Interest in monstera plants reaches new heights online

One metre tall monstera variegated plant
Following the sale of this one-meter-tall variegated monstera for $4930 in January, searches for monstera have surged. Photo credit: TradeMe.

Following the sale of Trade Me's most expensive house plant - a one-metre-tall 'monstera deliciosa albo variegata' for $4930 in January - online interest in the plants have surged. 

Trade Me's head of marketplace Lisa Stewart, said that in the last week, monstera ('swiss cheese') plants were searched thousands of times and last month's searches compared to January 2019 had almost tripled.  

"In the last seven days, we've seen 22,000 searches for monstera plants: up 290 percent on the same time last year," Stewart said.

"In January, we saw a 95 percent increase in the number of indoor plants sold onsite compared to [January 2018]."

Trade Me currently has 350 online listings for monstera plants, including cuttings. The variegated monstera is rare: it has random patches of white on the leaves said to be the cause of a genetic mutation causing parts of the plant to be unable to produce chlorophyll. 

But while auction feedback indicates that plenty of Kiwis would welcome a variegated plant into their home, sellers propagating them in the hope of replicating the $4930 sale may be disappointed.

A four-leaved 'variegated monstera albo borsigiana' - smaller than the monstera that fetched a record price in January - was listed for $2100 and closed on Saturday without a buyer. 

Viewed 2500 times and saved on 250 user watchlists, the auction attracted a flurry of feedback but except for a lowball offer of $50 from an uninformed punter, received no bids.  

"I'm so confused, is this one plant two thousand dollars?," 'samb36' said.

"I'll give you $50 bucks for it, it's some [sic] leaves not worth much" 'samb36' added, to which the seller responded, "Jog on then."

Would-be bidders shared their enthusiasm for the species and one pinned their hopes on winning the $35m Powerball so they could afford to buy it.

"She's absolutely gorgeous.  Good luck with your auction," 'zanesdad' said.

"I wish I could afford it at this time.  Hope you have a cutting growing for yourself," 'wilsonjames' said.

"Absolutely stunning plant...I'm watching (with my popcorn) in case I win lotto before the auction ends," 'tracyleeee' added.

At Palmers Remuera, $80 can buy a standard monstera with plain green leaves but people looking for a variegated monstera were unlikely to unearth one.

"They're not in New Zealand in any [great] numbers - I don't think we've ever [stocked] it," a customer services representative said.

Judi Palmer, category manager at Palmers, said demand for houseplants has grown and the more old-fashioned the plant, the bigger the demand.

"Monstera seem[s] to be at the top of that list," Palmer said.

Palmers isn't aware of anyone growing variegated monstera commercially and assumes people are growing them from cuttings.

"Monstera are easy to propagate: you can either place them in water or straight into soil," Palmer said.

Kings Plant Barn St Lukes confirmed they only stock the standard variety, such as the triple-planted half-metre monstera for $100.

"The plant with the white leaves - the variegated monstera - none of [our stores] have any of these for sale," a Kings spokesperson said.

Trade Me results indicate that tropical houseplants are adding to the vast selection of  household items bought and sold online.

While 22,000 online searches for monstera plants in one week is steep, the online selling price is likely to come down to quality, size - and competition on the day.