When it comes to collecting rare houseplants, it’s common to feel nervous and daunted by the prospect of owning something expensive you can accidentally kill. They’re more expensive than common houseplants which means the stakes are higher when it comes to keeping them alive. But there’s really nothing to be scared of. If you’re willing to do a little research before you buy, you should be able to keep them alive (you may even find that some of these rarer houseplants aren’t actually that hard to keep alive).
We spoke to a rare houseplant pro Enid Offolter to bring you some tips to keep your own alive. She recently published a book, Welcome to the Jungle, on this very topic.
Enid Offolter is the owner and founder of NSE Tropicals plant nursery and the author of Welcome to the Jungle: Rare Tropical Houseplants to Collect, Grow, and Love.
“I’ve always liked unusual plants and got hooked on aroids like philodendrons and anthuriums. Coincidentally they grow very well indoors,” says Offolter.
It can often be overwhelming when expanding your collection, especially when getting into rare plants, but listen to her and you just might find that there’s no reason to be intimidated by rare houseplants.
Welcome to the Jungle: Rare Tropical Houseplants to Collect, Grow, and Love
Shop Online & In-Person
There are a lot of unusual plants available thanks to the internet and the proliferation of online marketplaces. “It’s easy to collect plants since social media became so popular,” says Offolter. “When I started out it seemed you needed to know collectors in person and attend plant shows.” There are tons of sellers on Etsy as well as on different Facebook groups. These groups are also great for connecting with fellow plant parents. They’re really helpful if you have any questions about your new plants and can be an amazing resource when you’re just not sure what to do.
Another way to find these plants is from recommendations from friends. “Often if you have friends that are into plants you can ask them for any reputable sellers or good experiences they have had when purchasing plants,” suggests Offotlter. There are a few shady sellers out there so be sure to read reviews before purchasing. On social media you’re sure to find people posting about untrustworthy sellers who send a cutting that has no node or a dead leaf. If that risk puts you off, you can always head to a plant shop that specializes in rare plants. A quick internet search will help you find one. As always make sustainable plant purchasing choices!
The Fear of Killing an Expensive Plant
When it comes to being a rare houseplant beginner, all of your previous plant knowledge feels like it has to go out the window. But the truth is that most of the care is the same as it is for common houseplants.
A lot of people are afraid to dabble in rare houseplants for fear of killing expensive plants. “This is one of the reasons I wanted to write Welcome to the Jungle. I wanted to show people that a lot of these rare plants are really quite easy to grow and not to be scared to give them a try,” says Offolter.
The key things to consider are the same: Do some research before buying, and make sure you have enough light for the plant you’re looking at. “I think most plants are killed from too much care rather than not enough,” notes Offolter. “One of the biggest issues can be improperly watering your plants. If it is still wet from the last watering, it doesn’t need more water. I generally will stick my finger all the way down into the soil because sometimes it’s dry on the top inch but soaking wet on the bottom.”
Expanding Your Collection
Once you have a few rare houseplants that are thriving, you’ll probably want to get some more. However it can often hurt your finances. “Once you get into rare plants, it can get expensive. Trading with your friends can be a great way to expand your collection without taking a huge hit to your wallet,” says Offolter. Take cuttings or sections of your plant and find out if there is a plant swap group on Facebook in your area. You can also see if there are any in-person plant swaps happening (and if there aren't, you can plan one!).
Images are reprinted with permission from Welcome to the Jungle: Rare Tropical Houseplants to Collect, Grow, and Love by Enid Offolter copyright © 2022. Photographs by Sonya Revell copyright © 2022. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.