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Last updated: February 8, 2018...
As houseplants continue to soar in popularity, there are more and more places to buy them, and yet certain specimens still seem ridiculously hard to get hold of. I am frequently asked - where do you buy your plants? So here’s my potted guide to the best places to purchase houseplants in the US.*
I'd like to keep adding to this guide as I find - or you tell me about - great new suppliers, so please get in touch if you want to tell me where you source your plants in the US...
Swaps, freebies and person to person purchases
I’d never advise “half-inching” cuttings without the owner’s permission, but you’d be surprised how often plant lovers are happy enough to share their bounty with you, even if they don’t know you from Adam. If you see a plant you like, don’t be afraid to politely ask for a cutting: the worst thing that can happen is they say no.
A bit of knowledge about plant propagation is useful: for instance, certain plants won’t grow properly from single leaves (eg fiddle leaf figs and Hoyas) whereas others (Streptocarpus, African violets and Echeverias, for instance) will. The small hobby seller may also be offering plants for sale via a Facebook page or the like, and this is definitely an exciting way to buy, but test out with a small purchase before sending a lot of money their way. If you do take a cutting, place it in a clear plastic bag, ideally wrapped in some moistened kitchen paper until you can get it home. Then get it in some water or moist compost as soon as possible.
Also keep an eye on Craigslist, Freecycle and local Facebook groups for people looking to offload houseplants as this can be a cheap or free way of expanding your collection - but check the plants carefully for pests before you let them join your precious collection, otherwise they may bring an unwelcome payload with them! (In fact, this is good practice for new plants you buy from anywhere...)
DIY sheds, discount stores and supermarkets
You can pick up some cheap houseplants from the likes of Walmart, Lowes and Home Depot, but its usually the "usual suspects" rather than anything particularly unusual. Try to pounce on them as soon as they come into the shop, as most stores give plants no attention or watering once they’re on the shelves. Labelling is hit and miss to say the least, (often it's just one word; "succulent" or "fern") but it’s a good way of getting plants locally if you’re on a tight budget. One last hitch - these plants are often potted in poor quality compost - or sometimes the wrong compost entirely - so consider repotting plants as soon as you get them home. And the whole glittery/painted succulents thing? Please, just... don't.
You're much more likely to find a houseplant boutique in large urban areas, but you just never know - occasionally you'll come across a florist in a small town that offers a stunning houseplant selection. Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon and The Sill in New York both come very highly recommended - I'd love to visit one day!
Big mail order firms
Some of the mail order seed and plant outfits are now cottoning on to the popularity of houseplants:
Logees is probably the best known and offers a really wide range of interesting plants including some wonderful Begonias, Streptocarpus and the highly prized Pilea peperomioides. Florida Hill nursery sells an interesting range including the vanilla orchid, loads of Syngoniums and Alocasias. White Flower Farm has a reasonable range of plants,
Small mail order firms (including eBay.com)
I have recently discovered the world of vivarium/terrarium supply shops as a source for interesting houseplants: these may not be your obvious choice, but they are a great way to buy certain plants such as bromeliads, vines and ferns: things that will do well in the high humidity setting of a closed terrarium.
They are sometimes sold in pots but also as rooted cuttings which, provided you are confident at potting them up, are a cheap way of getting more plants. I haven't bought from any US outfits but the options include neherpetoculture.com and Integrated Exotics blackjungleterrariumsupply.com and Josh's Frogs. Cactus Limon on Etsy has also been recommended to me, along with RubyPlants.com. If you are a moss addict, try mossacres.com.
Ebay sellers can offer a way of getting hold of rarer plants and seeds, but it’s a bit of a “buyer beware” situation, particularly if you are ordering seeds from outside the US - I have heard of people getting burned with seed packets containing chaff or something thy clearly didn’t order. Postage costs can be high, too.
After a period when many garden centres ditched houseplants aside from as a seasonal extra, they are now realising there is money to be made and ramping up their offerings again. Some are still on the rather boring side, but if you’re lucky you may have an excellent source of houseplants on your doorstep. If you're really lucky, they'll also have an active social media presence, too. Tell me about the great garden centres for houseplants you've found in the US! Listener Donna Padget recommended Bowood Farms in St Louis, Midge Miller Price loves Flower World in Washington and Cynthia Drummond likes The Farmer's Daughter in Rhode Island.
The blue and yellow box does deserve a category all to its because, let's face it, many of us buy plants here. I've written on my blog already and for Gardenista.com about IKEA's houseplant offerings so won't say too much more, other than that they offer a reasonably interesting range of plants at a good price, but as per the big box DIY places, you need to get in quick on new deliveries, and check plants carefully when you buy as in-store care tends to be minimal.
There's a comprehensive list of cactus nurseries here, and among the other specialists I have come across are Carter and Holmes and Matsui nursery for orchids, and Dave's Violets for Gesneriads, and Kartuz.com for Gesneriads and more.
If you're passionate about a group of plants, joining a society will bring you into contact with people who feel the same way! You can expand your collection through attending meetings where sales are held, and by swaps and sales with other members through group forums and Facebook pages. Here's a few houseplant-related forums I know of ...
- American Begonia Society
- Cactus and Succulent Society of America
- The Gesneriad Society
- International Carnivorous Plant Society
Got something to add?
If I've missed something out from this guide, please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!