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Make Houseplant Propagation Your Pandemic Side Hustle: Valuing Your Plants

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CS lives in an house that's being slowly converted into a rainforest by his rapidly-propagating plant collection.

The right Nepenthes pitcher plant makes me forget my houseplant budget.

The right Nepenthes pitcher plant makes me forget my houseplant budget.

What's Fair? It Depends

Finding the right asking price for your carefully propagated plants can feel tricky, and as you'd expect, varies a lot depending on which species it is. Supply/demand is nothing new, but there is always a little Internet Legwork to do before you can figure out what a plant is worth before you expend any effort in propagation.

So what is your plant worth? Sadly, there's no Kelly Blue Book answer, and plants can often "feel" like they're worth more or less than they are. If you're in a good market, a given plant can be worth twice as much as it would be an hour away. Propagation takes up a fair bit of space, so knowing which species are worth the shelf space in your area is key.

To save time/effort on endless fine-tuning, I developed a quick question chain to help figure out which plants I should be propagating this year (if selling them is the goal). It's far from perfect, and the amounts change all the time, but it has been insanely helpful in streamlining the pricing process. May you live in a plant-loving town!

Question Chain for Pricing

Note: I'm making the assumption that you are planning to sell your plants directly to buyers in your area. If you're looking to open an Internet store and ship plants, that is a much more complicated endeavor, more of a hassle than I have experience with, and a conversation for another day.

Is your species being sold commercially in your area, and for how much?

At first, it seems like a bad thing if the answer is "yes," but if pricing is dead simple then someone is already selling it near you. Find a plant of equivalent age/size at the commercial retailer as a starting point, and add or subtract 10–25% from their asking price, depending on the relative condition of your plant vs. theirs. Bam. You're done.

What is it currently available through the Internet?

If the plant isn't being sold in your area, the next piece of the puzzle is figuring out what The World pays for your species. Aim to find two or three sites that are selling your species, take the average, and add 20%. Besides zero shipping costs, you hold at least two major advantages over internet sellers, namely:

  • You can likely get the plant to the buyer quicker than the Internet, if they're local enough.
  • The buyer gets to see the plant before they pay, and doesn't have to bother with sending it back if they don't like it.

This translates to less risk for the buyer and more value for your plants. It's also usually cheaper for the buyer, since many plants are difficult to ship, or may not ship during a particular season. All of this assumes your species/strain is commercially available at all in your area. If not, then:

What do people actually pay for houseplants in your area?

If there's no other local data on what your species is selling for, base your price around the price of your plant's closest visual equivalent at the nearest houseplant vendor. Especially in person, people compare potential purchases visually. So if the most similar plant to yours is selling for $10, yours probably won't sell for $20.

How long did it take to reach its current size?

Time matters and older plants are more valuable as a result. The reflection of time on price isn't linear, however. Add at least 20% in value for each year that you've grown the plant to get to its current size/state. In other words, a $10 cutting grown for a year becomes worth a minimum of $12, and $14.40 after two years. This definitely a very rough starting point, and should be adjusted in consideration of available space, growth rate, and key development milestones that may have been reached, such as blooming or fruiting.

Is there anything else about your individual plant that increases value?

Just like buying original works of art, plants are individuals, and may have an individual characteristic that makes it more or less valuable. Examples are whether or not it's currently flowering, its shape is unique or particularly pleasing, it has particularly interesting patterning, it won a talent show, it knows how to whistle, etc.

Starting Prices, by Group

Here's what I've found to be the maximum reliable sale price (in my area, at least) for the plants below. Cuttings are almost always riskier and worth less than healthy, established plants. So the fastest way to increase value is usually to grow a plant as long as space and the market permit.

Plan on adjusting these numbers for your area, based on the answers to the questions above:

  • Succulents (Cutting): $1–3 (Depends mostly on color, shape, size)
  • Succulents (Mature Plant): $2–10
  • Air Plants (Pups): $3–7
  • Air Plants (Mature Plant): $5–25
  • Orchid (Keiki): $7–15
  • Orchid (Mature Plant): $15–50
  • Carnivorous Plant (Immature plant): $5–25
  • Carnivorous Plant (Mature Plant): $15–40
  • Ornamental Grass (Mature Plant): $3–25 (Price difference based mostly on size, then pattern)
  • Philodendron sp. (Cutting): $1–15
  • Philodendron sp. (Mature Plant): $5–50 (Some large philodendrons sell for $300 or more!)

When in Doubt, Let Your Market Decide

After answering the questions above, you hopefully have at least a rough estimate of what you think a given plant is worth. What another person thinks may or may not be in the same ballpark.

If you're still not sure, I recommend pricing your first individuals of a given species at a slightly lower price than you think they're worth. Everyone's houseplant market is completely unique, and you'll learn a lot more about what the Plant Parents in your area want if you lowball your pricing at first.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.