When it comes to finding plants in 2017, local nurseries and the internet is most people’s go to solution. Casual gardeners don’t even bother with specialized nurseries and instead simply opt for Home Depot or Lowe’s offerings. In fact, in the US, one can buy plants from almost anywhere. The selection of plants, however, can vary wildly from place to place and so can price and quality. As for finding specific plants, especially rare or more exotic types, the internet is often the only choice we are left with. Once again, price and quality can be questionable, even more so when attempting to buy starter plants or fresh seeds. Here are some examples from my experience.
As already evident from my earlier posts, I’m a huge Cordyline fan. About six months ago, one cultivar in particular, the Cordyline Fruticosa “Kiwi” had me searching the internet for hours.
I finally found a reputable sounding seller from Hawaii on eBay that sold wood cuttings of these plants for $25 apiece. I decided to buy one even though with shipping costs, the total price was closer to $35. So basically a small 6″ tall plant that looked nothing like the above picture arrived in the mail a week or two later. It came with instructions and all kinds of warnings about keeping the plant out of direct sunlight and the importance of constant moisture. I followed every care instruction I could find, but it slowly withered and died anyway. Perhaps it’s no accident that they don’t sell these in local nurseries. Or maybe I bought a substandard specimen. I don’t really know, but the only way to find out is to buy another one from another faceless seller online.
Some time ago, I also decided to grow a Kentia Palm (Howea Forsteriana) from seed. Why, you might ask? Because the only other solution was to buy a large specimen from a local specialist for $200. I knew these were notoriously difficult to grow from seed, but I wanted to try anyway. So I ended up buying 6 dry looking seeds, once again from a seemingly reliable account on eBay for a grand total of $6. The seeds are still sown 6 months later and none of them have sprouted yet. This of course does not mean that they never will, as Kentia palm seeds can take years to germinate. My point here, once again, is that I had no idea how fresh these seeds were (they didn’t look fresh) and though I paid very little for them, as of yet not had successful results.
Just recently, I bought another batch of seeds of a different species of palm and it took the online retailer a whole month to ship them from Florida for $30 plus $25 shipping. I’m expecting to receive them this coming Friday.
The biggest takeaway from these is that if you are a plant enthusiast or collector and are looking to experiment with or buy exotic and/or rare plants, it will be extremely difficult to find a good price/quality deal online. You can of course always travel to locations where these plants are naturally grown and probably find them, but most of us do not have the means to travel the world freely in search of exotic plant species. A better solution is needed. Using location-based services, we need to connect plant enthusiasts like never before. I want to be able to search for people around me for plants that I want to buy and possibly physically examine them before doling out a load of cash in the blind and paying astronomical shipping costs. I think we need to find a way to make that happen.