House & Home

Is your home a dead-plant zone? This ‘plant lady’ can help

Lindsay Michael, owner of Happy Cactus, holds a mother cactus that she will take cuttings from to make several new plants.
Lindsay Michael, owner of Happy Cactus, holds a mother cactus that she will take cuttings from to make several new plants. skeyser@kcstar.com

There are people who can’t keep a plant alive, and then there is Lindsay Michael.

Her plants are happy, she’s happy.

Over the past eight years, Michael has been collecting plants and developing her passion for them into a business. As owner of Happy Cactus, she styles and maintains plants for clients, as well as teaches workshops on propagation.

Clients call on her when they have a vision and don’t know what to do or how to care for plants.

Like any project you take on around the house, it requires establishing a budget. Michael says most of her clients’ expenses range between $50 and $500. “I can do a lot for $100, aside from my time,” Michael says.

She imparts her knowledge to clients to help them find success. Michael says the No. 1 issue is overwatering, which rots and kills plants. Her first rule of thumb literally involves a finger: Stick it in the pot down to2 inches — if it’s dry, water it; if it’s moist, wait.

Her second rule is to soak the plant completely when you water. However, with cacti, she uses a spray bottle to clean off the dust and prevent them from getting overwatered.

“I love when clients send me photos of their plants later and I can see how they’re growing,” Michael says. “It’s like sending kids off to college.”

Michael and her husband, Andy, have three (non-photosynthesizing) children, ages 5, 12 and 14, at their Kansas City home, which Michael describes as eclectic and minimal.

It’s positive vibes only, with hand-made affirmations on the walls next to framed kids’ art. Plants, of course, make up much of the decor, in tiny concrete pots that Andy makes.

“I like a clean aesthetic, but I like quirky things, too, like little treasures from camping trips or hanging a stick from the backyard on the wall,” Michael explains.

The Michaels enjoy sharing their home, whether it’s hosting a baby shower or renting out a room through Airbnb for extra income.

Michael also works two days a week as part of the horticulture team at Soil Service.

“It’s good for me to have that time away from home; it helps me grow my business seeing how hard I have to work for an hourly rate,” Michael says.

Her long-term vision is to own a small plant store: “a simple, white space with pegboard shelves filled with plants, a mini jungle, a place to go propagate,” Michael muses. For now, a bench near her front door suffices as a potting station, and two screened porches offer additional space, fresh air and precipitation.

Though Michael claims the occasional failure — and lots of finger pricks — she finds peace in the hard work of caring for her home and family.

There may always be dirt on the floor, she laments, but it’s a small inconvenience to live her dream lifestyle.

“Having my hands in the soil really grounds me; that’s my thing,” she says. “I’ll be a plant lady until I die.”

Follow Lindsay Michael on Instagram at Happy Cactus Plants or email her at happycactusplants@gmail.com.

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