It's a (House) Jungle in Here: 280 Plants, 1 Small Space

Think you're plant-obsessed? Bow down to Hilton Carter, a Baltimore-based creative who's packed more than 280 plants into his home + studio space. Take a tour, plus get his tips for wannabe plant parents.

By: Liz Gray

If plants are the new pets, Hilton Carter has *a lot* of pets in his home and studio space: 280, to be exact. But like all plant obsessives, his #junglevibes journey started small, with an empty apartment and one fiddle-leaf fig tree. 

"I needed to fill space in my apartment," Hilton recalls. So instead of an extra chair, he brought home a fiddle-leaf tree, whom he calls Frank. Fast-forward 4 years and Frank is still his oldest, largest plant, but he was just the beginning. Soon, plants were everywhere in Hilton's space: In wall installations, billowing off of tabletops, perfectly framing a vintage chaise. 

His most-loved spot in the space? A propagation wall that provides both form and function. "Before we moved in, I knew I wanted to have a living wall and designed these vessels I coined 'cradles' so that not only would I have a way to propagate and grow our personal collection, but when guests come to visit, let them leave with a cutting to grow in their homes," Hilton says. "The cradle wall is truly the gift that keeps giving." 

As much as he's learned how to frame furniture and create wall art with plants, he's also learned where not to put them. "If you’re going to need to move your couch every time you need to water it, maybe it's not the best place to put it, Hilton says. "Put your plants in places that will make it easy for you to care for them. The easier they are to get to, the more likely you’ll remember to water them."  

Speaking of care, Hilton spends 4-5 hours every Saturday tending his green-leafed flock, from watering to trimming to propagating. "It makes going on vacation a little difficult," he says. But the benefits are real, too: "Imagine glamping, but never leaving the house." Sounds pretty great, right? 

Even though a fiddle leaf fig tree is the OG of his collection, he still struggles with the care of this tricky plant. "I know it might seem that I have them on lock but they cause me the most stress and are the very reason my hairline is fading," Hilton jokes. "It’s like even when they seem like they’re doing well, and you’ve finally figured out exactly what they need,  they might just die on you, you know?"  

On the flipside, he finds peace lilies the easiest. "The peace lilies leaves literally faint when they are ready to be watered, he says. "I mean, if all of our plants gave us a sign when they needed attention we'd all be better off."

His advice for plant newbies: Don't care too much. "One thing that tends to happen in the early stages of plant parenting is overwatering," Hilton says. "To make sure you don't fall victim to this, water your plants until it comes out of the drainage hole and make sure to only water when the top two inches are dry." 

So, do all his plants have names? "I have a little over 280 plants total, but only 15 of them have names," Hilton says. But Frank's still special: He's the only one who can demand a spot. "He's as much of a living room staple as a couch or coffee table." 

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