A far cry from the vehicles Standard Motor Truck Co. rolled off the assembly line in Detroit’s 106-year-old Belt Line Center — designed by legendary architect Albert Kahn — the rare and exotic plant sanctuary Jocelyn Ho created on the complex’s first floor has rooted itself firmly in the collector community.
Ho spent years as an avid collector herself, propagating more plants on her own before switching sides in April 2020 and opening Rare Plant Fairy.
“I grew them in these cabinets. These are the same cabinets from my living room — 1,000 square feet — so it wasn’t much,” she says, gesturing to four small glass cabinets from Ikea. “I had to be very efficient.”
A little over two years later, the business is one of 14 in the world that’s been invited to be a vendor at the 45th annual International Aroid Society Show and Sale on Sept. 24-25 in Miami. The company now offers wholesale, too, which it began rolling out in February and fully opened in March and April, which are better months for shipping plants.
The warehouse shelving is full of plants. So full, in fact, the company is adding a large adjacent space in the building to house its increasingly complex operations that include planting tissue cultures shipped from a cloning lab in Thailand operated by Ho’s cousin, a staff kitchen, and offices.
Ho started by herself, but has hired her first five employees this year. In addition, her husband has come on board to help with paperwork and other business tasks like payroll.
In spite of the growth and the accompanying activity, the plants have never shifted from the spotlight. Ranging from household names like monstera and philodendron to lesser-known genus’ like aglaonema and hoya, they can be one-of-a-kind or well-known collectors’ plants.
“We’re leaders in terms of rare plants. There are plants that are untested in the market — I only have one or two of them — and those are the ones I would put in my retail shop,” Ho says. “Other places are looking for more common rare plants because they don’t know what they have if (a plant) is the only one in the world.”
Ho says the business does its best to be eco-conscious. She enrolled in DTE’s MIGreenPower program and focuses on sustainable shipping practices like combining orders whenever possible and reusing packaging while maintaining a professional look.
“It’s about having the reputation of the Rare Plant Fairy. About being the person you go to for the most exotic plants you’ve never seen before,” she says.