The Houseplant Seed Scam Epidemic

Have you ever tried buying houseplant seeds on Ebay or any other ecommerce platform only to get scammed? I have, and so have a ton of other people, and that’s the reason Plantflix exists today.

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to get my hands on some houseplant seeds. I wanted certain plants, but paying $20+ for a small plant just didn’t seem worth it to me. On top of that, I love to garden and have always loved growing plants from seed. So I went on Ebay, found some Watermelon Peperomia and Calathea seeds at ~ $2 for 100-1000 seeds (wow what are the chances)! They seemed to have a good overall rating so I put in an order.

Fake Peperomia Seedlings

The seeds were shipped from China, so I finally got them a month later, and I couldn’t be more excited!! They took another few weeks to sprout, and while they looked a little thin compared to how I would have imagined a succulent-type plant like peperomias to look, I stayed hopeful.

In case you haven’t had much experience gardening, when seeds sprout they put out baby leaves first that don’t usually resemble the adult leaves. When those baby leaves gather up enough energy, that’s when the large adult leaves start to come in and that’s when you can really be sure of what type of plant it is. So it took another few weeks for those adult leaves to pop up and low and behold, they were definitely not Peperomia seedlings(they were some sort of marigold seeds).

I was annoyed, but thought, “well, what do I expect, I got these seeds for cheap from China so that’s my fault thinking it’d be so easy”. I started seeing other people posting about similar situations. Someone got mustard seeds, someone got lettuce. I looked back to the shop to see if there were any bad reviews and surprisingly, there really weren’t many. The overwhelming majority just said, “I got the seeds” but didn’t clarify if the seeds sprouted or were the right ones at all.

Monstera Deliciosa Seeds…this is what they’re actually supposed to look like!

Their scam was beautifully worked out. They put out listings for highly desired houseplants for cheap, “Monstera Albo” “Calathea Ornata” and more exotic houseplant varieties, so people get excited and buy a bunch of their seeds. The shipping and the actual time it takes to realize the seeds aren’t legit takes so long, I think most people just don’t bother to complain or report these sellers.

If it was just me getting screwed, I would have just moved on, because like everyone else, I wasn’t particularly angry about being down $5 on a bad investment, but here’s the thing…I’ve been working on start-ups for around 4 years at this point, and the main thing I’ve learned in that time period, is if you take your business seriously and commit to good, quality service, then you win in the long run. It’s really not that hard to offer good service, so just do your freaking job properly, make sure your customers are happy, and everybody wins! There’s no need to trick people into giving you money, especially when there’s so much opportunity for good business out there. If you choose to lie to and scam people, not only are you going and creating needlessly bad experiences for people, but you’ll likely be out of business pretty quickly because your bad reputation will catch up to you. So do your business with integrity, it’s really that simple!

I diverge. So when I see scammers like these continuing to profit without any consequences, you can imagine I get a little peeved, and that’s really the driver for why I decided to find my own, valid source for the seeds. It took a little while, but I found them! They’re a wholesale grower in San Diego, and considering I personally had no use for 1,000 monstera seeds(where was I going to keep all these plants in my tiny condo), I decided to start selling them and become a credible provider for houseplant seeds and hopefully uproot the scammers so we can pave the way for legitimate sellers.

A happy li'l 4-5 month old Monstera Deliciosa Seedling

So here we are! I launched in September, and a couple of months later, I’ve been blessed with a ton of support for Plantflix, and every post I see from someone updating on their seedlings makes my day :) Even though I don’t make as many sales as the scammers, I get to have excited customers posting progress updates for healthy seedlings as feedback and it inspires me to do more and keep growing Plantflix :) (seriously, send me you pictures of the seedlings I love seeing them)

One other benefit, I love that people are experimenting within the hobby, and are able to find something else to do with plants other than just going broke ordering $500 plants and competing over who has the bigger collection on Instagram.

So spread the word! Make sure to let your friends, family, followers know about those scams, and to encourage everyone to validate the sources from which they purchase seeds. It doesn’t have to be from me(although I would appreciate that ;) ), just make sure to ask questions like “can I see progress pictures of the seedlings?”, “where do you source your seeds?” and other things like that so you can verify that the place you’re buying from is legit. Even though the seeds may only cost you $5, it’s important! Don’t let the scammers keeping doing what they do, and support the honest businesses out there. <3

If you want to find some tips about how to distinguish the honest sellers from the dishonest one, I have a post on it right here.

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