By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Since March 15, a nationwide lockdown has been implemented as a response to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. This decree confined the public inside their homes to keep them safe from the virus.
Having been cooped up indoors for some time, many people have become restless and have decided to look for new hobbies that are entertaining and productive. One activity that is both is gardening.
This gave many plant sellers an opportunity to be able to earn an income during the pandemic because the demand for plants significantly rose. However, this also made the market susceptible to overpricing wherein common plants that usually cost around a P100 or so are being sold for exorbitant amounts.
What determines plant prices?
According to Ron Apostol, a freelancer and full-time gardener specializing in cacti and succulents, plant prices vary a lot because of different factors.
“Demand, availability, the plant variety or species, the age and status or quality of the plant, even fashion, horticultural, and agricultural trends all affect how much a plant is priced at a particular time. It’s also interesting to note that plant prices do fluctuate and change over time–what might be cheap this year may become expensive in a few years and vice versa,” Apostol said.
Other than cacti and succulents, Apostol also deals with an eclectic variety of plants such as leafy ornamentals, herbs and other edibles, weird plants, moss, trees, and other odds and ends.
He is also known as the Midnight Hardinero among many social media platforms where he shares his gardening adventures and tips to aspiring gardeners. He dubbed himself as such because he tends to his plants during the wee hours of the night.
Christian Baldevino, a plant collector and architecture student, also believes that the price of plants doesn’t rely solely on the preference of the sellers but rather depends also on the demand for certain plants.
“For example, monsteras are one of the trends nowadays. Before pandemic, I was able to purchase a big monstera thai constellation for only P2,000 but it has now increased to prices ranging from P35,000 to P100,000,” he said.
Baldevino owns Miracle Flora Studios and has been gardening since he was in grade school. He specializes in various cultivars of bromeliads, philodendrons, and other rare ornamental plants.
Since both plant collectors sell some pieces from their collection as well, they both agree that the price of plants really fluctuate from time to time depending on the demand, trend, and other aspects.
“Prices of indoor plants nowadays can range from P150 and above. Some of the budget-friendly houseplants are sansevierias (snake plants) and peace lily and cost lower than P500,” Baldevino said.
However, both Apostol and Baldevino emphasized that they are not in favor of seeing sellers market common ornamental and indoor plants like snake plants, succulents, and more at twice the price when it originally costs only around hundreds.
Although compensating for the low supply and high demand, they believe that overpricing and taking advantage of newbie gardeners who have yet to learn from the trade is highly questionable.
“While most plant sellers are generally honest and forthcoming about their offers, we cannot escape the fact that there are those who make fraudulent offers concerning the variety or identity of the plants they sell, whereas others may ride on particular trends. Further still, there are those who take advantage of people who barely know anything about plants, and offer plants at exorbitant prices,” Apostol said.
Be safe and be informed
Determining whether or not the price of plants is somewhat difficult especially for beginners. To ease the process, Apostol and Baldevino offer some tips to keep aspiring plant parents and buyers safe from overpricing.
“The best way is to find or employ the help of someone more knowledgeable than they are with regards to the plants they intend to purchase. Hobbyists or growers with enough years under their belt, or honest sellers and suppliers are good references when it comes to figuring out if a plant is reasonably priced or not. Forums or info-sharing groups such as Facebook groups are also good references and information sources about such matters,” Apostol said.
In the meantime, Baldevino advises to steer clear from collector’s items since these are expensive nowadays due to the large demand in plants and the ongoing gardening craze.
“Wait for the market to lie low on the trend so that the plants won’t be priced at high rates. Look for a common plant that’s not in demand but still has good quality that fits the price,” he said.
Aside from asking others for more information, both plant collectors encourage people to research more on the plant they want to purchase to make sure that they’re ready and able to care for that particular variety.
“First and foremost, ask about the plant’s ID or name. Common names are okay but scientific names are better because common names may be confusing or downright misleading. Ask about the plant’s growth rate, care and cultivation requirements, temperament and growth characteristics, and other information pertinent to how you will be able to effectively culture or grow a plant in your care,” Apostol said.
Baldevino adds on to this and says that in starting a plant collection, gardeners should be more than patient when gardening because it has its own personal rewards.
“Learn from experience. Being a green thumb does not need to run in your blood; it just simply means that you never surrender on your plants no matter how many failed attempts you’ve had,” he said.
He added that plants gave the public a way to reduce stress and anxiety during the pandemic and its price should never dictate how it should be treated. The plant collector emphasized that all plants should be handled with tender, loving care.
Check out Ron Apostol’s tips and wares at The Midnight Hardinero Facebook.
Also check out Christian Baldevino’s garden at Miracle Flora Studios on Facebook.
This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s November to December 2020 issue.