Putting down succulent roots: Urban Planting to move to Clifton shorefront

Elio Calabrese doesn’t like to let moss grow under his feet. But he does like to preserve the carpet-like plant and use it for decoration.

As the owner of Urban Planting Cleveland, Calabrese produces unique custom moss decor to bring nature inside in virtually any environment.

"I love the moss because it allows people to hang a piece of nature and natural objects anywhere,” Calabrese says. “Some places do not have light for actual plants, so the preserved moss can bring that feeling of nature.”

But Calabrese loves all things green. In addition to moss, he also supplies his customers with succulent plants, cacti, and tropical foliage creations to enhance any dwelling.

“Cacti I love because there are so many different varieties and shapes/sizes—from small to large and everything in between they are all unique,” he says. “Otherwise I am a huge fan of tropical foliage and leafier plants. The look and feel of those in any space bring life and light.”

Calabrese currently works out of his studio in the Hildebrandt Building but will soon move to a retail storefront at the corner of W. 110 Street and Clifton Boulevard, 10908 Clifton Blvd., in Cleveland’s Edgewater neighborhood.

Calabrese felt his Hildebrandt studio was a difficult location to build a customer base. So he focused on working events like the Cleveland Flea, festivals, and other various pop-up events around the city to build up a loyal list of customers. But the new location will allow him to take advantage of the vibrant local scene.

“I had to get a place that was more accessible, had more foot traffic,” Calabrese says of the move. “I needed an actual store, and this couldn’t have been a better fit.” He says the location is easily accessible from both the east and west side and is only a five-minute drive on the Shoreway from downtown. “I’m pretty excited about it,” he says.

The new storefront will not only sell tropical foliage, plants, and custom moss creations, but also offer workshops on how to care for and re-plant tropicals, succulents, and cacti. He's also planning to provide lessons on making macramé plant holders and other hands-on activities.

Calabrese says his plants range from $5 up to about $150 for his most expensive selections. Workshop prices vary, depending on the topic, but usually cost between $20 and $45.

Calabrese’s first plant was a jade, which he still recommends to customers buying an easy-to-care-for first plant.

He says his most popular retail item is the sansevieria (also known as snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue) because it is easy to care for and requires little light and virtually no maintenance. But he also recommends the ZZ (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia) plant. “The ZZ plants are super easy to care for as well in lower light, and I think have more character,” he explains.

The new 1,000-square-foot store will provide plenty of space for his retail selection as well as his workshops. The shop is currently undergoing a makeover. Calabrese is tearing up the carpeting and putting in a new floor, staining wood shelving and installing brackets for the shelves, and planning where to display his preserved moss artwork. Additionally, he plans to introduce a vinyl sign in the front window.

Calabrese fell in love with plants after visiting his friend Julia in 2013 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati, where he studied PR and communications and took one horticulture class. “Julia’s house was full of tropical house plants, different types of jade, and succulents—most were older than me,” he recalls. “It was really like something out of a movie.”

After that experience, Calabrese dove into learning everything he could about plant care. “A lot of my learning is a combination of things,” he says. “A lot was learning from others and asking questions. Then a large part is also from trial and error, then researching what I did wrong.”

What he’s learned has been put to good use. In addition to Urban Planting Cleveland, Calabrese provides plants for weddings, does custom work for corporate offices, and has decorated area restaurants with his preserved moss artwork.

Now Calabrese is hoping the new Edgewater location will allow him to share his knowledge with an even larger audience. He is planning for an August opening of the Clifton store. Calabrese says store hours are yet to be determined, but he’ll keep people posted through his Facebook page.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.