Succulents have gotten quite a bit of hype in the past few years, and they’ve become some of the most desirable houseplants around. They’re available at various price points, ranging anywhere from a dollar or two to $250,000. So, how can these cute tiny plants fetch such a high price?
Succulents are so expensive because they usually take a long time to grow, and many nurseries can only produce so many per year. Exotic species need to be imported, adding taxes and fees to their cost, and as they become more popular in general, their prices rise along with the demand for them.
So, let’s talk more about what can raise a succulent’s price point. I’ll cover all of the specifics and give you a few tips for sourcing your succulents ethically and cost-effectively along the way.
1. Many Succulents Take a Long Time To Grow
Fast-growing plants like ivy and herbs are usually far cheaper than slow-growing plants. That’s because it takes a lot of work and materials to cultivate slow-growing plants.
Since succulents can take quite a while to grow substantially, they are generally on the pricier side.
If you have ever had a succulent, you know that they are commonly tiny plants sold in small pots. However, succulents aren’t naturally small. They grow slowly.
Like some varieties of haworthia, these plants can take more than six months to grow roots from seed, while snake plants and ponytail palms may only produce two or three new leaves a year.
Other popular, very slow-growing succulents include:
- Air plants
- Crinkle leaf plants
- Barrel cacti
If the succulents you are interested in are large, you will always pay more for them. That’s because they have probably had years of daily care and maintenance in a nursery.
So, when you pay for a slow-growing succulent, you will pay for the months or years of professional care that went into that plant. That includes the nursery staff’s salaries and all of the time that they spent ensuring that your plant was resilient and robust as it matured.
2. A Nursery Can Only Produce So Many Succulents a Year
Plant nurseries need to make a profit to stay in business. They have to pay their hardworking staff, purchase enough materials to keep all of their seedlings and succulents happy and healthy, and provide enough room to grow enough plants so that they can make a decent return.
Still, especially when it comes to succulents, producing a large enough crop to make a profit is a challenge.
Since many succulents are slow-growing and need hands-on care every day to stay as hearty as possible, a plant center will have to produce hundreds and sometimes thousands of plants every year to make enough profit and remain in business.
However, most succulents need a specific climate and carefully monitored light conditions to thrive and grow. They are desert plants, after all.
Many succulents and cacti only grow during the warmer seasons. They will lay dormant during the winter and late fall, which means they won’t grow at all during that time.
So, to grow enough succulents, a nursery will have to time their plantings just right to make a return by the time that all of their plants stop growing for the dormant season in the winter.
When the crop is incredibly scarce, or the nursery is new or too small, succulent prices will be higher to keep the plant care center operating.
3. High-Quality Succulents Are Hand-Picked for Heartiness
When you pay for an expensive succulent, you’re not just paying for the plant. You are also paying for all the materials and care that go into sowing and growing your succulents.
All of the best-cared-for succulents usually come at a higher price, but you ultimately get what you pay for.
Some stores will sell the same varieties of succulents at a significantly lower price than other stores. But the low price point doesn’t always mean that you’re getting a bargain.
Cheaper succulents aren’t usually grown or nurtured the same way that expensive ones are.
Since succulents take so long to grow in a nursery, it takes a team to properly water, fertilize, repot, prune, and fortify each plant. This team will work for quite a while to keep your plant healthy. And the best nurseries will only sell the strongest, fastest-growing plants from the batch.
When nursery workers select the hardiest plants to sell, they do not sell all the plants they grew in the year.
So, to make up for the losses of the weak plants that were likely to die right after you bought them, nurseries may charge more for only the best quality plants.
Expensive succulents may not seem worth it, but they will usually be more resistant to any neglect. They also have more extensive root systems before they are sold, which means that they are hearty and resilient before you even introduce them to your home.
Expensive succulents are also more likely to grow faster than average since they are so well-cared-for, which might save you from buying a succulent that will wilt only months after you take it home.
4. Exotic Succulents Are Imported
Succulents imported from far-off destinations cost more since they must be safely shipped on an airplane or via cargo ship.
These succulents and cacti also have to go through the hands of growers, exporters, shippers, and sellers, meaning that when you buy imported succulents, you are helping pay each intermediary person their wages.
When you purchase a succulent online or at a garden center, you are paying for that plant’s history and all of the care that it received up until it enters your home. So, at the price you pay, you will cover some of the shipping cost, which can be pretty expensive for exporters.
Still, during shipping, these succulents have to be in the right conditions, and ensuring that the plant doesn’t get too hot, dry, cold, wet, or damaged means that handling prices will be high.
So, the shipping cost and your succulent’s place of origin can quickly drive up the price. Sometimes, this cost is so expensive that it is challenging for rare succulent growers and business owners to profit.
When purchasing a succulent, check its history. Ask about where it came from, how old it is, and how rare it is. Then, you will understand more about the price and why it is expensive.
5. Rare Succulents Come at a Higher Cost
Some succulents with lovely foliage and a pleasant aesthetic appearance are at risk for endangerment since they are high in demand. These plants are often harvested and exported from their native land to be sold in other countries as ornamental plants. However, when this happens, it can reduce the native population endangering the entire species.
Therefore, if you are interested in purchasing a rare succulent, you will have to pay more.
However, it is equally important to note that you should always ask where your rare succulent came from. If it was imported, you might want to look for another source for your plant.
Try to find a nursery that cultivates the rare plant on its own in a greenhouse. That way, you know that you are not further threatening the species.
Some examples of rare yet popular ornamental and medicinal succulents are:
- Salão, a medicinal succulent from Cape Verde.
- Rose Pincushion Cactus, a cactus with bright pink flowers.
- The Sand Dollar cactus, native to Texas and New Mexico.
- Aloe Vera, a popular medicinal plant.
- Agave, a medicinal plant native to deserts in the Americas.
- Living rock cacti, a cactus native to Texas and Mexico.
As succulents have become more popular as houseplants in recent years, many varieties have become rarer.
To learn more about how succulents are becoming more and more threatened by exporters and international sellers, check out this fascinating Youtube video from Cheddar:
6. Some Succulents Are Difficult To Propagate
Many varieties of succulents are renowned for their propagate-ability. If you break off a leaf or two from your succulent, you can usually dry it out for a few days then repot it in soil. Then, you should see new roots within a week or so.
However, not all succulents are so easy to propagate—and don’t even get me started on how hard it is to breed a cactus.
Some succulents such as snake plants, ponytail palms, and air plants can take more than six months to root after propagation.
That’s a long time, especially if you run a nursery and have to produce as many plants as you can in a season to stay in business.
In addition, when propagated, some succulents will lose their color or other visual qualities that might make them more attractive to a buyer.
For example, variegated succulents are known to lose their variegation when you propagate them. So, if your plant seller wants to sell the plant, they will have to grow it for a while to ensure that it will not lose its unique color patterns.
In addition, some plants won’t even respond to propagation, and you will have to wait for it to produce seeds before you can grow more of them.
For rare succulents like Aeonium Nobile, seed production only happens every 5 to 10 years. That’s a long wait for a plant producer, and it can take tons of work to ensure that just one seedling makes it to the selling floor.
So, with expensive succulents, you are likely paying for a plant that is hard to grow.
7. Succulents in Decorative Pots Are More Expensive
If you purchase succulents at a nursery or garden center, you will likely see some gorgeous glazed pots stuffed with various succulents.
Although these lovely pots are aesthetically pleasing, most sellers will upcharge you for the beauty of their arrangements and the quality of the planter.
Cute pots and lovely fairy-garden-like setups will always cost more than potting your succulents yourself.
That’s because, on top of the profit that the succulents’ caretakers have to make, you will pay for the artists who made the planter, the materials used, and the time the nursery worker spent repotting and artistically arranging the plants.
8. Supply and Demand Can Push the Prices Up
Succulents are popular since they are more drought-resistant and hearty than many other plants with more delicate leaves. They have long been popular ornamental houseplants and garden plants, and those varieties that are high in demand come at a high price.
Especially for practical plants like aloe vera and agave, prices will always be higher since many want to have them in their homes for medicinal purposes.
Still, a succulent’s price is not just determined by demand alone. Supply will also factor into the price, especially if you are interested in buying a protected or endangered succulent.
Slow-growing, endangered species of succulents will cost significantly more than other succulents, and when one variety of succulent is in high demand, the price point will rise even more.
9. Succulents Are Popular
Succulents are trendy, and in the past few years, they have seen a massive boom in popularity.
And, as demand goes up, prices do too.
When you buy succulents nowadays, you might be paying for an aesthetic choice in high demand. Think designer brand decor—but with succulents, your decor is alive and will grow with you.
Succulents are small and don’t take up much space. They can fit in elaborate, gorgeous pots that you can slide on your windowsill. They also bring a touch of hominess to any room.
It isn’t hard to see why people are increasingly heading to their local garden centers and stocking up on succulents with all these benefits.
Having plants offers the new generations a connection with nature, but as more people desire that relationship with nature through their houseplants, succulent prices will continue to rise.
As to why succulents are getting more popular by the minute, it’s all speculation. However, most journalists suspect that succulents are millennials’ reaction to apartment-style living in the modern age.
If you want some evidence or want to learn more about why houseplants are making a comeback, check out this interesting Youtube video from The New Yorker:
Tips for Purchasing Succulents on a Budget
If you want to stuff your home with succulents, don’t let your budget stop you. As a fellow plant lover, I have some tips and tricks to fill my home with cacti, succulents, and other houseplants on a tight budget, and I would love to share them with you.
- Don’t get the pretty planter: You may not be able to afford the most exotic houseplants, but if you stay away from decorative pots, you won’t have to spend much money to get your plant fixed.
- Use bargain planters: If you need a planter for your succulents, take a trip to your local thrift store, go to some yard sales, or visit your local dollar store. Get creative! Use a vintage mug, a teacup, or an old candle jar. I paint and decorate an empty coffee can from my recycling pile when I’m in a pinch. You can even use plastic lids or takeout containers to make a drip tray. So, don’t be scared to do it yourself!
- Buy succulents while they’re on sale: Most garden centers and nurseries will put a plant on sale if it isn’t aesthetically pleasing or starts to wilt. These plants are usually anywhere between 30% and 70% off, and with some TLC, they can spring back to life. When you purchase succulents on sale, repotting them in some fresh soil and letting them dry out in a low-light setting for a day or two will usually do the trick.
- Look out for fallen leaves: Since most cheaper succulents are easy to propagate, keep an eye out for fallen leaves on your existing succulents. I also get plenty of leaves for free from the floor of my local garden center (always ask the cashier if it is okay to take them and never pull them off of a plant), so keep your eyes peeled next time you go shopping.
- Ask a friend: Most people with plants know that it can be difficult to source succulents. However, since succulents are so easy to propagate, you may want to ask friends if they could give you a leaf or two of their plants. Then, in repayment, you can trade cuttings from one of your plants. That way, you can cultivate your houseplants while cultivating a great friendship.
Rare, imported, slow-growing succulents are much more expensive than other houseplants because of the time and care that goes into cultivating them.
As popular plants, the market’s demand also raises the price for these cute little cultivars, often resulting in a market that is hard to beat.
Still, there are some tips and tricks you can use to add more succulents to your life without breaking the bank.