One thing that being in lockdown and spending extra time at home has changed for me is the amount of houseplants I have accumulated. From small to large, from upright to cascading, from green to pink – I have discovered my love of greenery and nature surrounding me, and I love taking the time to chat to my new little friends and learn how to take the best possible care of them.
I have been buying all my plants from small businesses or a guy that comes around to our office block (when we were actually working there), and during my explorations I discovered the divine husband and wife team aka Grow with the Flow.
Let’s Chat to Grow with the Flow
Your Names: We are Kyle & Rejandi Houston-McMillan
Business Name: We named our business Grow with the Flow.
3 fun facts about US: Kyle thinks these are FUN facts, I just think that they’re facts. But you can be the judge of that.
- We both completed our honours degrees in two very different fields of study. Kyle studied Landscape Architecture and I studied Psychology. Both our undergraduate studies were completed at the University of Pretoria.
- We tied the knot in January of 2020, but we met in 2013 when I was only 16 and Kyle 17. We’ve been together ever since.
- We come from very different backgrounds. Kyle is English and was raised in Pretoria (With a surname like that, people usually assume as much). Whereas I am Afrikaans (my surname used to be Coetzee) and grew up in a small town called Mooinooi in the North West Province. We met by chance one night in Pretoria at a mutual friend’s birthday party.
What exactly does your business do: Kyle: “When it comes to plants, what does our business not do?” We started our business with subscription boxes but soon realized that we would do better just by selling plants online. Back when we started, there weren’t that many online indoor plant shops. But lately, they’re popping up everywhere. I guess it’s because of the current situation- people are finding ways to keep their businesses afloat and going online is all that makes sense. But back to the question- We sell indoor plants online. So people place orders through our website, or directly through us, and then we send them beautiful indoor plants! Simple as that. Obviously there is a lot of behind the scenes that people don’t know about. Packaging is a big thing for us, since the plants travel all over SA, we need to make sure that they will survive the trip and get there in one piece. So we have to prep each plant before it gets packed into its box. This involves cleaning pots, taping soil down with brown paper, putting plants in plastic sleeves to protect the leaves, sometimes wrapping whole plants in brown paper, shining leaves, deciding which size box to use, stuffing open spaces with newspapers (or sometimes free plants), then extending boxes to make sure leaves don’t bend (we call them box caps- we basically add half a box on top of the current box), putting stickers on the boxes for the couriers etc. The above process doesn’t even mention the admin that gets put in… doing stock take, box analysis (so we know what to buy), typing up waybills, handwriting the thank you notes, making plant info sheets, working on the website and a whole lot more. This business has grown in so many directions, that it’s hard to explain what exactly we do. The short answer (that we usually give strangers) is that we sell indoor plants online and ship them all over South Africa. But there is just so much more that we can say- as you can see.
What makes you stand out to other nurseries/plant shops:
Isn’t this a question that all business owners ask themselves on a daily basis? What we hope to achieve, and what we hope stands out – is that we try to create a unique, and personal plant shopping experience. People are usually skeptical when it comes to shipping live plants – but we have now done it thousands of times with great success. Our business is personal. It’s one on one. We communicate through whatsapp and give customers updates on their orders – I (Rejandi) personally write the thank you notes, and I have done this since the very beginning. We also send tracking info for your purchase once it has been shipped, and we also include some general after travel tips for the plants. Kyle spends hours on Photoshop creating personal and specific plant care info sheets for each plant that we sell – which gives a lot more info than the sticker on a pot that you would find in a normal nursery. We also offer after-purchase care and advice if plants aren’t doing so well. We have WhatsApp web open in our office 24/7 and we check messages and answer them as often as we can. When people buy from us continuously – we become friends. I remember names since I write the notes myself- so next time you order, I might just add a complimentary plant, mug, cookie, or gift – and that, the personal touch we put into everything, is what makes us different!
Why the obsession with plants:
It all started with a single purchase from Woolworths. Kyle was adamant that we could take care of a Monstera in our shoe-box size flat when we were still studying. I was skeptical since I thought they needed bright light and you know; belonged outside. Kyle has always had green thumbs. It kind of comes with his area of study. Plants have always been his thing. He had to learn their scientific names and all types of info on them for his degree. So he has a lot of knowledge on them that really comes in handy now. So after that Monstera was surviving, we started buying more and more. We eventually moved to a much nicer apartment when we were both doing our honours degrees and the plant collection just grew. Birds nest ferns, bamboo palms etc. But even then I had no idea how many indoor plants existed. I only really learned when we started the business.
Why do you think everyone should own a plant:
Now this is where my degree and knowledge become relevant. From a psychological point of view- and as many studies have shown, plants increase productivity. Having plants in your space, and caring for them- has a serious influence on your mental health. I’ve heard people say that plants are the new pets – and pets are the new children, because actual children are too expensive. Caring for something is built into us. It’s part of our DNA. So if we can’t afford children, or pets – at least we can take care of plants and achieve some level of satisfaction and purpose – a sense of being needed and valued (even if plants can’t talk- seeing a plant make a new leaf, is so rewarding!) So not only can plants increase your productivity in the office, and at home- but they can also make you a proud plant parent!
Which is your personal favourite indoor plant:
Do we have to choose only 1? Kyle will always stick with the original- a monstera. “It’s beautiful, it’s green, it’s rewarding, it’s simple”. Which is all true. It’s an easy-care plant with low light requirements and they are seriously hard to kill. But for me, I’m a bit silly. My favorite is any calathea or prayer plant. You know, the difficult drama queens that just die when you water them one day late or move them 2cm. I can’t seem to learn my lesson with them. I’m always adding more of them to our collection!
Which has been your most popular:
By far the Monster Fig combo! Which is a Monstera and a fiddle leaf fig. The sales of this combo alone have gotten our business through many months! We first started selling the combo in December of last year- we only loaded 50 onto our website and had to restock about 6 times before we decided to just leave it on, and not stock control it. We were still selling that combo all the way till last week when we finally had to take it off the website. So if anyone reading this, bought that combo- thank you for helping us to keep our business going!
Which is your hardiest plant – I’m speaking on behalf of those of us who don’t have a green thumb:
We would definitely recommend our beginners combo! ZZ plant and heartleaf philodendron. The ZZ plant is super hardy. Kyle always says that you could put it in a cupboard, behind a couch and it will still survive. It makes a potato-like ball called a risome in which it stores water. So it does not need water often. The worst you could do to any indoor plant is over water it. So rather under-water. When we got our first ZZ – I read somewhere “if you are wondering whether to water it or not- rather don’t”. That should definitely be a beginner’s top pick- followed by the heartleaf philodendron aka philodendron scandens. This plant is super forgiving and can also go long without water. It is low-light tolerant and is a vining plant, so it makes a lovely bookshelf feature or hanging addition!
What are some of your most unusual plants:
If you’re asking with regards to the plants we sell- then I’ll have to say the polkadot begonia is quite unusual. Upon first sight- it looks unreal, silver polkadoted and almost organge leaves. This plant is also one of our best sellers and a collectors plant! It’s actually really easy to care for- not fussy at all and interesting to watch it grow. Next on the unusual list- is anything varigated. It blows my mind that nature can be such an artist. Varigated plants receive quite a lot of hype- and for good reason! They are a great converstation starter, since anyone who doesn’t know plants will ask “Whats wrong with this plant” because people aren’t used to plants having white in their leaves. If only they knew how plant people fuss about those types of plants- us included.
We also have a few rare and unusual plants in our own collection- including a young varigated monstera, string of hearts, a few calatheas that are not easy to find (or keep alive for that matter), monstera adansonii and a tetrasperma.
Please tell me more about your subscription service, and the different options:
We recently changed our subsription offers. We now have Small (R300), Medium (R350) and Large (R400) subscription boxes to choose from. The boxes all include a plant (the size of the plant depends on the box that is chosen), a handmade ceramic pot or mantis decorative pot cover and a gift. This month we have partnered with Tru Grower so the gift is some lovely foliar feed plant fertilizer and some Grow With the Flow potting soil. The boxes can be purchased through our website or you can send us a whatsapp and we’ll work out shipping etc. Boxes can also be purchased once-off or monthly for how many months you want. We keep things interesting and include new plants and gifts every month. We are also expanding our business and website currently so we are continuously partnering with new brands that feature in the boxes!
How can people order from you:
Most of our orders get processed through our website. We accept online payments and use PayFast wich is a secure payment method. However, some customers prefer to place their orders through Whatsapp, we then set up an invoice and payment is made through EFT (Some customers just feel more comfortable with this). Shipping for the plants gets worked out automatically on the website and is based on how much you spend- since the size of the order determines the box size and shipping costs.
Whereabouts in Johannesburg do you deliver to:
We deliver to everywhere in South Africa. We have yet to receive an order from somewhere that we could not ship to. We use The Courier Guy for shipping and they have been reliable and affordable for our boxes to get to their destinations. There are some special customers that get personal deliveries from us. Simply because they happen to live in an area close to where we are headed. Kyle’s parents live in Pretoria East- so many customers from there have received personal deliveries. We also deliver big local corporate orders ourselves- if it is within a certain area, and the order is too big to ship- we will deliver it ourselves.
Quote you live by:
So many come to mind! I am basically a walking Pinterest board. “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today”. Kyle says: “Happy wife- happy life”. My personal favourite, which I also want tattooed on me one day (soon) is “Grow through what you go through”. I just feel like this quote resonates with so much happening in our lives but business wise – Our business started and grew because of COVID. We were going through so much all at once (personally), and we couldn’t always keep our heads up. But somehow we managed to start a business during all of that and we have just been growing with our business. Despite what we went through. This quote also has many personal connections but most importantly it remind me that there is a lesson in everything. There is always room to grow and improve. Things can’t always be bad, at some point, they will be good again and in those good moments, I want to look back and think of how those hard times helped to shape me into what I am. I also think the name of our business says a lot “Grow with the Flow” was named this way because we had to change what we were doing in life due to what was happening around us. We literally had to grow through, and with the flow of life.
Anything else you want to add:
I just want to add some detail regarding the origin of the business. Kyle registered this business with money that he got for his 25th birthday. It all started in our house. We started the business before we even had suppliers or any clue of where to start looking. We were selling some of our own personal plants just to see how it would all work out. We started getting subscribers- some family members, some friends, old acquaintances etc. Then some new people subscribed and I remember we had 8 subscribers and I thought WOW! We worked well into the night, just the two of us. Potting plants, cleaning pots, wrapping soil, wiping leaves with a cloth, wrapping all the plants in paper (We only started using the easy plastic sleeves this year), wrapping pots in cardboard, making boxes and packing them. Making info sheets, writing thank you notes, writing waybills, spending an hour at the courier guy making sure each and every box got at least 8 stickers on it to ensure safe shipping etc. The whole process. We would do it ourselves. Only the two of us. 8 boxes to pack and it took us a good few hours. We had plants all over our house. Kitchen counter, stove top, lounge, TV unit, floor even. There was no line between work space and living space. Boxes everywhere. On delivery days, we would fill Kyle’s car. He used to drive a Suzuki, and we were so proud. So proud that we had enough orders to fill the car. We could have never imagined how much the business would explode in a few months time.
By January we could not do everything in the Suzuki and borrowed cars and trailers anymore. So we had to get a bakkie. We also could not manage everything on our own anymore. We had to hire extra hands to help with the plant prep and packing. We asked family members to help out with admin part time and even asked my mother to dust off her old typewriter to type the waybills for us. We just did not have the time anymore. There is still a lot of things that we do ourselves and will keep doing ourselves but we could not keep doing things in our house. There was no space to live anymore. We built a small greenhouse and functional workshop to work in. The business just kept growing and as it is now, we are already looking into expanding the greenhouse again!
We are extremely grateful for all the support we have gotten in such a short amount of time. We cannot believe that this business has grown so much from just an idea and a few plants to pack into 8 boxes to hundreds of plants going out weekly! This business has taught us so much, and we are just so grateful to all of our customers for giving us the opportunity to help them grow their indoor gardens!
This was such an honour to get to know both Kyle and Rejandi. They are a stunning couple, with the kindest hearts, and they are here to spread their love of plants wherever possible.
I think I am going to sign up for their plant subscription box – it’s like getting a surprise gift every month that you just know you are going to love! Could you ask for anything better?