For the fourth installment in our new Tastemakers series - which coincides with the launch of nationwide shipping on our website (more potted plant offerings coming soon) - we're featuring California-native and Landscape Designer, Joe Cafuir. We first stumbled upon Joe's vast houseplant collection via social media (you can follow him on Instagram here) and were totally hooked. I admit - we creeped on his plant pics for an unhealthy amount of time before shooting him a message. His Oakland-based studio apartment is a houseplant hoarder's dream, with a cactus collection that could make a desert jealous. Here at The Sill, we truly think the best inspiration for bringing plants into your home is real inspiration…and we hope you are as inspired by Joe as we are, to bring the outdoors in!
Can you share a little background about yourself -- and a little background about your love of houseplants?
My name is Joe - and I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I have been living in Oakland for the past 3 years and I love it. I work as a Landscape Designer for a small design firm in San Francisco, working mostly on residential projects in the Bay Area, Sonoma and Napa Counties. I get to draw a lot and design gardens, so it's a pretty sweet deal. In my free time I love to go rock climbing and try to get outside and do it whenever the weather permits, which is basically year round here in California! I'm done bragging.
I wasn't really interested in plants until I got to college and took an 'Introduction to Landscape Architecture' class - then decided to make it my major. I started getting into growing my own plants a lot when I first moved to Oakland with some friends, and we had a nice little plot in front of our building for veggies and a sweet balcony that got a ton of sun. I worked at a nursery at the time so I was starting to take plants home with me on a regular basis. When my partner and I moved into our own place and realized we could finally do whatever we wanted to our space, I started getting more into houseplants and filling the place up. It's safe to say that I am now pretty obsessed with plants.
What's a secret skill you have?
I have surprisingly fast reflexes. I'm also clumsy - which isn't great but helps me prove how fast my reflexes are (I often drop things and catch them before they hit the ground). Unfortunately, it seems like people happen to not be around whenever my quick reflexes are in action.
What's the best present you've given or received?
Definitely our apartment. It was passed down to us from two good friends, Rikki and Jordan, who moved to Southern California. Our place has great big southeast facing windows - so we get a ton of sun and the plants love it. Also, a sweet view of the historic Grand Lake Theater sign and its flashing lights.
If your space was on fire, what's the first thing you'd grab to save?
The first answer that came to mind was "wallet and passport," which is incredibly boring but honest so I'll stick with that.
What's on your to-do list today?
Walk to the Farmer's Market and get some groceries, go bouldering at the climbing gym, maybe check out some plant nurseries and see if there's anything I have to have…Meet my partner in the city for dinner after he gets off work, then we will probably end the night getting some drinks with friends. Please note that I purposefully waited to answer this on a weekend so I wouldn't have to say "work-gym-eat-sleep."
What is your favorite plant and why?
This is a tough question when I learn about new plants almost every day at my job. In terms of landscape plants, I am really into Acacia 'Lime Magik' right now. It is one sweet tree. I worked at a succulent nursery for a couple years, so of course succulents and cacti are some of my favorites. I especially love Aloes because there are so many different varieties and they seem to do really well in my apartment. I got a tiny Spiral Aloe a couple years ago and have since planted it in the ground at my parent's house. It has been fun watching it grow and I am looking forward to seeing it start to spiral soon! In terms of favorite plants in my apartment, I especially love my Philodendron 'Hope', Euphorbia ammak 'Variegata', Neon Pothos, and all my Staghorn Ferns. I also have an awesome Peperomia vine that grows like crazy and propagates super easily, so whenever a friend says they like it I just snip off a piece and hand it to them.
Do you have a green thumb?
Sure. I like to think that I inherited it from my grandma - who was an amazing gardener. She always put so much love and effort into keeping her plants happy, and I try to do the same with mine.
Any plant care tips you can share?
Just choose the right plants for your space and sun exposure (see here for how to determine your space's sunlight). If you don't get much direct sun, choose plants that thrive in shade. If you do get a lot of sun, go crazy like me and get whatever you want! Once you find the right plants for your situation, plant them in some fresh soil in pots with good drainage and provide them with the appropriate amount of water depending on the plant. I have a pretty loose watering schedule for my plants that works for me - every 3-4 weeks for cacti, every 2 weeks for succulents, and every week for houseplants. If you keep it simple and don't baby them too much…you will be successful.
What tops your houseplant wish list?
I would LOVE a Colocasia gigantea - I've seen some with leaves as big as people! But it would literally take up half the space in my apartment. I have also been keeping an eye out for a nice big Aloe 'Hercules', though I don't have anywhere to put it. I'm not worried about that though - I'm pretty good at making room for new plants.
(All photography courtesy of Joe Cafuir)