Indoor gardening finds new fans • Sacramento News & Review

Exotic plants see growing interest in unusual houseplants

By Debbie Arrington

Call it the “Plantdemic”. Spending more time at home has sparked a new interest in gardening and buying plants, especially houseplants.

During the pandemic, exotic plants – Sacramento’s go-to indoor gardening store – has seen a huge increase in interest in houseplants and succulents as more and more people discover the fun of indoor gardening.

“The Plantdemic was very interesting,” said owner Kifumi Keppler. “It was a learning experience for me too.”

Why the renewed interest in indoor gardening? Houseplants have a proven positive impact on mental, physical and emotional health – all important benefits during times as stressful as a pandemic.

Many of these Plantdemic beginner gardeners had little or no prior experience, but they had definite ideas of what they wanted. Stimulated by Instagram and other social media, these shoppers sought out unusual flora, Keppler noted.

“They didn’t want generic plants like Chinese evergreens; they wanted something rare,” she said. “I had to switch gears.”

Keppler and his team of experts tapped their far-flung sources, including those in Hawaii, Tennessee, Italy, Indonesia, and right here in Northern California. They filled Exotic Plants’ spacious store with thousands of living treasures.

“That interest continues,” she said. “We are getting more and more rare plants to meet this demand. … Young people in particular like novelties and unusual plants.

Why stop at indoor greenery? “We are starting to offer more outdoor plants such as bamboo, maples and other unique plants,” Keppler said. “People are asking for outdoor plants. People also want unusual edible plants used in Japanese and Thai dishes like wasabi, Meyer lemon and kaffir lime.

Indoor plants can create a lush tropical feel in any room, Keppler noted. “With plants, you extend that tropical vibe from indoors to outdoors.”

Founded in 1972, Exotic Plants has grown into a regional destination nursery for rare and sought-after plants, attracting buyers from all over California and Nevada. It also provides several plant-related services, including commercial, residential and special event plant rentals.

Recognized as Northern California’s top houseplant expert, Keppler has seen many trends in her decades of experience.

“I’ve been through a lot of changes in the plant industry,” she said. “(When she started) it was a wandering Jew, a piggyback plant and Swedish ivy, lots of Boston ferns. I’ve done a lot of designer homes with three to five plants in each room. Designers used indoor plants in model homes because they helped sell the property faster.

Now Keppler is adding home appeal in a different way. Its handcrafted moss “walls” are living art – with ferns and other plants incorporated into the richly textured background. Interior designers rely on exotic plants to give rooms something extra – life!

“A lot of people started after me in the world of plants; it has become more and more competitive,” she added. “But we were strong, and we still are.”

In 2019, Exotic Plants moved to its current location on Fulton Avenue. Its 4,000 square foot building is filled with colorful bromeliads, vibrant crotons, and statuesque palms. Its selection of exotic orchids is the largest in the greater Sacramento area. Numerous other plants, including dozens of succulents, fill a 3,000 square foot patio. There is also space to teach workshops and host special events.

All plants are very healthy, fresh and ethically sourced, with new stock hand selected by expert exotic plant staff.

But her store is much more than a place to buy plants. With its spaces filled with art and antiques, Exotic Plants is – as one buyer put it – like “an oasis where customers come to escape the hectic pace of their hectic lives and leave invigorated.”

Keppler continues to innovate as she maintains her store and educates her customers. Exotic Plants has recently resumed in-person workshops and other events. (See the Exotic Plants website for details.)

After nearly half a century, exotic plants are firmly rooted, Keppler said. “Sacramento is becoming a factory town.”

Exotic Packageyous is located at 1525 Fulton Ave., Sacramento. Call 916-922-4769 or visit