House Plant Collective lays down roots in Tuscaloosa

Madison Duboise | @madison.duboise, Contributing Writer

A new local plant shop, House Plant Collective, has laid down its roots in the Tuscaloosa area and is gaining popularity among plant enthusiasts. 

Jessica Watts, the owner of House Plant Collective and a Birmingham local, started the business in Birmingham in 2020. Collecting plants in her home started out as a hobby, but it soon took over any available empty space.

She first considered starting a small plant-centered business while she was managing the graduate biomedical sciences program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. 

“During this time, especially when COVID-19 hit, I began exploring my different interests and passions,” Watts said. “I really began thinking about opening my own plant business and this ability to develop that idea really provided me with an opportunity.”

Watts grew up learning about different plants and gardening because of her mother.

“I think that passion started at a very young age. When I was working on my master’s program, that is when my personal plant collection started to grow. I saw kind of the mental and physical benefit that houseplants can bring to individuals,” Watts said. 

She began doing plant swaps in the Birmingham community while working full time. During the pandemic, she transitioned to selling plants online and at popup events she held in a renovated school bus, which became her new full time job. 

Watts later opened a storefront in Birmingham on Fifth Avenue. The business was successful even with other plant shops in the area.

“Our shops specialize in tropical houseplants and botanical goods,” Watts said. “We also host workshops and events and other partnerships with other makers and creatives in our community.”

They host a number of weekly workshops for the community — including a paint and pot workshop, a terrarium and sip workshop, and more — to educate plant enthusiasts. Tickets can be bought online and range from $20 to $40 depending on the costs of supplies. They occasionally host a small business Saturday where they sell products from local makers and creatives.

Once the foundation for the store was set in Birmingham, Watts wanted to expand.

“We kept coming back to Tuscaloosa because of the student population. We thought there was definitely a need there. Also, there wasn’t a full-on houseplant shop located in Tuscaloosa from our experience,” Watts said. “We started doing a lot of bus popups there just to test the market and make sure that it was a viable option for us. I then just started driving there on a whim and just making sure we could find a space.”

Watts found a space on Queen City Avenue that she felt was a great fit for the business. In July, House Plant Collective officially expanded.

“We see a lot of students coming to find the right plant for small dorms, apartments or condos. Finding that right plant and not putting them in a position to fail out or die off is very important to us,” Watts said. “Creating a community aspect takes partnering with other makers and creatives to make sure we can share as much as we can with others.”

Ethan Sneckenberger, a sophomore majoring in finance and a Tuscaloosa House Plant Collective shop associate, said he loves working at the shop because it’s been a good opportunity for him to learn the process of opening and growing a small business while also learning more about plants.

“I got my first plant as a gift from a friend; ever since that I have been building up my collection. Now my entire room is covered in plants. It is nice to have a hobby outside of school that interests me,” Sneckenberger said. “I love learning from Jessica.”

Kameron Klass, a sophomore majoring in public health and a customer of House Plant Collective, said she enjoys the atmosphere that the store has to offer.

“This is the only locally owned plant shop in Tuscaloosa. Over half of my friends love and own their own plants, and I know it is popular among college students,” Klass said. “House Plant Collective offers a wide range of plants and gardening supplies all in one place, and it is close to campus. It is the perfect fit for college students who love plants and could spark a new joy in anyone who walks through the door.”

Watts is proud of the progress she has made with her stores in both Birmingham and Tuscaloosa and hopes to expand again in the near future by opening another storefront. She hopes students see her dedication to plants and the ability to find joy in them the way she does.

Questions? Email the Culture desk at culture@cw.ua.edu.