Tour the secret world of Seattle’s plant hunters

Would you pay $18,888 for a plant?

The houseplant wave went tidal with the pandemic, and Seattle plant moms and dads are riding that wave. They hunt, they swap, they flip rare plants for cash, which helps them buy — more plants.

A celebrity hit Seattle stores recently, rippling through social media. It was Philodendron erubuscens ‘Pink Princess’ — whose hashtag has over 133,000 posts on Instagram. If one were to dream up a perfect plant to trend in 2019, this would have been that plant. Philodendrons were already hot.  Variegated versions — meaning splotched, speckled, or striped — even hotter. ‘Pink Princess’ sports shield-shaped leaves mottled in white, black, burgundy and hot pink — basically a philodendron redone in pink camo.  Who wouldn’t want luscious leaves to match your hoodie?

Neil Silverman, co-owner of Fremont’s Peace Love and Happiness Club, says ‘Pink Princess’ has been the entry point for many getting into tropical plant collecting thanks in large part to social media — a major driver in the plant trade economy.

Averaging $50 to $89 for a young plant in a 4-inch pot, these Philodendron ‘Pink Princesses’ are a bargain — three years ago, a single PPP leaf could sell for $500 or more on Etsy or eBay. Some stores posted limits on sales per customer to prevent flipping for hundreds of dollars per plant — not to mention future sales if you propagate new plants from one first.

On Sept. 5, Peace Love and Happiness Club, while keeping its original location stocked with bread-and-butter houseplants such as ZZ plants and peace lilies, opened a new 5,000 square-foot collector-focused store in Fremont to house rarities like Philodendron billietiae variegata, priced at $18,888. About 3,500 square feet is greenhouse space for propagation, intensive care and quarantining imported stock.

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