Houseplants have received an enormous boost in popularity from Instagram. As you would expect, this led to houseplant influencers, or “plantfluencers,” who sell trendy plants like the pink princess philodendron, shown above. When the pink princess became hot, it began to be called a rare plant. It’s not rare because it’s endangered, but because of the demand. A pink princess philodendron that sold for a few dollars a couple of years ago can now command hundreds of dollars. Jeannie Nguyen is a plantfluencer who sells cuttings of in-demand plants, including the pink princess.
So when Nguyen noticed a new pink plant making the rounds on Facebook last year, she was intrigued. The pink congo philodendron’s leaves were pointy, not heart-shaped like the pink princess, but they had the same shock of bubblegum. Nguyen had never heard of the plant before, but already she saw it was approaching pink princess-level prices. When she found a seller on Facebook offering a pink congo for $70, she nabbed it. If the pink princess was anything to go by, Nguyen thought, she could be buying in to the next big thing at a bargain. When her new pink congo grew big enough to sell the cuttings, she might even strike it rich.
What Nguyen didn’t know at the time was that her latest investment was unlikely to yield any viable pink cuttings at all. The pink congo is not a variegated plant, like the striking pink princess philodendron, but a Cinderella plant—one that would return to an ordinary philodendron in a matter of time. Another plantfluencer would later call it “a massive scam.”
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