Think You Love Houseplants? This One Just Sold for Almost $20,000

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Between a renewed focus on our homes and a desire to stay connected with the outside world, the past year and a half has made the house-plants market boom. And though you’d think the gradual easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions would encourage many to spend their money differently, a recent record-setting auction in New Zealand shows that the insatiable thirst for high-end houseplants hasn’t dried up just yet.

Recently, New Zealand auction site Trade Me saw a rare philodendron minima houseplant sell for an eye-popping 27,100 New Zealand dollars (roughly $19,359 at closing). That was more than three times the initial reserve bid of 9,000 New Zealand dollars for the rare specimen, not to mention many hundred times more than the price for more ordinary versions of the plant sold by certain stockists.

So what is it about this philodendron that makes a buyer willing to fork over the cost of a new car? The answer lies in its unusual variegation: The auctioned specimen (normally native to Thailand and Malaysia) exhibits a unique mutation that turns its leaves predominantly white, with splotches of green. Featuring eight leaves—and a ninth on the cusp of unfurling—the listing noted that the stem and each leaf exhibited “excellent variegation,” and noted that the plant was “well rooted in a 14 centimeter pot.”

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This five-figure bid shattered the record for the most expensive houseplant auction ever sold on Trade Me. In addition to generating 248 bids, a spokesperson for the auction site told CNN that the plant’s listing saw more than 102,000 page views and inspired at least 1,600 users to place the auction on their watchlist.

Broader data further indicates that the online market for houseplants has heated up in recent years. Trade Me says the average sale price of an indoor plant was 34 New Zealand dollars (around $24.26) in May 2019, but that it had jumped to 82 New Zealand dollars (around $58.50) in the two years since. That seems to track with the American houseplant market, with 2020 inspiring a frenzy of buying activity where four-figure sales were hardly uncommon.

So if you were hoping that the return of travel and live events would encourage serious plant bidders to shift spending elsewhere, it’s clear that the market is still holding strong. Here’s hoping that whoever was serious enough about spending that much money on houseplants is just as enthusiastic about keeping it alive



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