During my interview with Mason Day, the co-founder of GrowIt, he stumped me when I asked about his favorite plant.
“It’s lantana camara,” Day told me, rather excitedly. “It is this little, kind of hardy plant, you can get it and put it in a container or down south it actually turns into a shrub, but what’s really cool is that each bloom can have three different colors. You can get orange, red, yellow all on the same flower.”
I said “ooh, nice” but had no idea what he was talking about.
Luckily, his app, GrowIt was able to help me identify the pretty plant, post-interview.
“GrowIt is a social mobile community,” explains Day. “It is aimed at helping people figure out what they should be growing in their areas and helps them find answers to all gardening information.”
Like my question, “what is a lantana camara?”
Mason Day was born with a green thumb and a shovel in his hand.
He grew up on a farm and garden center in rural Michigan before he went off to Cornell University for a degree in agricultural business.
He was working with GrowIt’s co-founder, Seth Reed, at Ball Horticultural (a seed company in West Chicago) when the idea of the mobile app was first planted in their minds.
“We’d like to have jobs in 40 years,” explains Day. “So how do we get younger people interested in plants? So we took this idea, pitched that to the owner of our company and said, ‘hey, listen, we’d like to go off and do this but can you help us out?’ and they gave us the full go-ahead.”
That was in 2014 when their company agreed to get their hands dirty and help support GrowIt.
The free app launched to gardeners in 2015.
Now, two years later, there are more than 250 thousand GrowIt users across North America.
“Three out of our top 10 cities are in Texas – Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. Chicago is obviously number one because we are here and then New York City and Los Angeles.”
But while people use the app from coast to coast, it has a focus on every user’s backyard.
“The goal is to be extremely local so we like to tie that in because what grows in Florida is not necessarily going to grow well here in Chicago, so we try to bring people from the same area together so they can see what other people in their area are growing and connect them.”
GrowIt is simple to use.
The number on questions on it is, “what is this plant?” so users can upload a photo, interact with other gardeners in their area, find answers on when to seed or how to transplant or see what grows best in their corner of the country.
“When we first started this project, a lot of people said, well millennials didn’t like to grow anything, they weren’t interested in gardening,” recalls Day. “But what we are seeing is that millennials are really interested in plants, it’s just not the plants the gardening industry is used to.”
Right now, the #1 searched item on GrowIt is “succulents” – the new favorite greenery of millennials who are digging these small plants that are relatively easy to keep alive.
“We like to push it off as a trend or a fad but succulents are becoming a real big hobby for a lot of younger people out there who don’t have a lot of space,” says Day.
GrowIt is no fad either.
While Ball Horticultural is the parent company of GrowIt, the app is thriving with 5 full-time employees and expectations of hitting a half million users this summer.
“We want to bridge the gap by bringing younger people into this plant world,” Day says of GrowIt’s goals. “We want to be the one stop shop for anyone using a phone while gardening.”
Now I’m off to go buy some lantana camara for my backyard, let me just grab my phone first.