Rare Plants: Guide to Buying Online

So, you want to buy a rare plant online? Well, there are some key things to consider that will help you through this process. Here is our complete guide to buying plants online!

Seller Reputation

Buying an expensive plant online is a risk, so it’s essential to evaluate the seller’s reputation. Check if the seller has good reviews. Talk to someone who has bought a plant from them successfully. Most online sellers will happily provide success stories and answer questions about previous transactions. You want to make sure you read as many reviews as possible, just like if you’re buying something off Amazon or deciding what to eat on Grubhub. 

Shipping and Packaging

Check the shipping and packaging method that the seller uses. Since plants are fragile, it is often worth it to spend the extra cash on priority shipping. Ask the seller to see some successful delivery photos. Or better yet, see if there are any unboxing videos from buyers. Videos of someone opening plant mail are the best ways to learn what to expect from the shipper.

What’s the weather like in your area? What about in the shipper’s area? If you are ordering a plant in one of the colder months, make sure to ask for a heat pack, so your plant suffers minimal damage. If you’re ordering in the middle of the summer, consider heat waves. The last thing you want is your plant to sit in a hot mail truck all day.

Does the seller list any policies on damaged or lost packages? It is worth checking in advance if they offer any refund or replacement for plants that arrive dead. It’s sad, but it happens. Plants don’t like to be shipped, and a few bent stems or brown leaves are totally normal and expected. If you are not okay with this risk, you probably should not be buying a plant online.


Make sure you are seeing the photo of the exact plant that you are buying. Sometimes larger nurseries cannot do this; taking pictures of every single plant they sell would take way too long. So, if you cannot see the individual plant you are buying, make sure you will be okay with whatever they send you. 

For example, if you order a variegated monstera from a large nursery that is doing a restock of, say, 50 plants, you likely won’t be able to pick which plant you want. As a result, you will have to trust that they send you one to your liking. If you can’t take this risk, buy from a seller who can show you the exact plant you are buying.

Often, plants look bigger on your screen than they do in person. Try to look for photos with some relative object for sale or double-check the pot measurements. There is nothing more disappointing than buying a plant and realizing upon delivery that it’s half the size you thought it was.

International Sellers

If you are placing an order with an international seller, you are responsible for any documentation that you may need. Many countries need phytosanitary certificates to send live plant matter outside of their country. 

If you are in the US, it is possible to import 12 plants or less without an import license, but you do need a phytosanitary certificate from the country of origin.

Keep in mind that these purchases will have to go through customs. It is always possible that your plant becomes lost, confiscated, or damaged by customs. It is also possible that this process severely delays your package. Make sure to weigh all of these risks before placing your order.

Where to buy a plant online

Online Shops

Given how much the plant trend has grown, there are so many reputable sellers available online. Some of the most respected are NSE Tropicals, Gabriella Plants, Logees, Steve’s Leaves, and Brian’s Botanicals.

These sites will host weekly restocks during the growing season, 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. 

NSE Tropicals is known for its exotic philodendrons and anthuriums, but catching a restock can be tricky. Gabriella Plants is most known for its pink princess philodendrons, but putting one in your cart before they sell out can be near impossible.


The popular site for everything handmade is now an excellent 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 the seller fees are quite high. As a result, plants will likely be a bit more expensive here.

Anyone can sell on Etsy, which provides you with a large selection of plants. But this also puts you at risk for scams and inexperienced shippers. Make sure to do your research and check the store for reviews and successful sales. You probably do not want to order from a shop with bad reviews, and you should be wary of shops that haven’t made any sales yet. Make sure to check the shop’s policy and shipping options. Etsy offers a lot of buyer protection options, so it is possible to make claims for refunds.


eBay has a vast selection of rare plant auctions. If there is a specific exotic specimen that you are looking for, you can probably find it on eBay. 

Like most online marketplaces, it’s essential to check the seller’s profile and take the time to read recent reviews. The last thing you want to do is fall for a scam and order a fake plant. Luckily, eBay has many buyer and seller protection policies, so it is relatively safe to use.


Plant collectors and influencers on Instagram often sell plants through their stories and posts. 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. There is not much buyer protection on Instagram since the sales are processed through third-party platforms.

Speaking of third-party platforms, if you do order a plant and pay through a service like Paypal, make sure to choose the “goods and services” option. Paying someone through the “friends and family” option implies that you know who you are sending money to and makes it much harder to file a claim against them if you need to. Many sellers prefer the friends and family option because it avoids the service fee. Offering to cover the extra service cost yourself is often worth the added buyer protection. At the end of the day, you are technically sending money to strangers online, so it’s essential to be as responsible as possible. 


Facebook has many Buy Sell or Trade groups (BST) that collectors can join. These groups have individual listings from various sellers, host trades, and are prime locations for “plant purges.” Some of the most popular groups are Tropical + Rare Plant Purge and Time to Splurge and Purge PST. There are also many local plant pages, so make sure to check if your area has one.

A plant purge is 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. Many of the regular sellers on these groups host weekly purges during the growing season. 

Remember to check around for reviews and reputable sellers. Many Facebook groups are specifically about reviews for Facebook plant sellers. Joining one of these review groups is definitely worth it. Ask around on Facebook who the reputable sellers are. It’s worth taking this extra time to decide who to buy from. 

Reddit Swaps

There is a large plant swap community on Reddit. If you are looking to trade plants, cuttings, and seedlings, Reddit is a great place to start.

Different Types of Plants Sold

More often than not, you will be shopping for a fully rooted and established plant. But it is becoming more and more popular to buy and trade cuttings and “chonks.” A chonk is a cute name for a chunk of a stem with a node on it. These types of cuttings often fetch much lower price tags than their fully rooted counterpart.

If you do buy a cutting online, make sure to ask for some success stories. A lot of stem cuttings can dry out or become too wet in the mail. You want to do as much research as possible about the seller to ensure that your cutting will get to you safely. 

Also, when you buy a cutting without a leaf, it’s not easy to tell if it is the plant it’s supposed to be—making it even more critical to buy cuttings from reputable sellers. 


We hope this guide helps you order plants safely and knowledgeably online. The online plant community is a fantastic place as long as you have the right tools to navigate it. 

Do you have any favorite online sellers? Let us know!

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