Rare Plant Fairy Attracts Local, National, and Even International Collectors

Business owner Jocelyn Ho has found success cultivating and selling rare tropical plants right here in Detroit
rare plant fairy
Jocelyn Ho in front of the living plant wall at Rare Plant Fairy’s showroom. She is holding her own unreleased cultivar: monstera deliciosa fairy dust.

Jocelyn Ho is determined to become the best rare plant supplier in Michigan. While she admits that’s a pretty big goal, she’s already off to a good start. Her business, Rare Plant Fairy, is the only one of its kind in Detroit. Through it, Ho grows and sells more than 100 rare and exotic houseplant species — including monsteras, philodendrons, alocasias, and more — sought after by local, national, and even international collectors. 

It all started in April 2020 when Ho, who grew African violets as a child in her native Hong Kong and continued to nurture both rare and common plants over the years, needed to sell some of her rare plants to free up space in her and her husband’s downtown Detroit apartment. One weekend, she decided to list a few of them for sale on Facebook Marketplace. She made $1,000.  

“That was the seed money for the business,” Ho, 37, says. Like many people during the first wave of COVID-19 lockdowns, she was at home with plenty of time on her hands. So, why not turn a longtime hobby into a business? 

In the months after those successful sales on Facebook, Ho came up with a name for her business, registered for sole proprietorship, and listed about 50 rare and common plants for sale on Facebook. Rare Plant Fairy quickly developed a loyal fan base of customers from around the country.

“Things were going really well,” recalls Ho, who studied botany and plant physiology at the University of Toronto. She found her niche in rare plant varieties with variegated leaves and has become known for her monsteras — her favorite genus, hence the monstera leaf in the business’s logo — particularly the monstera deliciosa variety called Thai constellation. 

Prior to launching her website earlier this year, Ho would post every Friday on Facebook, selling hard-to-find plants like the philodendron pink princess, known for its pretty pink pigmentation; the aglaonema pictum tricolor, a plant with a camouflage-type pattern featuring three different shades of green; and anthurium crystallinum, a dark green plant with striking white veins, to name a few. The average price for a plant is around $200 — however, there are many offerings for $100 and less. The most avid collectors looking for especially rare finds should be prepared to pay thousands; at press time, a variegated philodendron billietiae was the priciest offering available, listed online for $16,000. “They’re valued at almost $2,000 per leaf,” Ho says. 

In April 2021, Ho and her husband, Sean O’Neill, moved Rare Plant Fairy out of their home and into a former truck warehouse in Detroit’s Islandview neighborhood. They turned the 2,000-square-foot space into a temperature- and humidity-controlled nursery. This past March, Ho opened a showroom within the nursery to hold consultations with customers by appointment. 

“I didn’t really want to have like a traditional storefront on a strip mall,” Ho says. “Opening the showroom, that is really for fun and to meet the community.” As soon as folks walk into the space, they’re greeted by a permanent living plant wall mostly comprising anthuriums from South America. Most of the nursery is designated to the plants, of course; tiered shelves, terrariums, and makeshift greenhouses contain strawberry shake philodendrons, variegated banana trees, begonia feroxes (known for the soft spikes on their leaves), monstera albos, and much more. Ho even “makes” her own plants by cross-breeding plants. The nursery is 100 percent powered by solar and wind energy through DTE Energy’s MIGreenPower renewable energy program. 

Rare Plant Fairy has had customers from every state and has reeled in international clients hailing from Dubai, Thailand, and France. The business wholesales to more than 100 brick-and-mortar shops around the U.S., including many in Michigan. Locally, Ho has held plant giveaways and pop-ups with other local plant vendors. As Rare Plant Fairy continues to grow, she hopes to continue building up the city’s rare plant scene. 

 “I really want to build a whole industry for Detroit,” Ho says, adding that the owners of several local businesses she wholesales to have been able to quit their jobs and sell plants full time, just from reselling her plants. “I think that is kind of materializing.” 

If that’s not a measure of growth, we don’t know what is.

Rare Plant Fairy, 1111 Bellevue St., Detroit; rareplantfairy.com

Plus, Check out Rare Plant Fairy’s Next Event 

On Aug. 13, Rare Plant Fairy, Ecuador-based Ecuagenera, and 20 local plant vendors will participate in Plant Swap & Social Detroit’s latest pop-up. Attendees can enjoy barbecue and live music and shop for indoor tropical plants. $5. Amore de Roma, 3401 Riopelle St., Detroit; facebook.com/plantswapandsocialdetroit

This story is from the August 2022 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more in our digital edition.