Gardeners go for the green in both senses
Green thumbs are making some real money these days.
Park Seon-ho, 38, got a ferocactus santa-maria as a gift from a friend when he started a cram school three years ago, and discovered the world of gardening. He started growing other plants including a variegated yellow monstera deliciosa. When his hagwon business suffered due to the pandemic, he realized that cuttings from the plant could be resold — for good sums.
“The first yellow monstera that I sold was worth 500,000 won ($419) per cutting,” said Park.
Today, Park spends his free time propagating even more lucrative plants.
A cutting from a monstera albo borsigiana variegata, Park's current project, can sell for two to three million won. That price has risen four to six times in the last couple of years.
As the Covid-19 pandemic dragged on, home gardening became a popular trend. People started selling plant cuttings from on online platforms, and the price of unique houseplants shot up.
“Leaves with rare patterns are like luxury items among gardeners,” said Park.
Variegated monstera is the most sought-after in the world of home gardening.
“A cutting of a variegated monstera is considered gold in the market. The monstera albo, in particular, is the most popular, the equivalent of bitcoin among cryptocurrency, so to speak.”
According to Park, the price of a monstera cutting soared tenfold over the last two years.
The price of variegated monstera albo goes up when the white patterns on the leaves are vivid or unique.
A cutting from a monstera albo sells for an average 460,000 won on online secondhand market platform Joonggonara. The most expensive sold for 4 million won.
Other plants are in high demand as well. Including the three most popular indoor plants – philodendrons, monstera albos and geraniums – the number available for sale on the Joonggonara platform in March 2021 was 2,622, double the previous year.
That number reached 3,866 last September.
“We are seeing constant growth in the total transaction volume for plants,” a spokesperson for Joonggonara said.
Amateur gardeners often begin with a cutting, which for some plants is a leaf. For monstera albo, they put the cutting in water, wait for it to root, then plant the rooted monstera albo in soil.
When new buds start to sprout, you can cut a leaf or two and sell them online.
If a person buys a cutting for one million won and grows additional leaves, each leaf can be sold for a million won, which makes it a profitable investment.
Still, there are issues and risks. Since there is no exact market price set for plants, the price varies immensely depending on the seller. If a person doesn't have a green thumb, an investment in cuttings can wither away.
“There is no set price for plants,” said Park Yong-myeong, who runs a farm for cacti and succulent plants in Cheonan, South Chungcheong, “so even the rarest plants with the highest bidding price can sell for 50 million won -- or 30 million won.”
Park expects price fluctuations to narrow in the future as the plant market takes root.
Some gardeners argue that the primary purpose of gardening is taking care of plants, not making profits.
The majority of the younger generation are brought up in cities rather than the countryside, and find rural lifestyles exotic.
"I've been interested in gardening for a while, and used to go to farms on weekends," said Jeon Hye-bin, 39, who grows herbs in her living room using an indoor plant cultivator.
As demand continues to expand, companies are jumping into various botanical businesses.
LG Electronics launched an indoor plant cultivator called "Tiiun" last October. Samsung Electronics and SK Magic are also reported to be developing their own plant cultivators.
A Rural Development Administration survey published last December found that 5.6 percent of 624 respondents have used or are currently using indoor plant cultivators. Among those who haven't used plant cultivators before, 51.7 percent answered that they are willing to use one in the future.
BY BAE JUNG-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]