Gold Leaf Botanicals is a one-stop-shop for budding plant enthusiasts

Bryan Dobson, owner of Gold Leaf Botanicals, pictured standing outside the front of his store.

It’s no secret that millennials and Gen-Z seem to be leading the houseplant-craze that’s taken over social media.

TikTok is now rife with individuals who debate over the best methods to water, prune and maintain their “plant babies,” which, I have to admit, I watch all the time.

Nurturing houseplants is a commitment that is both rewarding and surprisingly difficult at times, making for a hobby that requires an unexpected amount of patience and dedication. For those who take pleasure in collecting them, finding places to buy plants that aren’t grocery stores or out-of-town nurseries can prove to be a challenge.

Gold Leaf Botanicals, located at 189 Park St. in Waterloo, markets itself as “Kitchener and Waterloo’s tropical plant boutique.”

Owner and self-professed plant enthusiast Bryan Dobson grew his passion for the craft as a way to support his mental wellbeing. He left his previous career to pursue plants and cited the poor quality that was available from most retailers as one of the reasons for wanting to improve the stock that was currently accessible.

“I delved into plants five years ago due to my mental health. And it just was about quality. I couldn’t find quality anywhere. And everything kept dying,” Dobson said.

One of the main ways he keeps his stock healthy is by ensuring no pesticides are used.

“Here we use beneficial bugs. So we do everything as biological as possible. I don’t use chemicals at all on my plants,” he said.

Another aspect, according to Dobson, that sets Gold Leaf Botanicals apart from other plant shops is the experience and customer support.

“I help you from when you first come in, to when you leave, as well as after you bought the plant with any issues you have,” Dobson said.

“I don’t want people to walk in and feel overwhelmed by a plant that’s not going to live in their house. Because a lot of plants need certain lighting. And some people just don’t understand lighting and water for plants. And then it just ends up dying.”

Dobson’s customers are varied, but he’s seen a lot of students come into his store who want to buy plants for their dorms.

For those who are beginner plant owners with fledgling green thumbs, he advises people to do the groundwork before committing to plants that don’t suit their home environments.

“Do your research on the plant and know where it comes from. So example right now, I have eucalyptus. They’re native to Australia, so they need full sun all the time. Zz [plants] are native to Africa, but they’re mostly in the jungles. So they don’t need a lot of light. And they go almost a month without water. Then you have plants that come from places where it’s monsoon season, so they get pounded with water and then they don’t get a lot for a while,” Dobson said.

“It’s about knowing that and not rushing into it. Start off with one plant first. My problem was I got 1520 the first time I started and I was overwhelmed.”

Dobson’s favourite aspect about running his store is the people he gets to meet — calling back to his mom who is also rooted in the business of plant sales.

“When I started this journey, I grew up around plants. My mom worked at a prestigious flower plant shop in the ‘90s in Cambridge, and when I call suppliers, I will mention the name and we end up talking because they’ve been in the business so long. It’s sort of like a full circle,” Dobson said.

“As well as when people come in. They’ll be like, ‘I bought plants from you when you were doing this out of your house.’ It’s like everyone’s coming along this journey with me. And I’ve met so many interesting people. Sort of like Cheers here.” 

With files from Aaron Waitson.

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