A woman has sparked a debate on social media after claiming that she has grown her own collection of plants by taking pieces off of the plants she encounters in businesses.
Rae, who goes by the username @raaee____ on TikTok, made the claim in a video posted this week, in which she could be seen sitting at a restaurant table and snapping a branch off of a nearby hanging plant.
“When someone asks where do you get all your plants,” the TikToker wrote in a text caption on the video, which saw her laughing as she placed the leafy branch in front of her.
In the caption, Rae, who frequently shares glimpses into her extensive plant collection on TikTok, added: “Honestly proud to say I’ve only bought one plant.”
The process of growing a new plant from the cuttings of another plant is called plant propagation, and it is a common undertaking among plant owners. The concept of taking parts of a plant from businesses to do so led to the creation of the term “proplifting,” which Wikipedia notes is a portmanteau of propagate and shoplifting, and which it defines as: “The practice of taking discarded plant material and propagating new plants from them.”
According to the Wikipedia page, the term was coined by Sarina Daniels, the founder of the r/proplifting Reddit subreddit, as a joke, but has since become a widely used term among the plant community, where it has become a divisive activity on the basis that some claim it is theft.
On TikTok, where Rae’s video has since been viewed more than 2.8m times, viewers in the comments were divided over her claim, as some suggested the TikToker was wrong to be taking pieces off the plants in establishments because it’s a “big no no in the plant community”.
“Please do not do this. Big no no in the plant community,” one person wrote, while another said: “Don’t pick off plants, if it’s fallen off on the floor it’s free game, but please don’t rip plants apart.”
Someone else said that they have plants in their own business and would “hate to see” the plants being ripped by a customer. “I have plants in my small business and would hate to see that people ripped off a bit. Just ask the owner,” they wrote.
“Please don’t steal. Just ask. It doesn’t take many people doing this (or doing it wrong) to make them look bad or damage the plant,” another person said.
Other viewers suggested that there are certain instances where it is fine to take pieces of a plant in an establishment to grow your own, such as when the branch has fallen off on its own.
“If it’s a chain, proplift away, but pls don’t hurt small businesses plants,” one person said, while someone else claimed: “Nah that’s kinda disrespectful. It’s different if it’s already failed off the plant.”
However, the video also prompted many viewers to reveal that they too grow plants using the method, while noting that the process does not “hurt the plants”.
“I do this too,” one viewer wrote, while someone else said: “I do the same thing so I’m not alone.”
Another person added: “Okay but this is really smart. It doesn’t hurt the plant at all and now you have your own and can make more when yours grows big like this too.
“This is actually good for the plant and buying plants is harmful to the environment because it’s a lot of water, plastic, processing, & transportation,” someone else claimed, while one TikToker said: “You need to trim it anyway so why not .”
According to The Spruce, there are many ways to propagate new plants, but the easiest is by “snipping off a piece of stem, placing it in a potting medium, and nurturing the cutting until roots develop”.
The outlet also notes that stem cuttings, which will result in “an exact genetic match to the parent plant,” can be taken and rooted at almost any time, but that the technique is most successful “when the plant is not in full bloom” .
While Rae did not clarify whether she was joking or not, she previously claimed that she “thrifted” her plants in response to a user who’d asked where her plants were from.
The Independent has contacted Rae for comment.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.