Daniel Gifford sits in one of the mismatched chairs in the back of Lakewood Plant Co., an apple in one hand and a jar of peanut butter on the table. He’s almost camouflaged behind the thousands of leaves and vines that stretch from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall. He’s not sure how he got here, but he’s glad he did.
“It was sort of serendipitous,” he chuckles. “Three years ago we started thinking about this business, and now indoor tropical plants are making their comeback.”
Born and raised in Lakewood, Gifford grew up helping his father with interior landscapes and fell in love with tropical plants. He eventually became a teacher and traveled as far as Texas for that job.
But his roots brought him back to Cleveland three years ago when he and a friend wanted to open a plant store. Partnering with Peace by Piece, the Lakewood Plant Co. has given about 100 vocational workers with autism or developmental disabilities the chance to work on-site at the Detroit Avenue shop that is almost unnoticeable from the street.
In the front of the shop, customers discover plants that need the most sun such as aloe ($8) and a Meyer lemon tree ($75), while plants that like indirect light — think a Peace Lily ($10) or a rubber tree ($55) — are perched toward the back. A small pathway winds through tables and shelves that house the greenery — totaling more than 100 kinds of tropical ferns, cacti, palms and more.
“Plants are a really cost-effective way to decorate,” he says. “They’ve also been proven to improve health in a couple ways by taking the toxins out of the air and putting out clean oxygen.”
If your green thumb isn’t top-notch, Daniel Gifford recommends going for a euphorbia cactus. This flowering cactus can grow up to 6 feet and just requires bright light and water once every two weeks.
Gifford dares the plant experts to try a staghorn fern, which needs bright, indirect light and even moisture through the entire plant at all times. With good care, this plant can live for decades and can grow up to 6 feet long.