Wanted: Repeat plant buyers

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Europeans purchase ‘cash-and-carry’ plants regularly. It’s time to teach the American consumer to follow suit.

February 29, 2016

Photo: Angela Treadwell-Palmer

This time of year is the perfect time to write about gift plants, as Valentine’s Day has passed and other spring holidays are coming.

My husband feels that Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday and it’s all about making men feel bad, and coaxing them into buying perishable flowers that won’t even last a week.

What’s wrong with him? Does he not know about gift plants? They can last for months. Doesn’t he realize that perishable flowers pay the bills in our industry and they are not a waste?

Do American consumers realize that blooming potted hydrangeas and hellebores can last for weeks inside? And that it’s perfectly fine to let them bloom their hearts out, wither and die and then buy a new one for more months of enjoyment?

It appears not.

Americans don’t think the way Europeans do when it comes to giving plants as gifts. Europeans buy fresh flowers and what they call “cash-and-carry” plants (gift plants for us) every week. Talk about repeat sales. Do most Americans buy plants in garden centers, groceries or flower shops on a weekly basis?

Um, no.

They do in Europe. It’s a part of life. For some reason, Americans have been conditioned to think that killing plants is a bad thing. Even if it is a throw-away miniature rose that never had a chance, we feel badly when we “kill” it. Those are bred to bloom and then they die because, well, they need six hours of real sunlight to live and hardly anyone has that inside. They still look really pretty when you buy them and they continue to look nice for a few weeks. They make you smile. It’s totally like cutting a fresh Christmas tree from a tree farm. Believe me, I’m not one for cutting down any tree, but these trees were grown to be covered in holiday lights and baubles. For each one cut down, another is planted. Gosh, if the entire world worked that way, we’d have much cleaner air.

With gift plants, the motto should be – the more they die, the more they buy. Right?

We need to say, “Get over it, America. It’s OK to kill plants.” Well, some plants, that is.

I’ve seen more gift plants for sale lately. Growers are experimenting a lot. The problem is, we don’t sell enough because not enough people buy them, so you see a smattering of things and it’s a bit unpredictable — kind of like shopping at Marshalls.

Some of the coolest gift plants I’ve seen have been succulents galore — yes, even the painted ones, as well as hellebores, herbs, forced bulbs, tiarellas, campanulas and mini orchids.

We’ve come a long way from offering only orchids and miniature roses, that’s for sure, but we need to be certain consumers know it’s okay to treat these plants like a bouquet of cut flowers. Buy them, enjoy them, and when they start to wither (unless they need water), toss them and go out and buy a new one.

So this is my new mission. I truly believe gift plants are the answer to consumer sanity during the dark, dreary months of winter, and one of the many ways we can get people to BUY MORE PLANTS.

Did you hear me? BUY MORE PLANTS!

Teach consumers that it’s OK to let these cash-and-carry plants die. Sadly, they’ll use a plastic baggie in their lunch, barely get it dirty, and have no qualms about throwing it in the trash. Please teach them to do the same (after they enjoy the beautiful flowers, of course) with gift plants.

Angela Treadwell-Palmer founded and co-owns Plants Nouveau LLC., a company that specializes in introducing and marketing new plants to the nursery industry. She’s been around the world, experiencing world-famous gardens and remote areas looking for new ideas and exciting plants. angela@plantsnouveau.com