It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of our daily lives. I thought it would be interesting to highlight how Covid-19 has specifically impacted the plant economy.
We are spending more time at home. We may have lost our jobs due to the pandemic; we may work remotely now for the first time; we may have to watch our kids full time at home; we are self-isolating and social distancing. This increased time in our homes has caused a reevaluation of our living spaces.
Many people are finally finding the time to update their kitchen or bathroom. Or even take up gardening for the first time. Research has shown that an uptick in Google searches regarding gardening and home renovation happened right around the start of the quarantine. So what does this mean for houseplants?
To put it simply, a lot of people want plants right now. And supply isn’t big enough, especially when it comes to rare or uncommon houseplants. Naturally, many are just getting into the hobby with this new living situation. It’s no secret that plants bring about many emotional and physical benefits to our mind, body, and spirit.
An individual put together a Google Trends dataset to explore the recent uptick in houseplant searches (I’m not sure of the specific individual, so please DM for credit).
As you can see from the graph, there was a HUGE increase in houseplant searches right around February, which only continues to grow. And of course, the most growth is shown in the monstera category, one of the most popular houseplants.
So from this information, you can guess that prices were affected accordingly. Let’s say you wanted to buy a variegated monstera albo borsigiana back in January of 2020. A full-sized mature plant may have set you back about $500-600, and that’s on the expensive side of well established, multiple leaved, specimen plant.
Let’s say you wanted to buy that same plant in September 2020. It could now cost you upwards of $1,500. Yup, for the same size plant.
Here is an auction that ended recently on eBay from Logees Plants. The listing features a variegated monstera albo borsigiana in a 5-inch pot. The final bid went for $1,500. Back in March, similar-sized albos (as well as even larger ones) were purchased in auction for about $700 from NSE Tropicals. That is an enormous price increase in 6 months.
In fact, in May, similar 4-inch potted variegated monsteras were listed for $349 as ready stock. These same plants could now sell for so much more, and it’s only because the supply is low. Especially if buyers don’t know where to look.
Amature buyers could be taken advantage of. Plants in the wild are being poached (not albos, but those that are grown in the wild). Botanical gardens and private nurseries are being victims of theft. And plant influencers are being harassed online and accused of price gouging (see Kaylee Ellen’s latest video “My Piece” for more information).
None of this is to say that plants should not cost a lot of money. I’m not sure if I have much of an opinion on what plants SHOULD cost. I mainly just think the price fluctuating is interesting, and I’m genuinely curious about how the pandemic has created new opportunities as well as destroyed old ones. At the end of the day, you pay what you think the plant is worth. Sometimes there is just a plant that you have to have, and I am certainly guilty of that purchase as well.
But now, more than ever, I would advise buyers to check what they are paying for. Is the seller verified, do they have good reviews, is the plant established, ask to see the roots, ask to see the mother plant, etc. Any reputable buyer would be happy to answer any of these questions! Good luck out there plant friends.