I first became aware of variegated monsteras/ monstera albos in 2019, when they began springing up on pinterest boards. I was living in NYC, moving apartments too frequently to do more than dream of having an oversized, multicolored plant that cost as much as my monthly student loans. My thought, at the time, was that once I became more stable and established, the supply and price of a variegated monstera/ monstera albo would drop down from their absurd price of $125 for an unrooted cutting into some manageable, preferably local Home Depot purchase of $20, and I would buy two of them so that my monstera could live her life with a companion and thus grow beautiful, non resentful white leaves. And so you can imagine my surprise in 2021 when I found myself debating with UPS on whether they could deliver my package that day (they couldn’t) as there was a $330 leaf cutting inside of it that was nonrefundable and would die if not delivered to my sunny, grudgingly hot Miami home. But before getting into the details of the journey, for those that have lived the past few years under a rock:
What is a variegated monstera?
While there are several different types of monsteras, they all share that they are large, hard-to-kill houseplants that have become Instagram darlings due to their photogenic foliage, reasonably cheap price tag and distinctive “swiss cheese” leaves. While monsteras are easily acquired plants that fall in the $40 price range, a variegated monstera/ monstera albo is more elusive. Variegated is basically a fancy word for a plant that is multicolored, and in this case, an ideally variegated monstera will be equal parts white and green. The reason that these plants are so difficult to acquire is that while there is a huge demand for them, the white found on their leaves is actually a mutation, and so the only way to reproduce the plant is to cut off a portion of a fully grown, mature plant with the mutation. Said another way, there are no seeds that can be taken and no fast way to reproduce them outside of waiting for a rare monstera to grow big enough to hack off a portion and then regrow that portion into a new place. Obviously, this results in not just expensive plants, but substantial fraud. When I decided that I was going to be taking the plunge and purchasing a variegated monstera plant, I was faced with the reality that even if you can foot the bill, you can’t just go to The Plant Store and pick one up – you had to find one. (A note: while I love my monstera albo, it is not my favorite monstera plant. I go through my favorite monstera plants here).
It took a week of research to find the plant. I ignorantly started by calling local nurseries in Miami Beach, where I was hung up on twice without an answer and told by two others that they have never had them and probably would never have them. I then decided to narrow my search- I had essentially been looking for my Lamborghini plant on the used car section of Craigslist like an idiot. I instead looked up dedicated rare plant nurseries based in the US. I found two and reached out, but was told that they did twice annual restocks (This is apparently a thing?!) and to join their mailing list. Apparently, maybe, in 4 months, there would be a monstera albo that I might be able to bid on. To be very clear, at this point it wasn’t even about the plant. I was having an AMS episode (Aggressive Millennial Shock) due to the fact that I was desperately trying to give hundreds of dollars to someone, anyone, and all they had to do was hand me a plant. I bribed a coworker of mine that lived in NYC (“I will give you a 50% finders fee”) and even sent out a blanket story on Instagram begging for leads.
Eventually, I found a blog that detailed how they got their albo monstera, and I followed in their footsteps by looking through Etsy. Admittedly, there are TONS of monstera albos on Etsy, but you really need to do your research and read reviews to make sure that the plant that you are buying is the right plant. Some tips if you do decide to go through Etsy:
- Try and stick with a US based seller- International sellers will have to go through customs and a longer shipping process which can result in the death of the plants
- Understand that you are not going to get an actual plant- You will be getting a cutting that you then place in water for the roots to grow in. I found one full grown plant on Etsy which is selling for $10,000 and will not ship.
- Read past reviews from the seller- This seems like a no brainer, but when you start seeing the price tags, it can be tempting to buy a $50 option. These options, however, are likely not actual Albo Monsteras or are cuttings that are not viable and will not turn into a plant when you receive it.
- If you drop me an e-mail, I can tell you the specific Etsy seller that I worked with.
In the early a.m. hours in May, I managed to find my perfect plant cutting, with a dealer that had over 300 sales with great reviews, at a price point I could afford and a shipping turnover that was ideal. Unfortunately, my journey to receive my plant still included having to convince Etsy that I was legit (“Please take my money!”), convince my bank that the transaction was legit (“Of course I’m trying to order a plant for $300? Why is that suspicious?”) and convince UPS that the wrong zip code they were look at was just an illusion (Fuck you, Craig), which I’ll get into in the next part of this series next week.