Plant Boarding: Is It A Growing Trend?

While visiting my daughter, she told me about a news story she watched about an orchid doctor. Intrigued as to what an orchid doctor does, I looked it up myself. Sure enough, this gentleman was a long-time orchidaceae grower in Virginia that specialized in plant boarding other people’s orchids.

Originally, he only grew and sold his plants, but after a few people began asking him to maintain their flowerless orchids, his efforts developed into an entire greenhouse full of boarded plants. Charging $2.00 a month, he now profits more from this business than growing his own. 

Making good money boarding plants? This idea surprised even me! I’ve seen how attached people can get towards their office plants. I’ve experienced company executives (mostly men for some reason) refuse to allow me to change out their ficus tree or reflexa even when they resembled a twig more than a plant.

I’ve also been paid to help revive personal plants that were given by a spouse or inherited from a deceased loved one. But, keeping the plant and actually boarding it is something I have never considered.

Plant Sitting

During the housing boom, several clients hired me to plant sit while they vacationed, but I always went to them to service. Luckily, that one to three-week span was easy to keep everything alive and happy.

The worse plant sitting incident that happened was pulling into my client’s circular driveway and seeing all the gorgeous flowers gone from two massive—and very expensive—urns flanking the front entrance. Three days before, the blooms were full and healthy. Now, it looked like someone took hedge clippers and chopped off every flower, leaving just the stems. 

As I’m freaking out over the replacement cost, I notice a group of kids playing down the street. The only thing I could fathom was bored kids playing a joke. I was ready to go down there, knock on the door, and rat them out to their parents or, more likely, the nanny. It bothered me all day as I tried to figure out how I would explain this situation. There wasn’t a single flower left on the ground, which seemed implausible if kids did it. 

plant boarding deer

Driving home, I almost hit my answer. Two deer were standing by the road and, thankfully, they decided to stay put instead of running out. I had my culprit: deer. This neighborhood was a newly build development in an area known for wildlife, especially deer. Thank goodness, I didn’t run down those kids and accuse them of destroying my client’s flowers like I wanted to do!

Plant Boarding Interview

From my experiences, taking on the responsibility of caring for someone’s prized foliage can be tremulous and risky, especially if you cannot replace it. I wondered what the orchid doctor did in this situation? Did he replace the client’s orchid with a new one?

As I watched the video interview, it showed the orchid doctor calling a customer to inform her, after six years of boarding, her orchid would never bloom. Instead of being irate, she asked him to bury it for her. I doubt most customers would be so accepting after paying for years of care.

To me, calling clients with disappointing news would be the most difficult part of the job. Like a veterinarian informing a client you did all you could to save their beloved pet, such news has to be emotionally draining. Especially after you tell them their pet is dead and hand them the bill.

Plant Boarding Greenhouse

plant boarding orchid

Another advantage the orchid doctor has in his favor is the right facility and staff to handle boarding. There’s an important reason why most interiorscape companies outsource our foliage inventory to commercial greenhouses. Maintaining a greenhouse requires daily work and dedication.

When I first entered the horticulture business working for North Florida’s largest ornamental grower, I was shocked to learn at least one of the twenty head growers had to be on sight every day of the week, including weekends and holidays. I had no idea that a plant you watered once a week had to be monitored 365 days a year. Maintaining plants indoors takes much less effort. If you are willing to deal with the emotional repercussions, managing the right facility and the extra staff, plant boarding could be the next horticulture trend.   

Sherry has been part of the interiorscape industry for over fifteen years, starting at an entry level job at North Florida's largest greenhouse and currently owning two horticulture companies. At UMaine, Sherry majored in English where she worked part-time writing scripts for a local college TV studio.

Fiberglass Planters

Join the Community