Philadelphia is no stranger to greenery. Whether you're strolling through Rittenhouse Square or picking up flowers from the Saturday farmers' market, Philly is the perfect city for those with green thumbs—especially considering the city's abundance of plant shops. With COVID–19 limiting opportunities for business, many houseplant hobbyists feared our favorite stores would be on the brink of closure. But three local plant shops have experienced quite the opposite outcome as they expand their businesses into larger spaces.
Location: 1526 E. Passyunk Ave.
Urban Jungle, or as the workers call themselves, "the plant people of South Philly," is a vibrant green oasis in the middle of its neighborhood. The shop offers houseplants, a wide selection of arrangements at the dried flower bar, gardening tools, and more. The current location also has an upstairs greenhouse full of luscious tropical foliage.
Urban Jungle President Curt Alexander opened the shop in 2009. The vineyards of his home state, California, inspired his interest in horticulture. But when he moved to Philadelphia, he found that the city looked "stark" in comparison. "For his taste, it lacked life and greenery—so he did something about it," the shop's website reads.
He began his mission of greenifying spaces within Philly in his own home, installing window boxes and hanging baskets at every corner. Eventually, he caught the attention of neighbors and friends, and soon a business plan was underway. Alexander opened his first storefront in South Philly not long after. The shop, which has been open for over a decade, is now growing: Urban Jungle recently revealed plans to use its second location on Water Street as an outdoor nursery open to the public. The Water Street location is currently home to Urban Jungle's landscape branch, which specializes in the "design, installation, and maintenance" of large–scale landscaping projects.
Urban Jungle was named "2019 Best Place for City Plants" by Philadelphia Magazine. With the expansion, it looks like the shop will continue to live up to the title.
Location: 1704–06 E. Passyunk Ave.
ILLExotics is a family–owned shop that sells reptiles, amphibians, houseplants, and pet supplies. The retail shop in South Philly can be described as a living art installation: tropical plants cover the walls from floor to ceiling, and exotic creatures inhabit grand display terrariums. Owners Chris Urban and Franco Franchina "have over 10 years experience and education in horticulture and herpetology, specializing in growing tropical plants from aroids to orchids and raising fauna ranging from chameleons to dart frogs."
The shop also notes that any reptiles and amphibians sold are bred in captivity, rather than captured from the wild. Similarly, all of the exotic plants you can find in the shop are grown from the ILLExotics Center City "Greenhaus," where all plants are acclimated to the city environment before finding a home. ILLExotics has found success in working with members of the tropical plant community to provide sustainably sourced plants to Philly customers. This allows the store to offer some rarer, more expensive specimens, like a $2,999.99 Monstera adansonii variegata, which lives up to its unique name. That being said, you can still find common plants, such as the Golden Pothos, for as little as $8.
The shop's passion is growing: ILLExotics recently announced that it's moving from its small space at 1704–06 E. Passyunk Ave. to a larger location nine doors down the block. Starting in early April, visit this exotic shop's new place to take a break from online classes and the city landscape.
Cultivaire Plant Store
Location: 2732 W. Girard Ave.
Cultivaire Plant Store is a small business catering to all kinds of plant enthusiasts, whether they're a first–time buyer or hardcore hobbyist. Owners MaryAnne McClay and Justin Kenyon opened the store with the goal of creating a go–to spot for more affordable plants. "We first thought about opening a plant store because of what seemed like excessive plant pricing at other locations throughout the city," the website reads. "[W]e figured there had to be a better way." At Cultivaire, you can purchase a plant like String of Hearts for as little as $6.
Due to the Cultivaire's immense success since its opening, the shop is expanding to a larger space a block away from its current location, the owners announced on Instagram on March 1.
"When we opened our doors in November 2019, we never envisioned we’d outgrow the space so quickly, and we certainly didn’t think this could happen during a global pandemic," the post reads. "Well we were wrong, as the past year has been a whirlwind with houseplants being more popular than ever."
"It's been more of a pleasure than I ever expected to have this business, and meet these neighbors, and make these friends," wrote McClay after hanging the store's sign at the new location. "New beginnings are around the corner, and we can't wait to make great things happen."
As we enter the growing season, consider supporting these businesses that are committed to making Philadelphia a little greener. Whether you're looking to buy your very first plant or start an outdoor garden, Philadelphia's plant shop scene can guide you in the right direction.