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Make Houseplant Propagation Your Pandemic Side Hustle: Where to Sell or Swap 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.

This article will help you figure out where and how to sell or swap your propagated houseplants, even during a pandemic.

This article will help you figure out where and how to sell or swap your propagated houseplants, even during a pandemic.

If you've figured out if you want to swap or sell your propagated houseplants, you've focused on a good selection of species that meet your price x hassle needs, and you've done your homework to get an idea about how valuable your plants are, then you might be thinking: Where do I go from here?

In COVID's world, options are a bit slimmer than they were pre-2020, but there are still plenty of ways to connect your plants with their new parents, without putting yourself or others at risk.

Where to Swap

As of the time of writing, the groundswell of Plant Swaps that were starting to take place in every city have been put on pause by COVID-19. Since early 2020, I've heard of very few swaps, and even fewer that I though were a good idea.

Still, the demand for such events is as high as it ever was, probably higher. Plant Parents have been spending a lot more time at home growing their COVID Rainforests, so the supply of available species and quantities is likely to be just as high.

Starting Point: PlantSwap and HouseplantSwap

In terms of formal swaps, things have been pretty quiet here during 2020. Assuming they make it through the pandemic though, PlantSwap and HouseplantSwap are Ground Zero for finding (and posting) plant swap notifications.

The real benefit during COVID times is another function to be found here, which is to connect you to other swappers in your area (like couchsurfing for plants). This is definitely the safer option currently, and you'll get more of a chance to chat beforehand than you would in a traditional swap. If you're looking to swap, start here.

Plug Into the Scene Using #Plantswap on Instagram & Twitter

Snap a quick shot of your prized propagates and post them with #plantswap, and you'll have a connection to a swapper network immediately. You can also search the hashtag to find local swap groups as well. This also gives any plant friends you might have the chance to bounce your posts to mutual acquaintances. So don't overlook standard networking and personal connections to find someone willing to swap with you.

The Old Reliable: Facebook Search

If you're not getting anywhere with the methods above, consider using the old standby known as Facebook, which is where the vast majority of my research still occurs. Local plant swap groups exist around the world, covering areas as large as a country and as small as a neighborhood. One disadvantage with Facebook is that Plantfluencers and their disciples tend more towards Instagram. So if this is your only point of contact, you could be missing out on a lot of potential swappers. Spread your research among these three hubs to begin, and you'll be able to gradually narrow in on the most efficient way to swap for you.

Organize Your Own and the Plants Will Come to You!

If you're interested in the general concept but a bit nervous about being indoors with a group of people (for which I don't blame you), organizing your own is a great way to have more control over the specifics. Most plant swaps happen thanks to a dedicated Plant Parent who wants to raise a little money for their favorite charity, and if they can bulk up their plant selection while they're at it, then hey, why not.

If you're interested in doing your own, this tutorial from Summer Rayne Oakes on how to make it happen is pretty much the gold standard.

Before you do, however, take a good, hard look at the pandemic situation and determine if it's worth it. We've gotten used to waiting, so a little longer just to be on the safe side is almost certainly the wiser option.

Taking advantage of online ads, local Buy/Sale pages on Facebook, and social media specialist groups are all great ways to sell your propagated houseplants.

Taking advantage of online ads, local Buy/Sale pages on Facebook, and social media specialist groups are all great ways to sell your propagated houseplants.

Where to Sell

If you're more interested in selling than swapping, then here are a few suggestions for where you might best do so.

Online Classifieds

Potent as ever, online classified ads like Craigslist and Gumtree can produce results quickly, depending on what you're selling. Given that the audience using these sites are pretty broad, the proportion of Greenies is relatively low, but if you're selling something big and showy (e.g. mature Monstera), you can often ask a higher sale price through general outlets like these.

Also consider that buyers generally enter sites like this with a fairly specific idea of what they're buying, so the opportunities to catch someone just browsing through is minimal. For that, I recommend . . .

Local Buy/Sale Pages via Facebook

This is where I find homes for most of my plantlings I'm selling. General Buy/Sell pages on Facebook are ubiquitous. So keep your focus to a small local area and have a neighborhood-like feel to them to help make it easier to connect. The ads are generally less tightly organized than classified ad sites, given the "feed" style posting of items for sale.

Less efficient? Sure, but the HUGE benefit here is that someone looking for a bike may browse past your posting about your plants for sale and decide the time is right for them to become a Plant Parent. These pages often favor smaller items as well, so if you have lots of a particular item for a lower price point (like succulent cuttings), local Buy/Sell pages can help you connect the dots.

The downsides are that the general public is still the dominant base, and they come to those sites looking for a bargain. This translates into less specialist appreciation of rare specimens that aren't a visual spectacle and often a lower price point per plant. To maximize your odds, put some effort into the photography to create a compelling post and keep the caption friendly and jargon-free.

Specialist Groups on Social Media

Discerning, experienced home gardeners are a real double-edged sword for people selling their cuttings. On one hand, they won't be impressed with your spider plant/succulents; on the other, they will have the specialist knowledge to appreciate a truly unusual specimen. This is the place to look for someone to buy smaller, more subtle plants that may not have the same shock value of a large, mature specimen, and to get a fair price for oddballs and rarities.

Getting in often requires some sort of knowledge baseline, in the form of a question or two, but most are welcoming to all levels. The geographic scale varies, but there are often specialist plant groups for surprisingly small areas.

Safety Considerations (for People and Plants)

The final key issue with swapping or selling is how to exchange plants and funds without putting either person (or the plants) at risk. While the plants aren't susceptible to COVID obviously, few houseplants will enjoy being left outside for long.

Thanks to gig culture, transferring funds is the easiest problem to solve. Venmo is rapidly replacing PayPal for ease of transfer; I recommend having both as possibilities. Apple Pay and Google Pay are both options too. Traditional methods such as cash and check are not the best option if they can be avoided, given the amount of personal contact involved.

Strategies for Setting Up and Exchanging Plants

The tricky part is trading plants. Houseplants are so accustomed to a narrow range of temperature/humidity inside your house that they can easily shock if exposed to temperatures below 50°F/10°C for very long. Most houseplants are tropical, after all; a northern winter is no place for Monstera.

Strategy is therefore a key part of making any plant trade, starting with the weather. Generally aim for the mildest day you can, ideally above 50°F/10°C and calm. The colder or windier it gets, the less time you should subject your plants to exposure. Avoid it altogether if the temperature is below 20°F/-6°C, especially with thin-leaved specimens that can suffer heavy frostbite almost immediately.

In good weather, exchanging plants can be as simple as meeting at a park and placing your plants on opposite ends of a picnic table for each other to examine. As long as it's not excessively windy, this is the best method for swapping or exchanging more than a few plants. Heat is far less of a problem, but intense direct outdoor sunlight should generally be avoided (pick a table that's in the shade).

Colder weather demands a bit more creativity. Start by taking a page from the Takeout Playbook; if it's above freezing, coordinating a contactless drop on a doorstep is often the easiest. (Thanks for the idea, pizza guy!) Another method is basically the opposite of curbside pickup at a grocery store, in which you leave your plants in the back/trunk of your car for the buyer to pick up (works best if your trunk has some heating to keep the plants happy, as in an SUV).

Below-freezing weather makes for risky swapping, but if you must, take several precautions to protect your plant for the buyer. First, make sure none of the plant is directly exposed to the cold, dry air by wrapping it loosely in newspaper (for large plants, you may have to wrap leaves individually). Additional crumpled newspaper around the plant's crown is a good idea too. Extreme cold temperatures require more extensive wrapping, less exposure time, and probably a hand warmer nestled inside the wrapping to ward off frostbite.

In the end, it's almost certainly worth waiting for a decent day to make the swap or drop. Propagate while the snow flies, and swap/sell when the sun shines.

It may be much more difficult, but there are still plenty of ways to sell or swap your propagated houseplants in a pandemic.

It may be much more difficult, but there are still plenty of ways to sell or swap your propagated houseplants in a pandemic.

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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.