Don’t Shop For Houseplants


Dog rescues around the country are trying to get out the message that it’s better to get a rescue pet than to buy one from a breeder. I’m in complete agreement with this position, and, in fact, I extend the idea to houseplants.

I very rarely buy houseplants and never, ever, splurge on fancy ones. With all the plants I find abandoned on the streets, my apartment and patio are overflowing with greenery.

Rescue Houseplants

I like rescue houseplants. I sometimes think “rescue” is programmed in my DNA. I foster rescue pit bulls and any abandoned pets I come across. And I rescue every tossed houseplant that has a chance of making a new start. There are a lot. As a rough estimate, I think that some 500 plants have passed through my hands so far this year. These are generally not fancy, kid-glove plants, but hardworking houseplants that can, to a large degree, take care of themselves.

What do I do with all these plants? Some I fall in love with – often the ones that were in the worst shape to start – and add to the foliage family. The others I help to heal, shine up their leaves, and add them to a neighborhood plant give-away every six months or so. “Free houseplants” brings people running to the door. I also give them a card with my name and phone number in case they need guidance on caring for their new plant.

Free Houseplants

While neighbors come out of the corners for free houseplants, it isn’t just a question of saving money. Like me, most of them are touched by the resilience of these survivor plants. I see many of the same people at the plant giveaways, but they have often dragged their houseplants or their friends along with them.

They like to tell me how much they paid for similar plants at the garden store. Even though these sound like tall tales, I know from personal experience that they are true. I tend to buy garden starts at the garden store and take the time to look at houseplant prices.

I don’t have any deep-seated conviction that spending money on houseplants is bad. But when I see a small jade plant for $12 or even $15, I gape in amazement. Jade plants are some of the easiest plants to root from cuttings, so these prices seem hard to justify.

Crops and Fruit Trees

I must admit to buying vegetable starts and fruit trees. Although it is possible to find these as rescues, the odds of finding some just when the season for planting arrives are very slim indeed.

My most expensive purchase ever was a small Improved Meyer Lemon tree that is one of my favorites in my container orchard out back. Its flowers smell so great, and it almost always has a few lemons in different stages of ripening. But even that tree, which I bought on a whim, was under $20.

For those who love fancy or trendy plants, more power to you. Someone has to give those variegated monsteras a home. It just won’t be me.


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