For the love of houseplants: the rise and fall of houseplant trends and prices
In its two decades of working with plants, Maree Wiki has never seen anything like the New Zealand houseplant market.
Wiki, who owns the Flora and Co plant store in New Plymouth, says that the rise in popularity of indoor houseplants in recent years can be linked to several things; social media, the Covid-19 pandemic, and lifestyle changes.
The younger generation is renting in cities and in apartments that don’t allow pets, “so houseplants have become something they can take care of,” Wiki explains. While the Covid-19 pandemic has also resulted in an increase in renovations and redecorations.
In nearly 25 years of horticultural work, Wiki says she’s never seen anything like the current craze for houseplants that has “taken every grower by storm.”
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Trends and saturation of indoor plants
Just like fashion, plants also have trends that tend to go out of fashion. Decades ago, monsteras grew in huge bright green clusters in outdoor gardens, now they are often seen in shiny pots in many homes.
In the 90s, flowers were all the rage. Now it’s philodendrons and pothos hanging from bookcases, and fiddle-leaf figs adorning living rooms.
Wiki recalls that the Marble Queen was a popular and sought-after houseplant that was hard to find a few years ago.
More recently the chain of hearts was the factory chain and then the turtle chain was sought after by many, with small cuttings of a few leaves selling for high prices on Facebook pages. The price of these plants has come down over time, with a well-established turtle chain since spotted in garden stores for around $ 40.
Once the trendy plants are propagated and sold more frequently to catch up with demand, the market saturates and prices drop dramatically. Prices often depend on supply and demand, Wiki says.
With the rise of social media, the multiplication and trade of plants online has also increased, with many people realizing that this is another way to make money, especially with variegated plants. Variegation in plants refers to the coloring of the leaves, which occurs by mutation and often causes a lack of chlorophyll green pigment.
Increased sales and prices of plants
The five most expensive houseplants sold on Trade Me have all been a variegated variety of plants.
In June, a rare variegated minima sold for $ 27,100, breaking the record for the most expensive houseplant sold on the site. After a fierce battle in the closing minutes of the auction, the listing ended with a total of 248 bids, 102,000 views and 1,600 watchlists, said Ruby Topzand of Trade Me.
The previous month, a philodendron Ghost of florida sold for $ 12,250. The third most expensive plant sold on Trade Me was a monstera albo borsigiana that went for $ 9,000. Another one variegated minima sold for $ 8,150, and a yellow variegated monstera sold for $ 8,100.
Interest in houseplants has flourished on the platform over the past two years, with a growing community of indoor gardeners looking for unique and rare plants to add to their collections, Topzand explains. Hoya and monstera are the most popular plants on the site.
In November 2021, the average selling price in the indoor plant category was $ 73, a 180% increase from November 2016, when the average price was $ 26.
On Trade Me, sales in the indoor plant category in November 2021 were up 6% year-on-year. Compared to November 2016, there was an increase of 170%, Topzand says.
Bunnings and Miter 10 have also seen a growing interest in houseplants in recent years. Bunnings greenlife buyer Clare Taylor said he expects this popularity to continue as exciting new plants enter the market.
Jamie Gardner, Indoor Green Gardens and Decorating Category Manager at Miter 10, says supplier partners have done a great job maintaining a constant supply of plants and seedlings, even despite the disruption caused by Covid-19.
Biosecurity restrictions limit what enters the country, and it can take 1 to 3 years to produce beautiful, healthy houseplants anyway, so sometimes these trendy plants are often quickly recovered, Gardner says.
Biosecurity and importation of plants
New Zealand has strong biosecurity rules designed to protect our environment, and these requirements mean some plants cannot be imported, said Peter Thomson, director of animal and plant health at the Ministry of Primary Industries.
In addition to the biosafety rules, the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act restricts the importation of plants that are considered “new organisms” unless and until the Environmental Protection Authority ( EPA) approves their importation.
Plants that were not present in New Zealand just before July 29, 1998 are “new organisms”. Thus, importers of new plant species must obtain EPA approval. and respect the biosecurity rules.
MPI has a plant biosecurity index which can be used to verify which plant species have been approved for import.
“New Zealand is known for having one of the best biosecurity systems in the world, and we take it seriously for the good of our environment and our growers,” said Thomson.
“While our rules may seem restrictive, they help ensure that healthy plants enter New Zealand and our country is protected from potentially harmful pests and diseases.”
Tens of thousands of approved plants are imported each year and these plants are available across the country, he says. Most plants are imported by nurseries, as the import requirements in place to protect New Zealand can be time consuming and expensive to comply with.
Plants can be brought into the country as seeds, or as established plants, or via tissue culture – which is essentially a tiny, tiny cutting in a sterile pot with agar – and there rules and assessments for that.
FASTER BRADEN / STUFF
Alyce Read is the 2021 winner of the Houseplant Hero competition from NZ Gardener magazine.
Why some plants choose such high prices
The minima coolers which sold online for $ 27,100 is a good example of how our biosecurity rules can affect houseplants and prices. The taxonomic name of this plant is rhaphidophora tetrasperma, and this particular plant was very rare due to its white variegation.
Rhaphidophora tetrasperma cannot be imported, explains Thomson. However, these plants are already in the country and they can be marketed here because the EPA has given the plant approval for unchecked release.
Because this plant is not allowed to be imported, its supply currently depends on its propagation from plants already present, says Kathryn Hurr of New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated (NZPPI).
Lack of supply and the rare spontaneous mutation of a plant can lead to these “phenomenally insane prices,” she says.
As an example, Hurr says if a variegated raphidophora could be produced commercially and brought to the market in large quantities, its price would drop dramatically.
Hurr says we already have access to such a wide variety of plants in New Zealand, it’s just a matter of propagating them commercially in numbers that can meet the “insatiable demand right now”.
MPI’s Plant Import Team has seen an increase in the number of people requesting information about importing plants. At the border, plant products and nursery stock account for 32% of all seizures at the International Mail Center, MPI said in a statement.
As of November 30, there had been 3,435 seizures of plant products / nursery stock (out of 10,638 seizures in 2021).
In terms of investigating possible illegal activities, the team noted a recent increase from mid-2020 in the number of plant-related referrals, according to the statement.
Abigail Dougherty / Stuff
King George Diones is a surgical nurse who multiplies and sells houseplants. He is currently donating all the profits to colleagues in the Philippines to purchase PPE. (Video first published in August 2020)
The 1993 Biosafety Law is currently under review and a public consultation will be organized on it in early 2022.
The discussion paper for consultation will discuss options for developing a modern biosafety law that is agile and robust to deal with evolving biosecurity risks today and in the future.
The kōrero includes options for modifying the import sanitary standards system and classifying risk organisms, and we look forward to receiving submissions, Thomson said.