Lifestyle Home Magnolia Network's Hilton Carter on Having Joanna Gaines as a Mentor and Growing His Plant-Filled Empire The plant stylist and Magnolia Workshops host welcomes PEOPLE into his jungle-like Baltimore home By Mackenzie Schmidt Mackenzie Schmidt Mackenzie Schmidt is the Home and Travel Editor for PEOPLE. She's worked at PEOPLE for over five years as a writer and editor on the Lifestyle team. People Editorial Guidelines Published on May 26, 2022 11:00 AM Share Tweet Pin Email Two hundred and fifty, give or take. That's the answer to the question visitors to Hilton Carter's Baltimore home inevitably ask when they first enter. It's roughly the number of houseplants the greenery guru and Magnolia Workshops host, 42, his wife Fiona Vismans, 34, a dentist, and their daughter Holland, 9 months, share their space with. His personal jungle and the expertise he's developed because of it have garnered the artist and former commercial director a Target collaboration, book deals, half a million Instagram followers and most recently, a spot as one of Chip and Joanna Gaines's hand-picked experts for their Workshops, a digital learning series they recently spun into a TV show on Magnolia Network. Chip and Joanna Gaines to Reno 100-Year-Old Waco Castle They've Been Trying to Buy for 20 Years Schaun Champion Before Carter and Vismans bought it in 2020, their lush and lively home, which features regularly on his social media feed, was completely lifeless: a dark and dated fixer-upper wallowing on the market for months. The couple only stopped by on a whim on the way to a more promising listing. "The photos of it were just awful," Carter recalls. "And there were no offers on it," adds Vismans. "We were like, it must be horrible. What's wrong with it?" The 1915, five-bedroom Tudor, which is located in one of the country's first planned suburbs just north of downtown, had a tiny kitchen, small windows and a hodgepodge of flooring. But it did have one thing Carter had on his wishlist: a south-facing exposure that he could turn into a veritable greenhouse. "Once we pulled up, I was just like, 'This is it.' I already knew what I was going to do with the furniture and the styling. I just needed to see where the plants were going to go," Carter says. When he stepped foot in what is now the sunroom, he explains, "I was like, 'We need to get rid of these walls. Why is there so much wall here? Let's strip that down. This is where Frank's going to go.'" (Frank is a towering, 8-foot fiddle leaf fig tree and was Carter's first-ever plant.) Schaun Champion When they moved into the 3,700-square-foot space, Vismans says, "I made him promise that the density of plants was not going to stay the same. I kind of felt like we were maxed out with the number of plants that we had, and they [needed] to just be spread out throughout the house. We weren't going to be in a situation where every single room is the jungle room." Because the house was outdated and well-loved, they knew they were in for a big renovation. And like most, both the timeline and the budget had more than doubled by the time it was completed in the spring of 2021. Carter was exacting with the details. He worked with local artisans to create the concrete kitchen countertop and dining table, tested countless stains for the wood slats that line the range hood, powder room wall, and sunroom ceiling, and he hand-laid the irregular pattern of tiles for the flooring. Schaun Champion They swapped the locations of the dining room and kitchen, to make the former more accessible, and knocked out most of the walls in what is now the sunroom to replace them with an expanse of glass doors that open onto a new deck. The new kitchen is certainly the centerpiece of the first floor, but the plant-filled sunroom is its heart — or perhaps more accurately, its lungs — and showcases six years' worth of careful watering, misting, pruning and propagation. His plant care regiment varies throughout the year. "It could be once a week in the colder months, because your soil stays wet longer," he says. "Right now, it's every two or three days I'm tending to a particular plant. Every day I'm doing something." But it's far from a burden. "It's a labor of love. It's not even labor, it's the thing that helps me throughout the day stay sane. It's very therapeutic." Schaun Champion Carter never meant to become a gardening celebrity. Until about 2016, he didn't even think of himself as "a plant guy." He had degrees in art and film and was only looking for a creative outlet outside of his nine-to-five at an ad agency, when he started photographing the Baltimore loft he and Vismans, then his neighbor-turned-girlfriend, were sharing. He was hoping to start up a side hustle as an interior stylist. Instead of job offers, he says, his DMs were full of people asking about how he cared for his many plants, and he gladly offered insights on choosing the right soil and adding pencil shavings to ward off pests. His hobby grew into a full-time career and a job title—"plant stylist"—he's pretty sure that he coined. "I don't think anyone said they were a plant stylist until I put that out there," he jokes. Schaun Champion A Washington Post profile in 2017 boosted his Instagram following by 23,000 in a week and led to a regular series on Apartment Therapy and gigs on The Rachael Ray Show. He started selling plant cradles he designed for propagation online. He published his first book, Wild at Home: How to Style and Care for Beautiful Plants, in 2019, and then a second in 2020. His third, Wild Creations, which came out last year, has a blurb by one very special fan who catapulted him to a level of recognition he never imagined. Schaun Champion Giada De Laurentiis Shows Off Her 'Elegant Yet Comfortable' Backyard Makeover: 'A Sanctuary' Carter was packing up a cradle order, he recalls, "and I saw 'Joanna Gaines' and 'Waco, Texas' on a label and I was like, 'Oh my God, that's the real Joanna Gaines!' Soon after she purchased those, she messaged me." He got more than a new gig out of that sale; he gained a friend and mentor. "I would DM Jo about random things, and she would always take the time to write me back because she cared about what was happening. It was someone to bounce ideas with." The Gaineses' ever-expanding empire has inspired his own—he recently became co-owner of his first plant shop, Green Neighbor, in Baltimore—but it's the stars' focus on the important things that stuck with Carter. "Chip and Jo sent me a sweater that said 'Time Well Spent,' and they hit that right on the nose," he says. "I am finally really living life. The items in this house aren't what make it a home—it's the time. It's the time well spent."