Where to Order Rare Plants Online When You’re a Plant Nerd

by megan
Published: Last Updated on

Continuing my obsession with online plant shopping, I’ve begun to dive into the expensive world of exotic and rare houseplants since I can’t get them by just propagating. If you’ve been looking for where to buy rare plants online, you’ve come to the right plant nerd.

Let me start off with: if you are bad with budgeting, then just walk away from this post and instead look at something like what I want to do with my blue kitchen

I’m also going to say that currently, the plants on this list have not (yet) been purchased by me since I’m working on maturing the goth plants I got on Etsy. But I will get a variegated monstera someday…

What is a “rare” plant?

These aren’t houseplants you just stumble upon, rather, they’re plants you have to seek intentionally.

Okay, first let me define what I mean by “rare” or “exotic.” To me, these are plants that are incredibly difficult to find at either your big box store or even a local greenhouse. These aren’t houseplants you just stumble upon, rather, they’re plants you have to seek intentionally.

Where to Order Rare Plants Online

First, why are these plants so expensive?

You think “houseplants,” and you probably think dropping a max of $20 on a potted spider plant and calling it a day, right? So the sticker shock on these is going to be a hard pill to swallow, and I totally get it.

The reason these plants are in the hundreds of dollars is that they’re either incredibly rare, genetically mutated, a combination of both, difficult to maintain, or can…I don’t know, summon Cthulhu. 

There’s also the frustrating concept of supply and demand working here: when there is a higher demand than supply, the prices increase. When there’s lower demand but high supply, prices decrease to move the products. Since you’re here reading this, that most likely means you know these plants are hard to get and, consequently, get spendy fast.

What sort of rare plants are there to buy online?

Oh man, whatever you want is most likely out there! Whether you’re looking for variegated or want to do a cool black plant collection, there are thousands of options out there for plant nerds like us.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Where to Buy Rare and Exotic Plants Online
Source: PlantaBotanics on Etsy

Variegated Monstera

These are just freaking stunning and come in a wide array of green and white patterns. Thai Constellation is a popular version. But I love the half-and-half ones the most. I bought a White Fusion Calathea as a “poor Megan” alternative. 

Where to Buy Rare and Exotic Plants Online, where to order rare plants online
Source: TIERRAPINKStore on Etsy

Agalonema Tricolor Pictum

These are AMAZING! I love the camouflage design of the leaves. And since these are in the Chinese Evergreen family, they’ll be easy to care for than many of the other rare tropical species of houseplants.

Where to Buy Rare and Exotic Plants Online
Source: BonifidePlantPeddler on Etsy

Pink Princess Philodendron

I’m not much of a pink person though I can appreciate the stunning brightness of the hues on these leaves and, consequently, sort of need one in my life. Also, since it’s a philodendron, I know it will be more on the hardy side.

Some Things to Consider Before Looking for Where to Buy Rare Plants Online

Seller reputation – putting down a chunk of money on a live plant can be risky. So ask questions beforehand about their shipping practices, how often they ship, and care instructions. Also, find out what their policies are for dead plants. Most won’t offer refunds but may be willing to replace a plant that is DOA. But be sure to find out the answer to this before buying. If you are wary to ask something like that, most seasoned sellers will have this listed in their policies.

Shipping times – most reputable sellers will take care to make sure your plant arrives safely, but delays that are out of their control can happen. So try not to order plants that may sit in hot mail trucks or travel long ways on hot summer days to ensure they are not too stressed when they arrive.

The time of year – With increasing temperature swings on both sides thanks to climate change, you really need to be cognizant of how your plant will handle extreme heat or cold. Some sellers will offer cold or hot packs (and many will require them for “Dead on Arrival” DOA guarantees), and for the amount of money you’re dropping on an expensive, rare plant, it’s probably worth the extra $5 – $10.

Triage once they arrive – Your new plant will be stressed from the long journey without sun or nutrients. So you’ll need to baby it for the first few weeks while it acclimates to your home. Make sure the soil you use is sterile and that they have the right sun and water conditions (aka don’t let them burn or wilt). 

Rare colorings mean more work – Overall, these variegated plants occur because of genetic mutations, and as such, they are more fragile than their “normal” variations. So take care to pay attention to how you’ll need to ensure they survive and maybe try your hand at the more common variations before investing in rare hybrids or strains of plants. As an example: white patches on leaves generally mean a lack of chloroform so they’ll be much more sensitive to direct sunlight than their all-green counterparts. There are also options for “semi-rare” versions that are good to start as a test drive into more delicate breeds. The Calathea Musaica is a perfect example of this: it’s rare-ish but still a really hardy plant that can handle you forgetting about it once in a while, unlike some of these genetically mutated primadonnas.

Where to Buy Rare Plants Online

Etsy – One of the biggest sources of plants I’ve found thus far when hunting for where to order rare plants online. Check the reviews for pics before making a purchase. Some of the sellers I’ve bought from are TheGreenEscape and RiverHouseSales

Amazon – I got my tricolor stromanthea on Amazon, a few carnivorous plants from Joel’s, as well as some more common plants from JMBamboo and haven’t had any issues to date. Though I try to buy from seasoned sellers.

eBay – I’ve only bought carnivorous plants on eBay and have had a 50% success rate (RIP sundew), but they are still a great way to find clippings or smaller starter plants for less money.

KZPlants on Instagram – I found out about her from gardening subreddits and have yet to bite the bullet and pay for a plant. Though she is very well-regarded by seasoned plant lovers, her prices are a tough pill to swallow when you’re trying to find where to order rare plants online. She runs a nursery in Thailand so keep in mind that shipping will be expensive (she quotes me at $70 to start, not including the plant cost), but if you look at her collection, it’s definitely drool-worthy.

Take a plant, leave a plant subreddit – Another one I have only lurked on and haven’t done yet as I’m still getting the hang of their rules. But you can request plants to trade or buy, and many of the sellers have multiple reviews. 

AquaSwap on Reddit – One of my favorite places for getting aquatic plants (and all the colors of cherry shrimp you could ever want). You can sometimes find things here for free, but if you’re looking for rare aquatic plants and want to support micro businesses, this is the place to do it.

Hirts – When you’re looking for where to order rare plants online, you’ve probably stumbled on their site. Their selection is more middle-tier rare. But I’ve picked up some great plants from them that are hard to find around here, including the pink wandering dude and String of Dolphins. They also have an Etsy shop if you want to go that route.

Here’s my first unboxing from them:

And my second unboxing which has more rare plants than the first:

Some final thoughts about rare plants for the newbie gardener

Finally, before you start flexing that Amex to its limit, let me warn you: Buying rare or exotic houseplants online comes with some hefty responsibilities that shouldn’t be taken for granted. If you’re a newbie plant owner, you should really start with low-maintenance plants that are hardy and can handle the learning curve you’re working in while you become acclimated to caring for these live things.

Diving right into exotic plants as a first-timer will more than likely lead to disappointment and dead plants. If you want to learn more about how to care for plants, check out these posts, which are excellent for quick references should you need help:

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