We chatted with co-founders Dominic Hooghuis and Duncan Hilder from The Plant Runner about their online shop:
Tell us about The Plant Runner?
The Plant Runner began as a mobile plant-shop. It was a passion project for us, converting an old Horse Float into a walk-in greenhouse. But after so many conversations with our customers about plant care, we realised there was a need to develop quality, indoor-focused, plant care products. We launched our range with our Indoor Plant Food and things quickly grew from there – we now supply our product range to over 300 stores across Australia as well as internationally.
What inspired your passion for gardening?
Dom: Growing up on a few acres in central New South Wales was inspiring. I have incredible memories of exploring my parent’s garden and the surrounding bushland. I was obsessed with propagation, and always trying to see what I could grow. Nowadays, I feel lucky enough to be able to pass that passion on to my two boys, who love being out in the garden with me. Their excitement fuels mine.
Dunc: I came to gardening later in life, after looking for some volunteering opportunities to be amongst nature, as our tiny inner-west townhouse in Sydney had no garden to speak of. I found a program doing some garden maintenance for those who could no longer manage it themselves, and quickly caught the gardening “bug”.
What plants work best for desks and office spaces?
Office plants should be mandatory; they are so good for changing and improving not only the aesthetic of the space but also our moods and productivity. When choosing office and desk plants, think small and low maintenance. You also want them to be reasonably hardy. Our picks are Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum), Snake Plants (Sansevieria spp.), ZZ Plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), Heart-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum), Spider Plants (Chlorophytum comosum) and Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum spp.).
What are your top three most popular indoor plants?
Monsteras (Monstera deliciosa), Rubber Trees (Ficus elastica) and Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum spp.). They can all be statement plants, and are easy enough for beginners, yet still impressive enough for top-tier green thumbs.
What do you look for when choosing the right plant?
The most important things to consider when buying a plant are pests, foliage condition, roots and stem. Have a look on the stem and under the leaves for any pests like mealy bug or scale. If they’re present, it’s a sure sign the plant isn’t 100%. The foliage should be looking healthy and with minimal damage, and they should definitely not be yellowing-off or looking wilted. Check the roots by sticking your finger in around the edge of the pot, and make sure the potting media is reasonably loose and the plant isn’t pot bound. Finally, make sure the stem is strong and healthy and not cut or damaged.
What’s the best way to pot up an indoor plant so it lives?
You want to make sure you’ve chosen the right sized pot. A common mistake a lot of people make is to pot up the plant in its “forever pot” – a pot way too big for the plant but with the idea that it will “grow into it”. The excess soil or potting media will hold more water than the plant can draw up, which will undoubtedly lead to root rot. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of potting mix! A quality potting mix is the foundation for any potted plant. If you can, choose a blend designed for the type of plant you have. This will give the plant its best chance at thriving. Finally, water the plant well after potting up.
What’s your favourite plant?
Dom: The Dinner Plant Ficus (Ficus damaropsis). I love its large, textured foliage. It’s not easy to come by in Australia but when you find one, it’s hard to pass up!
Dunc: It’s a little bit basic, but I’m always drawn to Monstera deliciosa. Yes, everyone has one, but I love how they reward you with fast growth, and am fascinated by each new leaf to see how its changed – does it have more fenestrations (holes)? How much bigger is it? I find the aerial roots appealing too, watching them snake their way down toward the ground.
Any tips for looking after houseplants?
So many! But our favourite and really, the most important, is to ask questions and talk to your local plant shop! Indoor Plant People are a special breed. In our experience, there is always something new to learn and always someone who is willing to chat plants and share their tips. If you’re not sure about something, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask. We get so many questions on our social media all the time, and although we might be a little slow in replying, we love being able to help someone on their plant journey.
What’s the one thing you wish everyone knew about house plants?
That there’s a plant for everyone, no matter your living space or green thumb status. If you’re willing to make a few mistakes (and kill a couple of plants along the way), you’ll be fine.
What is your plant maintenance routine?
Dunc: I pepper my week with little check-ups on my plants, where I look at the foliage for pests and any signs of stress, stick my finger in the potting mix to make sure it’s not too dry or too wet, and give them a spritz with some neem oil to protect them. I try to make Sundays my plant care day, where I cover my watering, prune anything I need to, fertilise every other week, and clean the dust off the leaves with a damp cloth and some neem oil.
How can we inspire children to enjoy gardening?
Dom: The trick is to make it fun and not a chore. If you give the kids some responsibility in the garden (even just getting them to manage a small veggie patch), you’ll find they take to things quickly and want to do more. My boys love picking veggies they’ve grown and cared for, and are especially proud when we eat them for dinner!
How has your life benefited from gardening?
Dunc: I’m far less stressed. I switched from hospitality management to gardening and it almost instantly changed my whole demeanour. Gardening can be an exercise in mindfulness, which I really appreciate.
Dom: Moving from a block of land to an inner-Melbourne suburb, gardening has become my chance to stay connected to nature and my childhood. Same as Dunc, I find it relaxing and also a creative outlet. I love designing gardens and creating small space installations.
Name 3 apps on your phone that you use every day?
Dunc: Instagram, Gmail and The Guardian.
Dom: Shopify, Instagram and Gmail.
What’s your favourite piece of technology or gadget that you couldn’t live without?
Dunc: My phone has to be up there as one I couldn’t live without, although I’m really trying to limit when and how I use it. I’m also enjoying my Traktor Kontrol S4 Mixer, although I’m pretty sure I’d get by without it…
Do you have any plans for the future?
So many! We have a heap of new products in the works, and we’re teeing up some very cool distribution deals with some exciting international brands that we can’t wait to bring to Australia and share with all the crazy plant people here.
Where can people reach you?
About The Plant Runner
The Plant Runner is an online retail and lifestyle hub providing Aussie-made plant care products and accessories nationwide.
Image Credit: Samee Lapham @samsette