Whether you are just getting into plants or you’ve been around the community for a while, one thing is unmistakable; the houseplant craze is trending. And not just any houseplants, rare houseplants. So what is a rare houseplant?
What makes a plant rare
A lot of it comes down to economics. For some of these unique plants, the supply is simply lower than the demand. Consumers are notorious for wanting special items, and the fact that there are fewer of them and that they are hard to get drives the interest. If there is a lot of interest in a commodity and not a lot of supply, the price skyrockets. It’s economics 101.
But a lot of it also has to do with social media. The internet is notorious for creating FOMO, aka the fear of missing out, and the houseplant market is no different. Collectors and influencers post beautiful pictures of a specific plant, and the hype around that plant grows exponentially. A new “it” plant hits the market, and buyers have to have it. This emotional factor further escalates the price. Collectors want special items, whether that be limited edition sneakers, expensive handbags, or in this case, rare plants.
Although much of the rare plant craze is attributed to social and economic factors, some of these plants are genuinely just that rare. For example, the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is allegedly near extinction in the wild. More of these plants exist in personal collections than in their native habitat in Brazil. As a result, they are near impossible to find, and if you are lucky enough to find someone who will sell you one, they will cost quite a pretty penny. Currently, fully established Spiritus Sancti plants are selling for upwards of $12,000. Not only is the plant limited in number, but it is also a tricky plant to propagate and a notoriously slow grower. The easier it is to make more of a plant, the less rare it is. It is often the trickiest plants to propagate that fetch these high prices.
One of the most popular trends in the rare plant market today is variegated plants. Variegation is a cell mutation that occurs in the plant. It creates different colored foliage, and the areas without green lack chlorophyll. Many of these variegated plants are unstable, which means that it is possible for this beautiful variegation to fade entirely and for the plant to return to its green form. There is no guarantee that cuttings from the mother plant will continue to show the same variegation. Because of this instability, there are fewer of these variegated beauties readily available to the average consumer.
Plants that are in this rare category are most likely not tissue cultured. Tissue culture is a way of growing the cells of plants in an artificial medium. It’s a way to make many plants, really fast, from not a lot of material. For example, the Monstera Thai Constellation is a variegated monstera that is tissue cultured. As a result, it is much less rare than its variegated monstera Albo Borsigiana counterpart. Also, because it is tissue cultured, the variegation on the Thai Constellation is stable.
Popular rare plants
If one plant is a staple of any rare plant collection, it is likely some version of a variegated monstera. It seems like the plant that every plant collector has to have. Plus, there are just so many different colored variegations and various types of monstera.
The Monstera Albo Borsigiana needs stable humidity to keep its beautiful white foliage from browning. Also, because the variegation is unstable, it can take some extra maintenance to keep this plant thriving.
The Philodendron Pink Princess is another plant that has been popular in the rare plant market. It features bright pink variegation that the houseplant community loves. But finding an excellent specimen with the right variegation can be tricky.
The Anthurium Waroqueanum is another rare plant staple. Also known as the “Queen Anthurium,” its dramatically long and dark foliage is breathtaking. Unlike other houseplants, anthuriums require quite a lot of humidity. As a result, they can be quite challenging to care for in the home setting.
Monstera Obliqua is another rare plant must-have. With their striking lace-like foliage, they are not an easy plant to grow. Their high humidity demands and their tricky taste in lighting make them a plant for the most advanced houseplant growers.
The Variegated Monstera Adansonii is currently one of the most trending rare houseplants. This past year, it has become the plant that serious collectors just have to add to their collection.
How to get one
Online Nursery Restocks.
The internet plant market has grown exponentially over the past few years. Many growers host weekly restocks where you can try your luck at getting your hands on one of these rare plants. Many sites can’t handle this sort of traffic, so many growers now do “ghost restocks” or unannounced restocking of their inventory.
The popular site for everything handmade is now an awesome place to buy rare plants. Many small-time sellers are allowed to showcase their plants, offering consumers a wide selection and inventory. Etsy is a great place to look for a rare plant but is often plagued with high seller fees and higher prices. Not to mention that just about anyone can sell on Etsy, so buyers beware, scammers are abundant, and bad shipping practices run rampant.
If you’re into an auction-style format, eBay offers a vast selection of rare plants. Some notable nurseries auction some of their more rare stock on eBay, so there are many chances to get something exceptional. Plus, eBay also shows a lot of international options. But like any online site, it can often be a challenge to find reputable sellers, and scammers exist.
Plant collectors and influencers on Instagram often sell plants through their stories and posts. There are even many giveaways that you can enter, giving followers a chance to win some of these rare plants. Instagram has been so popular with the rare plant market that some sellers function exclusively on the platform. With Instagram, finding reputable sellers amongst the thousands is often the most challenging task.
Facebook has many Buy Sell or Trade groups (BST) that collectors can join. These groups also host popular “plant purges,” where collectors or growers host a live event selling tons of plants. The first person to comment “sold” get’s the plant at the designated price. These can be quite fun and stressful to watch. Again, watch out for scammers.
Local Plant Swaps.
Plant swaps have become a popular way to expand your collection and meet fellow plant enthusiasts. Local plant communities create organized events where collectors are encouraged to bring cuttings or fully established plants to trade with other collectors.
Buying from your local nurseries is a great way to support local businesses. Many of them are getting more into the rare plant trend, so it’s always a good idea to check your local stores. Plus, this allows you actually to see what you are buying before you buy it.
Mega Stores like Lowes, Home Depot, IKEA, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s. Big box stores have gotten in on the trend and are now offering a selection of “exotic” houseplants. I’ve seen Facebook posts about people waiting in line for workers to unbox the latest shipment. People are scouring their local big box stores with the hopes of scoring big.
Different forms of plants sold or traded
There are many interesting and strange options available for those who can’t afford these rare plants’ high price tags. Many people buy rare plant cuttings. Some of these cuttings, like top cuttings, root a lot easier than others. Sometimes, sellers even list cuttings that are rooted or have begun rooting. Each of these various options comes with a different price.
The cheapest option often takes the longest to become a fully established beautiful plant. You can even find leafless “wet sticks” or “chonks,” pieces of the plant stem that have been cut and include a node or growth point. (Chonk is just a cuter word for chunk that started catching on in Facebook groups.)
There is a big chance of failure and scams with these types of cuttings. A lot of buyers simply don’t know what to look for in a cutting. Some cuttings are not viable or do not contain a node or growth point, the part needed to grow a new plant. Some listings are simply for plants that don’t exist, like Variegated Monstera Seeds.
A lot of buyers will not be successful in rooting cuttings. There is no guarantee that what you buy will turn into a beautiful and sizeable established plant one day. It is not easy for the average buyer to root a plant from a leaf or stem cutting. It takes a bit of knowledge and a lot of practice.
Whether you plan to buy a cutting, chonk, or fully established rare plant, it’s essential to do your research. Make sure you are buying from a reputable seller. If you opt for a cutting, watch how-to videos to get yourself in the best position to be successful.
Regardless of where you are on your rare houseplant journey, I hope this complete guide provides you with some helpful tips.