blog and jungle-chic Instagram account.
The response was so positive, in fact, Owodunni found herself volleying questions about styling and plant care. That’s when she decided to launch Penthouse Concepts, a plant concierge and consulting business designed to inspire others to live their greenest life. (This is in addition to Corporate Carpentry, the management consulting firm she already runs.)
“Penthouse Concepts is rooted in interior styling and consulting with an emphasis on infusing color, pattern, and plants,” says Owodunni. The concierge service begins with a consultation (from $60 for 30 minutes), which can be hosted virtually or conducted on location. “This time allows us to discuss goals, personal style, experience with plant care, lifestyle, and overall budget,” she says. “Whether a client has a clean slate or a specific design in mind, I am on the job to breathe life into their space with intentionality, longevity, and style.”
From there, Penthouse Concepts offers two suites of services. The Skyline View package (from $125 per hour) includes a bespoke shopping tour of local plant stores, with the goal of teaching clients what to look for when curating their own collection. The Full Residence package (from $200 for 90 minutes) features full-on interior plant styling of a designated space, wherein Owodunni takes over “the shopping, purchasing, and staging of their curated plant collection within the allocated budget and design vision.” Both suites include detailed plant care instructions, so that clients can keep their new bbs alive long after Owodunni departs.
As devoted plant parents ourselves (65 and counting!), we were thrilled to hear about the launch of Penthouse Concepts and asked Owodunni to share more on her background and vision. Here’s what she had to say.
How and when did you first get into plants?
My love for plants is due largely to my exposure growing up. I still remember the meticulous care my parents gave the many Bird of Paradise we had in our home. [Back then] I looked at them like crazy plant people. I mean, who gets emotional when a plant doesn’t survive a winter move?! The answer is now me, but it wasn’t until my move to Seattle and a re-introduction to plants by my friend, Melissa Chan, that a true zeal for plant parenting took root.
My first Seattle plant purchase stemmed from a desire to decorate within the parameters of city apartment living — and has since blossomed into a hobby I never predicted. When I left Seattle, I chose to sell my plant collection to friends and local plant shop employees and started fresh upon moving back to Minnesota. It was only fitting that my first purchase was a Bird of Paradise; the plant enthusiasm instilled by my parents has truly come full circle.
How did the idea of starting a plant concierge business come about?
Styling my wardrobe and personal surroundings has always been a means of creative expression, but the thought of transitioning from personal hobby to public-facing business was nothing more than a distant dream. However, once friends, then friends of friends, then social media acquaintances turned friends began reaching out with humbling appreciation for my home and plant care and requests for styling advice, it culminated into the confidence to start a blog. Penthouse Concepts brings my ‘concierge’ services to style seekers desiring a curated, sustainable introduction to this vibrant plant life.
What are some of your favorite plants right now?
My favorites right now, and forever always, are hands down the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia for you scientific plant lovers!) and Monstera Deliciosa (I have three of each). These plants provide a lush, tropical personality to any space and are not high on the maintenance scale — a true win-win!
Which plants have you found to be the most challenging to grow and why? Are there any you’ve given up on completely?
Through more plant funerals than I’d prefer to name, I’ve accepted that succulents and I are not meant to be. They enter my doors and lose their will to live almost immediately, so I’ve learned that, just as in life, with plants it is important to stay in your lane. As I sit here watching my recent Frizzle Sizzle purchase on life support, I can confirm succulents are not in my lane.
Most of my plants are within the Araceae family: Monsteras, Pothos, philodendrons, and anthuriums to name a few. Through years of trial, error, and tears, I am proud to say that our love is consistently mutual. It’s why I so eagerly refer these kiddos to my new plant parents.
I find the Ficus variety to be incredibly rewarding. I have a 12-foot Ficus Lyrata named Felipe (who doesn’t love a Fiddle Leaf Fig?) and a Ficus Altissima, a.k.a. Council Tree, named Lemon. Though stunning, they cause equal parts heartburn and heart eyes. This tug-of-war is caused by the price to enter the ring (they are never cheap), mood swings (dropped another leaf, eh?), and all the conflicting advice on the internet. The plethora of diagnosis can be overwhelming.
By dampening the noise, I’ve learned not to panic; I simply focus on the unique attributes of my space, like lighting and temperature, and trends within my plants. For example, when you bring home a Ficus, it is perfectly normal for it to drop leaves as it adjusts to its new climate. I don’t live in a greenhouse (yet), so it is important to mentally prepare for natural adjustments in the first few weeks after the housewarming. Dust your shoulders off and know you’re doing your best!
What are some of your favorite plant shops in the Twin Cities?
I am forever inspired by my tropical travels, and Mother Co. [pictured above] has been my go-to for curating a global bazaar vibe in my space. Not to mention their shop aesthetic is an absolute dream.
Tonkadale is the greenhouse destination to simply go and be inspired. I have an array of indoor and outdoor plants, including herbs and vegetables, from there. Their consistency, plant knowledge, extensive variety, and genuine spirits keep me coming back for more! And I just recently discovered Mother Earth Gardens, which makes me excited to explore more new-to-me shops in Minneapolis this summer.
My grab-bag picks are Home Depot and Walmart, but these stores come with fine print and asterisks. Their plants will forever be a wild card, because they have not received the same skilled TLC as a plant you’d purchase from a specialty shop like Tonkadale or Mother. The good news is the price reflects that. This means I am always looking for signs of over- or under-watering, insects, and shock while making my selections. Taking your time and showing them more love at home makes these worth the price.
Any favorite plant-centric Instagram accounts?
So many, thanks to Instagram’s ‘Suggested for You’ feature. If I had to narrow it down to ten, I’d go with: (1) Hilton Carter, (2) Jamie’s Jungle, (3) Black Girls Gardening, (4) Jungle in a Room, (5) Jungle Suitcase, (6) Black Girls With Gardens, (7) Black Men With Gardens, (8) Summer Rayne Oakes, (9) Urban Jungle Bloggers, and (10) I Plant Even.
What is it about plants — or the act of growing them – that makes you so happy?
For me, plants are living reminders of growth, patience, and resilience. As a plant parent, it is such a spectacular feeling when you have dedicated time, mental energy and care into a plant, then witness it flourish and sprout new life. This cycle, and the community that comes with it, is what ignited my joy and love for plants. Eighty-four plants later and you can still find me out scouting for my next adoptee. And if it happens to be a succulent, know that I’m clenching on to my last glimmer of hope.