Photos by Andy Bronson / The Herald                                 Steve Compton co-owns Houseplants Galore on Everett Mall Way, which opened in July.

Photos by Andy Bronson / The Herald Steve Compton co-owns Houseplants Galore on Everett Mall Way, which opened in July.

This business down-sized, and yet it’s still growing

The owners of Houseplants Galore in Everett closed a nursery and now focus on indoor greenery.

EVERETT — On Steve Compton’s desk today for observation: a hungover-looking Philodendron with a broken stem.

“I’m keeping an eye on it,” he said of the unhappy house plant.

Compton hoped to determine the source of the break: Was it an accident or was it disease, “something I need to watch for,” he said.

Compton and his wife, Carrie, are the co-owners of Houseplants Galore, a new Everett store that’s focused on plants that thrive in the great indoors.

The store carries several hundred different species, at least half of which can live in a relatively dark area, he said.

The couple has been in the plant business since 2013 when they opened Li’l Sprout Nursery and Garden Center in Mill Creek.

In July, they closed the three-acre nursery and super-down-sized, moving into a 5,000-square-foot storefront at 15 SW Everett Mall Way.

“It was like moving from a 747 cargo plane to a small passenger plane,” Compton said.

The smaller venue fits the couple’s new focus — indoor plants and accessories.

Photos by Andy Bronson / The Herald                                 Julia Banker looks at an Elephant Ear Serendipity while browsing for plants at HousePlants Galore on Everett Mall Way.

Photos by Andy Bronson / The Herald Julia Banker looks at an Elephant Ear Serendipity while browsing for plants at HousePlants Galore on Everett Mall Way.

Gone are the bedding plants, shrubs and ornamental grasses that carpeted the old haunt.

The emphasis now is on “high-efficiency indoor air-pollution fighters” such as Arrowhead Vine, Chinese Evergreen, Dracaena, Peace Lily and Snake Plant — all good for clearing the air, Steve said.

When the lease on the Mill Creek nursery expired earlier this year, the Comptons began searching for a smaller location.

“The landlord gave us a few months and then gave us a few months more,” Carrie Compton said.

“But you can’t run a business like that — not knowing what’s next,” she said.

Restarting a full nursery somewhere else, said Steve Compton, “was a little more commitment than we were willing to do.”

“We decided this might be an untapped area,” he said of the focus on indoor greenery.

Mindy Tran stopped by the new store on a recent morning after seeing the sign from the street.

Every plant gets a thorough cleaning and exam at Houseplants Galore on Everett Mall Way. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Every plant gets a thorough cleaning and exam at Houseplants Galore on Everett Mall Way. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

“I must have about 50 plants at home,” said Tran, who added to her collection of flora with the purchase of a heart-shaped Hoya Kerrii.

“I’m seeing a lot of rare things I don’t see elsewhere,” Tran said after a walking through the bright, airy store.

The popularity of house plants, which spiked in the 1970s and 1980s (remember macrame hangers?), is on the upswing, Steve said.

“Having living things does make a difference, even if it’s a pet or a plant,” Steve said.

Does a cave have more light than your apartment? Is your cubicle at work lit mainly by a computer screen?

There are lots plants that live happily in the wild under a heavy canopy of trees and don’t want or need to bask in the sun, Steve Compton said.

If you do have a bright spot, Houseplants Galore sells carnivorous plants that would love to turn your fruit flies into a smoothie. (The plants lure them with a sweet scent and then dissolve them.)

Steve, a former home-security system designer, discovered his affinity for “plant babies” when he and his wife bought a home in 2002.

“I tried my hand at gardening and took a liking to it in a way I’d never liked something before,” he said.

The decision to turn his passion into a business was inspired by some channel surfing.

Shiloh Deede pots plants at Houseplants Galore.

Shiloh Deede pots plants at Houseplants Galore.

“I was watching late-night TV and saw this thing about a guy who had a little nursery in his backyard,” Steve said.

“I saw that and said to myself, ‘I can do this,’” he said. “It became my goal to have a nursery of some sort.”

That goal spurred him to earn an associate’s degree in horticulture and greenhouse management at Edmonds Community College in 2012.

Carrie, a full-time travel agent during the week, joins her husband at the store on weekends.

“I designed the store and the displays,” Carrie said.

No customer goes out the door without a warning from Steve or Carrie: “Over-watering kills.”

Just because everything outside is rain-soaked doesn’t mean your plant needs to be doused.

“Water that sits gets stagnant,” said Steve. Then the roots get a fungus, which was the diagnosis for that philodendron mentioned earlier.

What the roots really want is air, the Comptons said.

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

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