Buying plants in 2021

Since the arrival of Covid-19, millions of people around the world quickly discovered the joy of purchasing a plant. Some started with a Peace Lily, only to find that 3-6 months later they were struggling to find window space and had to instead dedicate whole rooms to their budding collection.

Globally, growers and resellers today find themselves inundated with demand from consumers for more challenging or uncommon plants that have been hyped up on social media.

The world has been seeing a steady increase in the price of plants with no decrease in clear sight. Growers must keep up with demand, resellers must dig for extra capital to afford various new expenses, and collectors are frustrated with how expensive and inaccessible plants have become. Some new collectors are spending upwards of R1,000.00 for a plant that cost a mere R150.00 at the beginning of 2019.

The cause of this rise in demand and price seems to stem mostly from new collectors who have not realized yet that sourcing uncommon plants takes a lot of time and effort and spending such exorbitant amounts of money on a single plant is not normal (with a few exceptions) and is harming the community. The more urgent these buyers become, the more growers and resellers are willing or able to charge. This causes conflict within the plant community, and a lot of resentment has built up between both resellers and buyers, aimed at whatever driving force seems most relevant at the time.

I was surprised to see that buyers and resellers have remarkably similar observations.

A lot of buyers and resellers feel that only a select few people have access to the more uncommon plants, using phrases like ‘plant clique’ and ‘plant elite’ quite a lot. They feel this contributes to plants being inaccessible to outsiders and not so much a pricing issue.

Sellers who own webshops and sell plants on Instagram/Facebook have told me that growers are holding a large portion of their stock for larger businesses only, as well as holding stock for themselves to auction off on Facebook because they are aware of how they can use this for quick financial gain.

A lot of buyers are angry that growers are choosing auctions to sell their plants as opposed to selling to the public fairly, some even going as far as boycotting a particular grower entirely because they feel it goes against their idea of good practise.

People within the plant community have noticed that regular people are buying plants online, only to auction them off a week later for triple the price. We thought this was only happening in the U.S, but it’s happening in S.A too.

There are extremes from conspiracy theories floating around about growers and resellers having formed a plant Illuminati, whilst others are sitting back with a cuppa tea and waiting patiently for the booming plant market to fizzle out so they can get back to their plant collecting business.

I say we do our best to set aside the politics of growing, reselling, and buying and focus more on the new friends we have made, the insurmountable knowledge we have gained and the rewards we have seen in our own collections, be them large or small.

Because we are dealing with living plants, we have romanticised the trade. The sooner we face the facts that this was and always will be a money-making business, the sooner we will be able to make wiser decisions. Many buyers who responded were more than happy to swap and share cuttings with fellow collectors instead, feeling rather despondent that politely asking someone for a cutting seems to be quite taboo at this point. Perhaps we should change that.

Standing opposite a new plant friend and exchanging cuttings of plants that have brought us so much joy and sharing in the excitement of a common passion is far better that any unboxing of an expensive plant I have ever done.

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