Rooted in Science

Photographs: contributed

Darien High School’s Authentic Scientific Research Program regularly produces winners in state and national science fair competitions. But it’s rare for the three-year program—or any high school science program, for that matter—to nurture a love of biology that would lead to a lifelong friendship and, ultimately, a thriving business.

“We both had signed up for the program independently,” says Lila Sullivan of herself and childhood friend Kate Ferguson, “and it just ignited our love for science. Kate actually won most of the science fairs. But it was in the program when we started to think about what careers in science could look like.”

Going their separate ways in college—Lila to Cornell, Kate to the University of Texas—they stayed in touch even after graduating and moving to Manhattan, where Lila worked as an executive recruiter and Kate for think tanks there and in Austin, Texas.

Flourish founders and lifelong friends Kate Ferguson and Lila Sullivan

It was in Austin that Kate first recognized a gap in the plant-care market, along with general confusion around how to keep indoor plants alive and thriving. Lila agreed.

The problem with the leading brand of plant fertilizers, both felt, was that it’s made up entirely of synthetic chemicals, which can burn plant leaves and may be carcinogenic. “And the problem with organic fertilizers on the market,” Lila adds, “is that they’re often made with fish composts that typically smell really pungent and lingers for days.”

Both also believed that high-end plant lovers and purchasers, like their parents, want a beautifully packaged product befitting the aesthetics of their homes and suitable to be left on a shelf or counter, where buyers would remember to use it.

In March of last year, Kate and Lila launched Flourish, an organic plant-care company providing products, as well as knowledge and resources, for plant lovers and growers.

Their first offering, Flourish Plant Food, is a sustainable, all-purpose plant fertilizer that quickly releases 70 percent of plant-ready nutrients and slowly releases 30 percent of microbe-dependent food, a process that allows for a stronger root system and better nutrient uptake. Flourish’s claim, backed by scientists: It is one of the cleanest fertilizers on the market!

left: The all-purpose organic plant food is made from sustainable sources with essential nutrients and microbes. right: Flourish plant food should be mixed with eight ounces of water. The formula gives plants “an instant boost.”

This January, the company won a product award at the 2023 Tropical Plant International Expo, a leading trade show for growers and suppliers, held in Tampa, Florida.

Flourish is headquartered in Austin, home to some of the company’s investors. Besides, as Kate notes, “It just made a lot of sense for us to be able to grow the brand from a young city that supports entrepreneurs and where a lot of our customers are also based.”

Although the two Darien High School friends call Austin home these days, their roots are still planted firmly in Fairfield County.

Currently, Flourish Plant Food is sold locally at Nielsen’s Florist & Garden Shop on the Post Road in Darien, with plans underway to introduce two new plant-care products and to expand into stores in New Canaan and Greenwich.

For more information, plus plant-care advice and a vibrant blog, visit


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