Perennials are on the upswing again, and one of the reasons is that they display so much better at retail now. When I first got into this business, only the early spring-blooming perennials showed color. The rest were small green clumps. The clumps had lots of potential, but only knowledgeable gardeners could see it.
Easy maintenance and versatility make them an easy choice for consumers.
A few years ago, if you were asked what kind of plant came in hundreds of shapes and sizes, dozens of colors, could thrive in virtually any type of container, be used in wedding bouquets, and required almost zero maintenance, you probably would have answered, “artificial.” Now you would probably answer, “succulents.”
Succulents indeed fill all those qualifications, and more. They have become, as plant guru Allan Armitage said recently, “the hippest plants on the market.” Succulents have moved from back benches of the greenhouse to the forefront of, well, nearly everything remotely related to flowers and gardening. Place settings for a dinner party? Check. Bridal arrangements? Check. Fairy gardens? Check. Potted patio containers? Check. From green roofs to xeriscaping, succulents can be found everywhere.
Some popular crops unfortunately are difficult to root, taking longer on the bench, more time in the mist house, and requiring more heat during those early weeks than more easily rooted plants. Of course, that means increased costs of production. Growers unhappy with this situation should explore the option of purchasing callused cuttings, which have already gone through this high-cost, high-maintenance stage and are ready to be stuck and grown on.
Choosing from the vast number of varieties requires careful selection, discipline and attention to customers’ needs
For industry veteran Gary Falkenstein, managing your product line is all about simplicity, both in the number of varieties to offer and in the sizes to grow. Falkenstein, owner of ePlant Source, an online provider live goods to professional greenhouse growers and garden center retailers, knows the decisions growers face regarding their product offerings each year aren’t easy. But he says it is vital to go through the proper steps to analyze your offerings — both to keep their numbers manageable and to have the right amount and sizes available at the time customers need them.
“The number of varieties available today from breeders is astronomical,” Falkenstein says. “Just a quick look on our website shows more than 1,000 varieties of petunias and 226 calibrachoas. And there’s always a tendency when new varieties come along, whether you are a finisher or a young plant supplier, to add to the mix. You may have calibrachoas from three breeders already, but when another one comes along, you add it instead of subtracting or even use the principle of the best of the best."
Topics: Professional Greenhouse Grower
Why subtracting from your product mix can add to your bottom line.
With hundreds of new varieties being introduced this year, to be added to the hundreds that were introduced last year, on top of the year before that, how do you begin to make choices that are smart for your business? How many new varieties should you add? How much should you rely on popular old favorites? Should you offer a large assortment of sizes to be sure to accommodate your customers’ needs or trim down to focus your resources but risk losing sales? It’s a tough question that growers and brokers wrestle with every year – with good reason, because their choices have a big impact on the bottom line.
Topics: Professional Greenhouse Grower
Coleus have been attracting a lot of attention in the last few years and why not? They are eye-catching and easy to grow — and thanks to several new series from Terra Nova Nurseries, they are now even easier because they are bred for no-pinch, no-PGR production.
“We want them to be easy,” says Chuck Pavlich, director of new product development at Terra Nova Nurseries. “It’s the philosophy behind most of our Terra Nova plants — to be the easiest to grow at all stages: for the liner producer, the wholesale grower, the retailer, and ultimately, for the end consumer. We want our plants to be less expensive to produce because of labor costs and chemical costs. And that also makes us more likely to be picked up by more customers.”
With the noticeable absence of the once-ubiquitous monarch butterfly and the White House’s release this summer of its Pollinator Research Action Plan, consumers are at last becoming aware of a topic once confined to research papers and entomologists’ conferences. Coupled with the high-profile neonicotinoid controversy and the alarming decrease of honeybee colonies, people are starting to ask, “What’s happening?” and, more importantly, “What can I do?”
This is where you come in. Promoting pollinator-friendly plants, along with tags and packaging that communicates the message shows consumers how they can be part of the solution. Encourage your retailer customers to create displays focusing on the plight of pollinators along with suggestions on how to help, from creating backyard habitats to having bee-friendly plants in pots or hanging baskets. It’s a win-win, because many pollinator plants are easily available, fragrant and/or have attractive flowers (to attract pollinators, of course!).
There are dozens of choices, but here are 10 types of plants that not only attract bees and butterflies, but customers, too.