I am writing this because I have noticed a growing problem in the houseplant community. Plant Flippers/Scalpers… Unlicensed people who go into their local stores, buy out all the inventory of hot plants, then post them for sale on Facebook. I have seen it in my local houseplant groups as well as the national groups. Locally we will see a post about new shipments at ___ and within an hour or two, all the good plants are bought out. A week later someone is posting them, all split up for sale. What’s worse, they sell each piece for the same price or more than they got the whole pot for. They take away the ability to get them locally so they can drive the prices up and make money off the people who don’t know any better.
There are some things you can look out for to spot a scalper. Was the plant listed in a plant sales group? Is it on Facebook marketplace? Seller doesn’t have their own page, website, and/or Etsy. Only accepts payment through Facebook, although they are starting to use PayPal as well. If using PayPal, they ask you to use the “Friends and Family” option. Cash only, a big red flag. “Got this last week, Re-homing” or “Plant Purge”. Sellers not charging tax or posting even dollar amounts, i.e. no change. These are all good indicators of people who flip plants. Which ultimately harms our local small businesses. There are a few questions you can ask if you think someone is not a legit business. You can ask if they are a licensed business and if they have a Permit to sell from Department of Agriculture. If they are Legit, they will have no problem showing you!
In my state (Washington), you must have a permit through the Department of Agriculture to sell houseplants if you sell more then $100 of any plant material in a year. This means, bulbs, cuttings, rooted plants, etc. As a plant seller, you are regulated by the US Dept. of Agriculture, required to know interstate plant shipping laws, as well as have an endorsement allowing you to propagate plant material to be sold. Each state has slightly different laws, so you need to be aware of what your laws are. In Washington state, it is $1,000 fine for selling any plant material without a permit. Taxes are a different topic entirely. The Department of Agriculture is important because they help prevent invasive species from spreading, protecting our farmland and wild habitats from pests that have a devastating effect on our environment. Below are some links for Washington Department of Ag regulations.
Click to access BrochureLicensePlantMaterials.pdfhttps://bls.dor.wa.gov/nursery.aspx
When you are buying plants to add to your collection, be wary. Try to buy from a local small business, many of them can order in special plants for you, or have a “look out for” list. When you buy from someone who has the permit to sell, not only will the plants be cleaner, you also know that they come from reputable sources and are not being poached from the wild or imported illegally. Try to avoid buying from Scalpers as it encourages price gouging, allows them to continue avoiding taxes, and perpetuates the problem.