Collecting rare plants is not only an investment, but a serious responsibility.

Collecting rare plants has become “a thing” in recent years, though it certainly became more popular during the Covid lockdown when people were focused on their homes.  The demand has driven prices through the roof, with collectors plunking down several thousand dollars for the specific plants they want. In the UK, this man is selling leaves from his Rhaphidophora-Tetrasperma Variegata  for £12,000 each. Why is it worth so much? Because it is a genetic mutation of an ordinary plant, and he has the only (known) one in the world.

Here are some things you should consider before starting your rare plant collection.

  1. Do your research.  It’s time to dust off the high school Latin textbook. Even the most experienced green thumbs will need to up their game when it comes to rare plants. Generally speaking, the most valuable plants are variegated – or a mutated form, such as the one mentioned above. These mutations manifest in a number of ways, such as the colors, size and shape of the leaves. Another key factor of course is the number of sellers who are growing a particular plant – as with anything, the fewer there are, the higher the cost.  Most of these plants are sold on online auctions, so it’s even more important that you know what you’re looking for.   
  2. Have the room ready. Like all plants your new housemates will require particular conditions in order to thrive.  Depending on where you live and where your plants are from, you may have to replicate their natural environments – including the right amount of sun exposure, humidity and so on.  If you don’t have the ideal space inside, it’s a good idea to build your greenhouse before making any purchases.  
  3. No pets allowed. Unfortunately, your plants are not only lovely to the eye, they may also appear to be a tasty treat to your dog or cat. It is imperative that you keep your animals away from them, first, because many plants are toxic to animals and can cause illness and even death; and second, because a few good nibbles could injure the plant and possibly affect its value.  
  4. Make sure your staff knows how to care for them. It may have been relatively easy to care for your collection while on lockdown. Now, as the US opens up and normal life resumes, chances are you will be traveling, perhaps for extended periods of time.  If your regular staff or property management company is not educated in rare plant care, it’s time to bring a horticulturist or other expert on board. The same is true of your outdoor collection – your gardener may be very skilled when it comes to the local flora and fauna, but a rare tree or shrub from the other side of the world may require a specific body of knowledge.
  5. Utilize technology. Digital tools, particularly all-in-one solutions, are incredibly useful with regard to collectibles for a number of reasons. They allow you to catalogue your items, with their photos, history and value, and assign tasks to yourself and others within the app. The real beauty of these tools, however, is that they create a communications hub between you and colleagues, employees, and so on. Let’s say you’re away from home and have assigned tasks around the plants’ care to your staff or member of your family. That person can and should send regular, visual updates so you know the plants are thriving. If a plant is showing signs of distress, you can loop your horticulturist or other expert into the conversation without having to bounce back and forth between different email or text threads.

Collecting rare plants is not only an investment, but a serious responsibility. You are in effect choosing to become a protector of living things whose existence is endangered. They require a great deal of care and expense, but if done right it can be an incredibly rewarding experience that empowers you to not only beautify your own environment but preserve beauty for the world.  

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