Investing Green in Greenery
With Covid restrictions confining so many people indoors, some millennial gardeners have cultivated a passion for rare aroid houseplants, which can cost thousands of dollars each. The most coveted variegated, elongated, or dark-hued varieties are sometimes called “unicorns,” perhaps because of their rarity or their horn-like spadices of tiny flowers.
Valued for their showy foliage rather than their less-than-showy blooms, aroids might give new meaning to “growing your portfolio.” But buyer beware! Those prized variegated plants can revert back to a much less valuable all-green at times, causing a considerable loss of greenbacks!
Monstera adansonii variegata
The appropriately named monsteras bring the most monstrous prices, with one recently selling on eBay for more than $38,000. That hefty sum doesn’t apply to the typical all-green Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), but only to varieties riddled with holes called “fenestration” and/or splashed with white variegation. Boasting both those attributes, the Swiss cheese vine dubbed adansonii variegata can garner prices from $3,200 to $15,947. Michel Adanson, the poverty-stricken 18th-century French botanist for whom the plant was named, would be astounded!
Decidedly not heart-shaped as philodendron leaves usually are, each leaf of this peculiar species appears to have ears up top, a narrow neck, and a broad tongue. Named for the Dutch naturalist who discovered it growing on an anthill in French Guiana in 1991, it is possibly a hybrid between two previously known species. Whatever its parentage, this one is too new to appear on the Plant List. Its novelty can cost buyers $1,500 to $4,030.
Monstera obliqua ‘Peru’
Growers who prefer leaves that are 90 percent not there and that appear to have been almost consumed by humongous and hungry insects should opt for the variegated and extremely fenestrated version of the window leaf vine. Its price ranges from $2,895 to $6,500. Buyers should keep in mind that this cultivar climbs slowly, has paper-thin leaves, and requires plenty of humidity. (The leathery and puckery Monstera karstenianum ‘Peru’ is a completely different, “unhole-y” but more affordable plant.)
Monstera deliciosa albo variegata
Traditionalists who prefer the look of the more typical Swiss cheese plant, where the leaves split at their sides, might want to spring for this white-splashed big cheese. Sometimes called borsigiana, which actually is a synonym of deliciosa, it usually runs between $199 and $4,500 for a rooted specimen, sometimes less for cuttings. The plant can eventually produce leaves 18 inches wide, but—as with real cheese—it requires time to mature.
The most costly type of subincisum , which means “less than fully incised” in reference to the scalloped edges of its foliage, probably should have variegata tacked onto its name. In its original form it doesn’t wear the $10,000 to $20,000 price tag that its silver-spattered variety can. That said, the non-variegated type with leaves reaching 2 to 3 feet in length may cost upwards of $200, which is still a lot of green.
Philodendron luxurians ‘Choco’
Definitely a luxury but not actually chocolate colored as its name implies, the plant derives its moniker from the western region of Colombia, where it originated. Velvety, white-veined, heart-shaped dark green leaves make this philodendron a Valentine’s gift that causes neither cavities nor calorie overload, as other types of expensive “chocolate” might. But it would set the giver back between $425 and $800, which would buy a lot of bonbons!
Named for their heart-shaped leaves, philodendrons come in hundreds of varieties, and those not easy to find command prices not for the faint of heart. This endangered, long-leafed one from Brazil, with a name that means “spirit of the Holy Ghost,” is often considered the holy grail by plant collectors; a single specimen brought in more than $9,600 on eBay. Because it’s so rare, some enthusiasts resort to purchasing paper versions like the one shown here or wearing the plant’s image on T-shirts.
With pleated-looking leaves that reach 4 feet in length in the wild and feature a prominent central vein, this plant originated in the rain forests of Colombia. It now bears the name of the wife of one of the Missouri Botanical Garden plant explorers who introduced the long-leafed, and soon longed-after, philodendron to the rest of the world. This “patrician” is an aristocrat of houseplants, often priced between $868 and $1,040.
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