P50,000 Per Leaf: Meet Cebu's Ultimate Plantito

IMAGE PJ CAÑA

Jaime Chua is a landscape architect by profession, but these days, he’s more well-known as a gardener and plant collector. In the Busay neighborhood of Cebu City, he owns a sprawling 1.7-hectare farm and plant nursery called Blooms and Greens, where there is an abundance of rare plant species that he sells to collectors and fellow enthusiasts. 

“I specialized in landscaping and gardening,” he said to a small group of journalists visiting his garden upon the invitation of the Department of Tourism. “Instead of building houses, I build gardens. But really, the planning and everything’s the same, although building a garden is easier than building a house. A garden is much simpler.” 

Jaime Chua at his garden in Cebu

Photo by PJ Cana.

Chua says he had always been into plants and started joining garden shows when he was younger. Then one of his classmates asked him to do the landscaping for his house. Soon, he started getting more clients through sheer word of mouth.

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Blooms and Greens is home to over 5,000 kinds of plants, although it specializes mostly in anthuriums, philodendrons, orchids, bougainvillea, and monsteras.

Pandemic plantitos

“People are really looking for plants now,” he said. “Even I myself was surprised. Before the pandemic, these kinds of plants will sell only to the very serious collectors. But now it trickles down to the hobbyists.” 

The obvious question is just how much the plant business shot up during pandemic. 

“Like the plants before, you could buy it for about P25,000. Now it’s like half a million (pesos). The bigger ones will cost like P1.5 million.” 

He points to a specific plant, which he says is worth P500,000.

“We also have the waling-waling, an orchid which is only found in the Philippines. We collect and grow them.”

He then leads the group to a small area of potted plants, where the leaves have holes in them. He says these are called monstera obliqua, a particularly rare species of plants native to Central and South America. One of these small potted plants will set buyers back about P150,000. It's P50,000 per leaf.

“There’s another plant from the Amazon that’s a bit cheaper but from the same family,” he said. “This one is from Ecuador." 

The rare monstera obliqua

Photo by PJ Cana.
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Rare plants

Chua points to another plant. “This one is called syngonium chiapense. This plant will cost P150,000. It’s relatively rare. I acquired it in Indonesia because that’s where it comes from. It’s $3,000 for two leaves.”

The collector and business owner explains that there is a steady demand for these types of rare plants. Many of them are in 30 to 40 year-olds, or the so-called millennials, many of whom seem to have taken a liking to growing and caring for plants.

“They like the rare plants," he says about the age bracket. “The older crowd, they like the not-so-expensive plants. Even until now. It’s the new buyers that are buying like crazy.” 

Chua explains that some of his customers buy in order to sell them to other people, so the original customer can buy other plants.

Asked about which particular plant species is currently the most popular, he points to a row of poinsettias and the anthuriums. 

“They’re not so expensive and always in bloom,” he said. “A pot like that would cost like P600 to P800. A poinsettia is P500.”

Photo by PJ Cana.
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And if a client is looking for something that Blooms and Greens doesn’t have, Chua said they’re willing to procure it for them if they can wait. Otherwise, he can just refer them to other plant suppliers, especially if they’re in a hurry.

Clearly Chua is cashing in on the plant craze, which doesn’t seem like it’s waning anytime soon. The garden’s modern greenhouse is stacked with all kinds of plants that are just waiting for the next plantito or plantita to take them home.

“For newbies, I would recommend something easy or not so expensive,” he said. “There are philodendrons that are (affordable). So for beginners, mid-range, because cheap ones won’t be as interesting to them. So try something not so difficult then gradually, you can proceed to more expensive plants.”

Jaime Chua’s Blooms and Greens is located at Bonbon - Sudlon 2 Barangay Road, Cebu City. To know the latest updates and travel advisories about the Philippines, visit Philippines.Travel or download the Travel Philippines App at the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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