The love we have for plants is unreal. Our adoration has gotten to the point where a space without the slightest glimmer of foliage present is alarming.
Cool to look at, calming to have around, and an easy talking point with house guests, our plants serve us well.
Depending on your home's aesthetic, houseplant collections, of course, will vary. You may be aiming for Amazon jungle vibes in a tiny studio or serving a more gallery-esque finish with just one or two statement plants.
Whichever look your indoor plant scene falls into, there will always come a time when you want to level up your display. Sure, adding yet more readily available (shall we call them) plants into the mix is an easy route to success, but sometimes it's worth taking a little more time and going that extra mile. And there is no better way to elevate your display than by adding rare houseplant species to your collection.
What defines a rare houseplant?
As most dictionaries would list, the definition of rare is (and as specifically cited in Collins): "Something that is rare is not common and is therefore interesting or valuable."
When it comes to plants, you might be wondering, "How have I not got any unusual plants already?" It's because rare house plant varieties are typically way harder to find. And, if you don't even know they exist, aside from thinking they look cool, you might not know their true value.
Tasha Adams of Hickory Lane Plants (opens in new tab) works with house plants daily since quitting a call center job to start a chic mobile plant business. In fact, she's Missouri’s first mobile plant business owner. "There aren't as many rare plants as people think, they're just harder to find," says Adams. "We like to call them 'harder to find' because you usually have to go to a plant shop that carries a wider range of plants or online shops."
As with many things in life, we often want what we can't have. Before getting too invested, I asked Adams whether rare houseplant species were any harder to look after indoors (because we all know how even basic houseplant care can be too demanding at times).
Surprisingly, Adams said that there are several rare species that can happily be kept as houseplants: "Most rare Scindapsus, Philodendron, Monstera, Epipremnum, Sansevieria, etc. plants will do just fine!"
On that note, here are some rare houseplants that might be worth your money and energy.
Rare house plants to get into
Naturally, Adams has some cool house plants within her collection at home: Monstera Esqueleto, Philodendron Atabapoense, Philodendron Domesticum, Ficus Elastica Shivereana, and the Monstera Dubia, to name but a few.
The Monstera Esqueleto is actually native to Costa Rica, found in the Cloud Forest. (I have actually seen many of these myself growing up trees in all their glory.) They are hardy enough to survive rainforest climates, downpours, and wind, but if you're keeping one in an apartment, pay attention to humidity levels and keep it in bright indirect sunlight — similar to what your classic cheese plant would enjoy.
Online, costs start at about $50. For one as established as Adams', you'll be looking at $200 and up. Adams does however recommend a good humidifier to help with certain plants, noting that "some have higher humidity needs, but a humidifier works well to solve that problem."
Investing in the best rare houseplants
Feng shui and houseplant expert Clara Leung owns Clara’s Green House (opens in new tab), a thriving plant business on Facebook Marketplace complete with thousands of plants, planters, and homemade soil. She also has a hard-to-find plant on her countertops. "Bloody Mary philodendron is one of the rare plants in my collection," says Leung. "Usually, a common philodendron's leaf surface is matte, but this one has a glossy surface. The shape gives a soft feeling. The bottom of the leaf and the stem are super red."
For starters, we love the name. "This plant is hard to find in the world," notes Leung, adding how care-wise this species can be a little more sensitive. "Information out there says she needs indirect sunlight; unfortunately, in fact, she likes filtered indirect sunlight because her leaves could be easily burned."
I asked Leung where she came across this gem. "I found it when visiting a local nursery shop," she says. "I usually go to the 'discount' area where they often throw dying plants on the table with a price. I found it dying and it was $5."
Not bad considering, prices start at around $15 on Etsy just for cuttings of Bloody Mary philodendron (opens in new tab)...
If you find a variegated Alocasia 'Frydek' in your local garden center, you've also hit the jackpot. Online, prices are elevated and don't fall far from the $180 marker for this very pretty but rare elephant-ear plant. Shop around and always invest wisely.
Equally as stunning is the Philodendron Rugosum. It's hardly surprising that this is one of the more expensive rare plants to shop for online too. Prices flutter around the $100 marker, so if the Philodendron Rugosum is bought on Etsy (opens in new tab) or another local store, it will be an investment to love, cherish, and propagate!
Still a total catch in its own right but slightly more affordable is the beautiful but rare arrowhead Syngonium plant (opens in new tab). It's native to Central and South America and starts at $19, with larger plants coming in closer to $50.
Hoya compacta on Etsy (opens in new tab) can range from $19–$50 with more established varieties sitting at the $90+ marker. So if you want more interesting and aesthetically pleasing plants that will increase significantly in value through the years, these leafy picks are worth investing invest in.
How should you care for rare houseplant species?
Adams says that "Care for 'rare' plants is pretty similar to common houseplants. You usually just need to increase the humidity a little, but everything else is the same as the common options of the same plant." Generally speaking, you'll want to replicate their natural environment as best you can.
Where can you find rare house plants?
If you're now sold on finding a rare houseplant variety for your home, where should you look?
Adams recommends searching locally: "Plant shops that specialize in uncommon aroids and other plants will usually have what you are looking for." Of course, if you're in Missouri, Adams can likely hook you up.
Shop around, check local Facebook groups, and scour eBay because you never know — you could strike houseplant gold. If you're up for the challenge, look to Etsy for cuttings. Though they may be more expensive, in the long run, you could see yourself caring for a thriving rare plant species that's very high in demand.