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Cash Crops

July 14, 2012

I love Tradescantias. Not just because they’re pretty – they are, but my own plants usually aren’t looking very good. No, I love them because they’re so easy to propagate.

This is the reason why my own plants usually aren’t looking too great – they constantly get chopped back so I can grow more plants. And then I take them in to work and sell them.

I find it strange that a plant that is so easy to grow, and so easy to propagate at home, does sell so well – but I’m not complaining!. Of all the foliage plants we have in the shop (we only have a few houseplants, I’d guess about a hundred plants at a time), they are the most reliable sellers!

Yesterday, we sold the last one of the batch I brought to work in May, so on Monday, I’ll take in a new bike basket-ful. They don’t have quite as many roots as I’d like, but they’re Tradescantias – they don’t need a lot of roots!

I’m always trying to expand the range of plants I sell – Abutilons sold well, once they’d started to bloom. I kept the little plants at home far too long, pinching them back and trying to get them to branch, but once I simply potted them up and put them outside into full sun, they really took off. They weren’t blooming when I took them in to work, and for a while nobody paid them any attention, but then they sold in no time.

My surplus tomato plants were sold quickly as well, but there were only a few of them, and they were our only heirlooms this year, so no wonder.

The bog sage (Salvia uliginosa) had to be advertised a bit, since nobody had heard of it before, but they’re all gone now.

Now I just wish someone would buy the Chlorophytum orchidastrum and Pilea peperomioides. I still have far too many of them, and I want them gone! And they’re nice plants, I don’t know why nobody even looks at them.

But I shouldn’t complain. I’ve sold a decent bit already this year, and I’ll have more to sell. Maybe my houseplant obsession will pay for itself eventually. Sometimes, when I buy plants, I do try to justify the purchase with the thought, “I might be able to propagate and sell this!” I have to admit, I’m still kind of dreaming of my own nursery, growing houseplants for a living… despite having been told that it’s uneconomical here in Austria, because the winters are too cold and the heating costs too high. I can dream, right?

To get back to the Tradescantias, I’d say they were my best investment yet – except that they weren’t an investment at all, because I didn’t buy a single cent for any of them. One Tradescantia zebrina I got from my current boss (did I mention he is awesome?), the T. pallida was (I think)  a cutting from my mother’s plant (which was in a huge pot together with a scented geranium, and was given away when my parents sold their house), and the rest were free cuttings from the Apprenticeship Place.

The Apprenticeship Place must be one of the few nurseries in Austria that grows a relatively large range of houseplants – definitely the thing I liked most about it! We had some planter boxes of Tradescantias to use as stock plants, but I have no idea why we even bothered with them. They were always drying out and not getting fed enough, so they looked pretty ugly. There was a much better source for cuttings: under the tables!

There was always a layer of mud there, from the potting mix that got spilled in the aisles and was washed down under the tables when the aisles were hosed down every once in a while, always kept damp by leaking irrigation pipes. There was a whole lot growing down there – several kinds of ferns, ivy, asparagus ferns, impatiens, and of course Tradescantias. They loved it there, even though – or maybe because – they got pretty little light, covering huge areas with a lush green (or silver) carpet.

One day, I was told to start a few flats of Tradescantias with some of the younger apprentices. So I told them, “Why do we even bother with these ugly stock plants?” and all of us dived in under the tables and harvested the best-looking cuttings we’d ever had. So that’s where I got my own cuttings before I left the apprenticeship place, and since they were basically weeds, they didn’t cost a cent. And they’ve earned me quite a lot of money since then! More than enough to cover the houseplants I bought last year, but not quite enough to cover what I bought this year… I’ll get there, though.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 16, 2012 23:15

    Maybe I need a houseplant sale of my own… I wish my variegated Monstera would get big enough that I could sell cuttings of it…I’ve seen ones go for upwards of $50 for a 2 node cutting on ebay! I could make a fortune!

  2. Freya permalink
    April 13, 2016 03:25

    Just a quick enquiry RE: pilea peperomioides – I’m wondering whether you still have one available?

    Also, what can you tell me about shipping – do you think a plant would survive international postage? A nurseryman here in Australia has suggested that I should be looking for seeds, not a live plant, since he says the quarantine treatment process would kill a live plant. Another international seller suggested that perhaps he could send roots (no foliage) in an envelope / flat document satchel.

    I would really appreciate any suggestions, as I’m keen to have one of these delightful plants, but supply here in Oz is pretty much non-existent.

    Many thanks, Freya 🙂

    • May 22, 2016 11:58

      Sorry for the late reply! Sadly, I don’t have the pilea any more, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable sending it to Australia anyway. I find not being able to trade plants internationally as annoying as the next person, but I also know the laws are there for a good reason.

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