The Current

Why this Calgary woman paid $80 to grow a popular houseplant nearly from scratch

The pink princess philodendron has been all the rage on social media lately. But the sought-after houseplant costs more than most, with some selling for hundreds of dollars, depending on the size.

The pink princess philodendron has surged in popularity — and price — as of late

Jessica Collinson of Calgary is growing her own pink princess philodendron from a cutting and node she purchased for a hefty $80. (Submitted by Jessica Collinson)

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When Jessica Collinson first spotted the pink princess philodendron on Instagram, she was struck by its ravishing beauty. 

The variegated houseplant has been all the rage on social media lately, and Collinson was determined to get her hands on one of her own.

But when the Calgary woman began doing her research online, she ran into a bit of a surprise.

"It was way more expensive than I thought it would be," she told The Current. "And it became clear, in my area at least, that it was going to be a challenge to get."

The sought-after pink princess philodendron costs more than most houseplants, with some selling for hundreds of dollars, depending on the size. 

With the price of a full-grown plant being out of Collinson's budget, she instead opted to buy a cutting and a node — the part of the stem where the leaves grow from — for $80. She hopes the node will sprout roots, so she can plant the cutting herself.

Not long ago you could nab a small pink princess philodendron for $6, says horticulturalist Celia Aceae. But these days they can go for several hundred dollars, depending on the size. (Submitted by Stephanie Watts)

Plant obsessions throughout history

Celia Aceae, a horticulturalist in Montreal, says people have had similar obsessions with other plants throughout history.

During the 17th century, for example, "tulip mania" swept through the Netherlands and Europe, with some prized bulbs in Holland going for more than 12 times their usual price, according to History.com.

Then, more than a century later in Victorian England, came a period of so-called "orchid delirium," when people became consumed with collecting the flowering plant.

Celia Aceae is a Montreal-based horticulturalist. She says that, throughout history, people have been swept up in similar obsessions over different plants, including tulips and orchids. (Submitted by Celia Aceae)

"That was a really interesting time, because orchids were gendered," Aceae told Galloway, explaining that the plant was considered to be phallic. 

"Only men could look at orchids, and it was considered impure for the women to look at orchids."

Aceae said she didn't expect the pink princess philodendron to take off the way it has. A few years ago, general landscaping companies were selling four-inch versions of the plants for just $6, she recalled.

"And then all of a sudden, they just blew up," Aceae said. 

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Nonetheless, people's interest in the plant is exciting, she said.

"Every plant is very different and very unique," said Aceae of the eye-catching pink splotches on the plant's usually dark green leaves. 

"And that's probably one of the things that makes it so special."

Beware the pink congo philodendron

But with all the hype has also come an opportunity for scammers. Some people have paid big bucks for what's called a pink congo philodendron, believing it to be similar to, or the same as, the pink princess. 

Whereas variegation causes the pink princess philodendron to develop leaves with different colouring, a gas is used to turn entire leaves on the pink congo philodendron a rosy hue, Aceae explained. The pink congo is actually a fairly regular philodendron, and its coloured leaves eventually revert back to their original green colour. 

"I think that it's not necessarily wrong," Aceae said of the process. "But what is wrong is to lead people into thinking that it's a pink princess." 

Instead of buying a full-grown pink princess philodendron, Collinson opted for this cutting and node, which is the part of the stem where the leaves grow from. She says she thinks the process of growing it herself will be rewarding. (Submitted by Jessica Collinson)

Scams and hefty price tags aside, Aceae commends people for their budding interest in growing houseplants.

And with everyone spending more time at home because of the pandemic, "it's a great passion to have," she said.

"I think that tending for something, caring for something, really just gives us a feeling of purpose and success," Aceae said. "And that is definitely something that we need right now."

Collinson agrees. Even though her pink princess philodendron was a pricey purchase, she said she's looking forward to helping it thrive. 

"The idea of actually getting to grow something … from the node, and then having it be successful, would be quite rewarding," Collinson said. 

"And because it is difficult to get, I know that it increases its popularity and the scarcity. But I understand that [people] want something beautiful in this time, and I want it as well."


Written by Kirsten Fenn. Produced by Marika Wheeler.

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