How to Not Get Scammed Buying Plants on Social Media

Tips from an Etsy Seller on How to Avoid Scammers and Find Good Plants

Rare Plants

Getty Images / Nora Carol Photography

There are so many ways to acquire new plants these days. You can go to the local nursery or garden center, head to a trendy plant shop, or shop online from plant stores who ship all across the country. You can even hop onto Facebook and find a group in your area where you can swap cuttings. And even more plant sellers are popping up on sites like Etsy and on Facebook Marketplace. Even Instagram and TikTok users are selling plants!

A lot of the time these sellers are offering rare plants that are harder to find. Because of this, they often come with a hefty price tag. If you’re new to buying plants on social media, this can make you a little bit wary and make you ask the question, “how do I know I’m getting what I’m paying for?” We were curious too so we rounded up some tips on how to not get scammed buying plants on social media.

Meet the Expert

Ben Alberts is the owner of the online plant shop Northland Botanical. He has made over 1,800 sales.

Research, Research, Research!

Before you even find a seller, make sure you do extensive research on the plant you’re looking to purchase. “While many plants carry the same name, the genetics of plants can vary greatly,” says Ben Alberts, owner of Northland Botanical. You may be looking for one plant and end up with something completely different if you don’t research the details and quality of the plant you want. “An example is a Monstera 'Thai Constellation' from tissue culture. While many sellers have a variety of Thai Con, there is a huge range in the quality of the product you will receive.”

Find Out Care Requirements Before Commiting

A lot of the plants that are sold online are often of the rarer variety, which means that their care needs may differ from houseplants you’re used to. “Some specialty plants have care requirements regarding  light, humidity, watering, and feeding. It's important that you clarify these requirements to make sure that plant is a good fit for you,” says Alberts. 

monstera albo

Getty Images /Nora Carol Photography

Decide What Type of Plant You Want to Buy

Social media plant sellers will often offer different types of plants—and no, we don’t mean variety. You’ll have to decide if you want to purchase an established plant or a cutting. “A  monstera albo wet stick (a piece of stem with a node that currently doesn't have a leaf on it) or cutting may be cheaper, but there is a higher risk of losing the plant,” says Alberts.  Sometimes it’s better to spend a little extra for an established plant. 

Check Sales History, Entire Shop, and Feedback

A lot of people focus on 5-star reviews, but it’s really better to focus on quantity of sales and average star ratings. “I would rather order from someone with 1,000 reviews averaging 4.5 stars, than only a few perfect 5-star listings,” says Alberts. This way you know that the shop has a track record of sending out great plants or cuttings. It’s also important to keep in mind that there may end up being some negative reviews focused on how a product arrived after shipping the plant. Unfortunately when it comes to shipping the plant, you can’t control things like temperature or delays. If you see any negative reviews, look to see if they are related to something the seller did or something that happened in transit, and check to see if the seller replied with a solution. 

Find Store Policies That Align With Your Needs

Ensuring that store policies are in place to protect buyers is important. Check for a safe arrival guarantee or a disclaimer in their shop description that they are not responsible for any damages that may have occurred during shipping. “You want a seller that is going to stand behind their product,” says Alberts. Other things you can check on are the cancellation policy, shipping time frame, and where the shop is located. “International shipments can be difficult. Without the proper paperwork and protocol, there is a chance you lose your plants entirely,” says Alberts.

Monstera ALbo

Getty Images / Red Diamond

Manage Your Expectations 

A plant needs light to thrive, so it’s pretty stressful for them to be shipped in a dark box. “Upon arrival the plants need to acclimate to their new environment," notes Alberts. "There is a chance when purchasing online, that your plants will not arrive in perfect condition. It's important to take a perspective that this is part of the journey. Purchasing a plant is for the long haul, and there is much growth to come after your plant arrives."

Finding a seller who helps manage expectations is great as well. “We try to manage expectations by over-delivering and under-promising,” says Alberts. When people first see a plant they’re lusting over online, they often get caught up in what the plant could be, and not where you start with it. Because of this, Alberts is hoping to develop some resources to clarify expectations for newer plant collectors. It takes a long time to get a flourishing plant from a cutting!

Ask Yourself If It's Too Good to Be True

Does it seem too good to be true? Then it probably is. 

Unfortunately as with anything on the internet, there will always be scammers out there. If you’re going to purchase from someone make sure you’re looking at all of the listings. If they have a lot of the same types of listings at different prices, it’s probably not real. If there’s no feedback, walk away. If you find someone listing monstera albo seeds for $9.99, run away. “It's almost impossible to find these seeds, but by the time you receive them, grow them and realize you have been duped, it is too late to get your money back or leave negative feedback,” says Alberts.