Emerging Garden and Plant Trends for 2017To boost sales next year, dig deep into these consumer desires.
Americans love to garden, to the tune of $36 billion a year. That’s how much U.S. households spent on their lawns and edible and ornamental gardens in 2015, according to the 2016 National Gardening Survey from the National Gardening Market Research Company. That’s an average of $401 per family, up from $317 in 2014, which was a five-year low, the survey found.
The multibillion-dollar question for owners of lawn and garden businesses, of course, is whether sales will continue to grow in 2017. Indications are that they will. In fact, global business intelligence firm IBIS World projects indoor gardening will grow more than 6 percent every year through 2021.
To boost sales in 2017, keep your finger (or green thumb) on the pulse of these trends.
Indoor plants for wellness
Consumers are “going green” in more ways than one. Gardeners and non-gardeners alike are increasingly aware that exposure to greenery, including in the workplace, is essential to wellness.
Houseplants placed in offices lead to less stressed, more productive workers. And progressive companies are embracing a “culture of health,” probably due in part to changing employee expectations.
“New research from the Georgetown Institute for Women and Security reveals that millennials and women want a more value-added workplace,” said Katie Dubow, creative director at Garden Media Group in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, which issued a garden trends forecast for 2017, the Garden Trends Report Grow 365. Stocking a variety of houseplants should help garden store owners meet the demands of customers seeking a happier, more wellness-oriented workspace and home environment, according to the report.
Justin Hancock, consumer marketing and digital specialist at Costa Farms nursery in Miami, said it will help business owners who sell houseplants to know that even a single plant in a cubicle can improve memory, concentration and problem-solving.
If consumers ask for advice in selecting plants, Hancock suggested advising them to choose ones that need the light conditions their space provides. If customers are looking for more than one plant, Hancock said a good sales tactic is to recommend plants with a variety of leaf shapes and colors because that will bring them closer to what they experience in nature.
Growing food and herbs indoors
Stock your benches year-round with edibles. Why? With more consumers living in small spaces or urban dwellings, people are increasingly embracing indoor gardening, growing everything from herbs to arugula within their walls.
The indoor gardening market has grown 8.2 percent in the last five years according to the Grow 365 report.
Garden business owners can expect new indoor growing systems, such as GrowBox and GrowWall by OPCOM Link USA, to increase consumer demand for herbs, leafy greens and even climbing plants like tomatoes.
Millennials may drive sales of edibles for these new systems. “About 18 percent of U.S. millennials don’t garden because of limited outdoor space,” said Rajeev Mishra, vice president and general manager of California-based OPCOM Link USA, which is launching its new systems in November. “Our systems solve that problem, and we are excited to see who our biggest customer group will be.”
Attracting insect-eating birds to yards
Business owners can expect customers who are concerned about the Zika virus or want to garden free of chemicals to ask for plants that will repel mosquitoes and other insect pests, according to the Garden Media report.
These customers have likely heard that some herbs, such as lavender and rosemary, or a few flowering plants, such as citronella geraniums, have natural oils that repel insects. This belief, however, is “not borne out by science,” said Walter Reeves, host of “The Lawn and Garden Show” on WSB-AM in Atlanta.
If customers ask for insect-repelling plants, Reeves advised steering them to common berry-producing plants. These plants, he said, will attract birds that will eat insects plus the berries. Berry-producing plants Reeves recommends include American beautyberry, hollies, viburnums, blueberries and raspberries.
Bat houses are another item the Garden Media report suggests business owners could offer customers as a natural way to control insects. One bat house can hold 25 bats. A single bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects every hour, usually 6,000 to 8,000 each night.
Environmentally conscious customers may also be swayed by shrubs or trees that provide shelter and nesting sites.
About 75-percent of all U.S. households participate in do-it-yourself lawn and gardening activities, the National Gardening Survey estimates. Because many of these households can be expected to be joining in the global movement to downsize not only homes but gardens, don’t be surprised if customers ask for help selecting plants for “tidy gardens.” Tidy in this case doesn’t mean clipped hedges and 90-degree corners. Instead, it reflects a growing effort by many to reduce consumption.
Sharee Solow, landscape designer at Solow Horticultural Designs in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, suggested business owners stock shade plants such as evergreen dwarf azalea, dwarf mondo grass and threadleaf Japanese maples. For sunny locations, she thinks plants such as groundcover roses, ornamental blue grasses, creeping thyme and blue-mist Spirea would appeal to customers.
Gold never seems to lose its value, in jewelry, coin, bullion or the garden. Business owners shouldn’t expect 2017 to be different. When it comes to golden foliage, the garden just can’t have enough, according to the Garden Media 2017 forecast.
“Gold is having a magic moment that will last a number of years,” said Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery, a landscape designer and blogger in Tucson, Arizona. “One amazing thing about plants with gold leaves in any region, when planted in mass, they are complete show stoppers, like amber waves of grain.”
She said business owners in dry regions would do well to stock golden barrel cactus. Elsewhere, she suggested garden shops could strike gold with Katsura Japanese maple, gold or yellow forms of carex and Goldy arborvitae. Rising Sun Redbud is a small tree business owners could stock that would light up any garden with its golden yellow leaves that turn incredible shades of orange in the fall.
When used outdoors, these and other pops of gold warm up spaces and help move light nicely around the garden, said Przygoda-Montgomery.
What millennials want
Five million of the six million new gardeners in 2105 were 18 to 34 year olds, according to the 2016 National Gardening Report, making millennials a key market force.
To help nursery owners understand their gardening interests, Lindsey Cummins, CEO of Winq, a social media polling app for millennials, conducted a one-day poll of the Winq nationwide database. Winq users are between ages 18 and 34 and skew female. Each of the questions below received 2,000 to 4,000 responses:
Q. Do you grow your own herbs and/or vegetables?
Yes: 14 percent
No: 86 percent
Q. What would you be interested in doing in gardening if you aren’t doing it already?
Starting an herb garden: 64 percent
Growing my own veggies: 36 percent
Q. Do you prefer to grow herbs indoors or outdoors?
Indoors: 41 percent
Outdoors: 59 percent
Q. Do you keep any plants on your desk at work?
Yes: 38 percent
No: 62 percent
Q. Why do you keep plants on your desk at work or in your home?
Decoration: 21 percent
To create a sense of calm: 79 percent
When selling to millennials, remember that this demographic values authenticity, ethics and corporate social responsibility. So while you’re selling plants and garden supplies to boost consumer wellness, also take steps to boost the wellness of your own workers and your community.