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Houseplants are having their moment — and so is Ottawa's House of Plants

Judie Tu started House of Plants as an online store during the pandemic. Now, she's got her own plant shop in House of Plants.
Photo/ Judie Tu

Many of us may remember this as the pandemic of plants.

We have been stuck inside, in stifled moods, and it's no surprise that houseplants and gardens have taken off. In Britain, The Guardian (with no less than the weight of the esteemed editorial board) declared them a “balm for troubled times.” The popularity of houseplants has exploded. 

So it’s an OK time to be Judie Tu and to have recently opened House of Plants, an Ottawa store for houseplants. 

Tu first opened the shop online in May, as a sort of natural outgrowth of a blog she had been keeping. The operation “transitioned from a blog, to carefully selling, to the online shop,” Tu says.

The transitions continue: over Thanksgiving weekend, Tu quietly opened the doors on a new shop in Nepean, located in a unit at the Augira Corporate Centre. 

“I had to knock down two walls and build a new one,” Tu says. That space is now rich with greenery, filled with plants.

Over time, Tu has big plans for turning the shop into a space that can host workshops, art and a DIY space.

“It’s supposed to be like a design shop, that just happens to be built around plants,” she says. “It’s really supposed to emphasize the decor.” 

October 2020 might not have been an auspicious time to open a retail store. There was no “grand” opening, says Tu, because only five people can enter the store at a time, and nobody wants to wait in line outside in the cold weather. The opening was quietly executed, but successful, Tu says.

She’s now getting to meet some of the people she had been selling plants to during the long months of the lockdown.

“I get to meet people I’ve been chatting with online since the beginning of the pandemic,” she says. “It’s nice to put faces to names.” 

Tu isn’t making any grand pronouncements about her plans for the coming months — since chances are they’ll need adjusting anyway — but has plenty of ideas for what the space could become. When indoor capacities can be increased, she wants to hold workshops, and to eventually make space for DIY facilities. She’d even like to make room for local artists to show their work — to start building a place where people can not only buy, but connect over, plants. 

“I’d like to get more into the artistic and creative side of plants,” she says.

The keeping of houseplants existed before the pandemic, of course, and Tu doesn’t see herself as riding a pandemic wave as much as one that was already building and growing. 

“Even before the pandemic, in the last five years, houseplants have really skyrocketed in interest,” Tu says. “I didn’t come out of [thin] air.” 

But she is aware that plenty of people are coming to houseplants for the first time, that everyone starts somewhere. She knows what it’s like to search around for information and resources and not to find anything. Blogs and info pages didn’t always lead her to plants that thrived indoors in temperate Canadian climates, or they assumed a certain level of knowledge on the part of the reader. Getting into indoor gardening can seem like a daunting task, so Tu tries to make House of Plants an easy, accessible place to start. 

“I put a lot of effort into curating plants with Canadian winters in mind,” she says. It’s no guarantee that you won’t kill a plant, but it should certainly give you and your new plant a fighting chance. 


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