By Dawson J. Herr
COVID-19 has forced college students to quarantine and pick-up new hobbies. Houseplant collecting prior to 2020 was relatively inexpensive and was never associated with one specific age group or generation of people, but college students seem to be picking up the hobby.
While houseplant collecting has always been a well-known hobby, college students have now decided to take it over by storm. College students have taken advantage of inexpensive plants and new services such as online ordering and local pick-up options becoming more available due to COVID-19. Because of this, houseplant prices are on the rise, and local greenhouses are out-of-stock.
According to a rare plant collector and member of the Berks County Plant Community, Cheyanne High said she has never seen plant prices so high or seen other college students have such a spark of interest in houseplant collecting.
“I used to be able to take $20 to a greenhouse and take home three or four plants. Now, it’s hard to take home one for that much.”
Cheyanne High has been collecting plants for over three years, with over seventy-five plants total, and is part of a Facebook community group called Plant Geeks of Berks County.
“The houseplant community has grown a lot since the pandemic hit the country this past spring. I myself sell plants through Facebook Marketplace, and since the Pandemic hit, I now have students from Kutztown buying from me regularly.”
Once college kids got their hands on the houseplant market, the rest of the year proved to be much more of a challenge for both new and experienced houseplant collectors. Ordering plants online has also become a popular trend when it comes to buying more uncommon or rare houseplant species.
Local greenhouses, such as Riverview Gardens & Gifts located in Temple, Pa., have been affected the most by this houseplant collecting boom around KU. Riverview Gardens & Gifts Manager Aleah Salks said, “We have definitely seen an increase in our house plant sales compared to our other years in business, particularly with college students.”
Riverview Gardens & Gifts, like many other smaller and local greenhouses, sells more thanjust houseplants. However, Since the spring of this year, these smaller greenhouses have had to up their prices for plants in order to compete with the big box stores that can still sell trending houseplants for a much lower cost.
Other Local greenhouses have also been noticing a younger customer pool. Carl Richard, greenhouse employee in charge of stock at Esbenshade’s Garden Center located in Fleetwood, Pa. has also noticed more KU students coming in to buy indoor plants and other supplies on the regular.
“I’m not just seeing college students buy up our plants. They are buying our pots, soil, hangers and other equipment that are typically not bought as often.”
Although this new trend has many cons, there are also some positives that came from the 2020 houseplant collecting boom. Now more than ever, greenhouses are planning to expand their sales and property, such as Riverview Gardens & Gifts. According to Aleah Salks, “We are now in the process of creating new areas in their store to showcase items made from othersmall local businesses.”
2021 shows promise for a complete overhaul as far as plant pricing and availability.
According to Cheyanne High, big greenhouse brands such as Costa Farms are planning on mass producing and selling rare and variegated houseplants in big box stores such as Lowes and Home Depot by the summer of next year.