Consumer interest in houseplants is at an all-time high, and it shows no sign of waning. Here are the latest info on today’s houseplant market, along with the hottest trends and most creative marketing ideas.
By Nita Robertson, AIFD, CFD
Houseplants not only improve our physical and mental well-being and productivity but also enhance our living and working environments. Plants help make indoor spaces come to life by bringing aspects of nature inside, and as humans, we have a primal connection with nature.
Plants have always been popular, but the growth in the houseplant market has been significant during the last few years. The plant market is booming today, and it is predicted to continue growing. According to a 2020 study conducted by CivicScience, a consumer trends research firm in Pittsburgh, Pa., 66 percent of consumers in the U.S. have at least one houseplant. The market outlook is strong, and consumers of all ages remain eager to bring houseplants home. To take advantage of this boom, provide a wide range of plant options for all your customers’ needs and tastes.
Houseplants have taken social media by storm, especially Instagram. Gorgeous photography of plants can inspire others to collect plants of their own. The massive boom in popularity is especially strong among millennials and Gen Z consumers (41 years of age and younger). Just take a look at social media: Hashtags like #plantsmakepeoplehappy, #plantsofinstagram and #urbanjungle are trending on Instagram, and the entire platform is full of beautiful photos showcasing cozy homes and offices full of potted plants.
A trend started by millennials is the idea of plant parenting, which simply refers to caring for houseplants. Millennials and Gen Z-ers are invested in experiences, and they consider houseplants as products that feed into experiences. Reach out to these generations through social media outlets, and share your plant and floral offerings and knowledge.
“According to the National Gardening Association, spending on houseplants grew 30 percent in 2021,” shares Katie Dubow, president of the Garden Media Group, a public-relations agency specializing in the home-and-garden market. “In fact, the estimated number of households participating in indoor houseplant gardening in 2021 reached a four-year high, at 38.1 million. Houseplants make excellent gifts, whether as self-care or for any occasion. One of the biggest trends we’re seeing is using houseplants as centerpieces and décor at baby showers, wedding showers and other celebrations, as we return to gathering. They’re mementos of special moments that last for years. And as people look for ways to save money, houseplants not only offer affordable ways to decorate and but also provide a gift at the same time.”
In a span of 40 years, Nature’s Way Farms, a woman-owned plant growing operation in Miami, Fla., has evolved from a 1-acre plot into a 260-acres farm, with an additional 30 acres added in 2020. Over the years, Nature’s Way Farms has culled distinctive collections of plants curated specifically for the landscape and the home.
“We are setting trends in helping consumers create mini landscapes indoors,” explains Dawn Wilson, founder and president of Nature’s Way Farms. “We pair perfect combinations of houseplants in upgraded pots and create multi-use plant combinations that consumers use as centerpieces at their special gatherings and later in their homes.”
The Wright Gardner, an indoor office plant design and maintenance company in South San Francisco, Calif., has been designing customized plant and flower arrangements for the San Francisco business community since 1987. It is a full-service family-owned company that offers interior plant design and maintenance; fresh floral services; exterior landscaping; and custom horticultural pieces including living walls, moss art and holiday décor.
Christian Figueroa, CFO at The Wright Gardner, says that the biggest trend is the demand for modern and unusual indoor houseplants. It is trending to have weird and different when it comes to houseplants. “We have moved away from bushier looks to more architectural, upright, modern look,” Figueroa notes. “Dracaena marginata [common name: Madagascar dragon tree] and Sansevieria cylindrica [now reclassified as Dracaena angolensis; common names: cylindrical snake plant, African spear and spear Sansevieria] are the most popular at the moment.”
Recently there has been an increase in demand for plants for commercial spaces, especially corporate offices. “Companies are having more plants installed to create lush and inviting environments for their staff,” Figueroa explains. “They are using plants to encourage people to come back to the office by improving employee experiences at work. Houseplants create healthier and more vibrant and productive workplaces for employees, customers and guests. When a company provides and maintains plants, employees feel like management cares about their work environment.”
Research indicates that interior plantscaping keeps clients, tenants and customers happy and healthy. Did you know that workers in office environments with natural plants, greenery and sunlight report a 15 percent higher level of well-being, are 6 percent more productive and are 15 percent more creative? (Source: “The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace”)
According to the Experts
According to Natasha Pantelides, product design and development director at Accent Décor, a home décor company based in Chamblee, Ga., there are so many functional yet playful plant products that are on trend, including:
• Pots with distinctive saucers, whether it’s interesting feet, an unexpected shaped saucer or just a new proportion to a pot and saucer;
• Plant stands with sculptural qualities;
• Hanging planters and wall planters that beautifully blend plant care and home décor;
• Pots with interesting textures in neutral colors;
• Simple pots in a rainbow of colors;
• Self-watering planters.
Costa Farms, located in Miami, Fla., is a 60-year-old family-run company and one of the largest growers of new and unusual houseplants and outdoor garden plants in the world. Justin Hancock, a certified professional horticulturist and brand marketing manager at Costa Farms, shares the following information about the latest trends in houseplants as well as few of Costa Farms’ top-selling plants.
• Variegated Foliage: Plants with variegated foliage are still on fire in the houseplant world. Any plant with green leaves sporting speckles, splashes or veining of white, cream, yellow, silver, pink, purple or other colors seems to immediately take on style status. Among the trendiest right now include Philodendron erubescens ‘Pink Princess’ (blushing Philodendron), ‘Global Green’ pothos (Epipremnum aureum‘Global Green’) and polka-dot Begonia (Begonia maculata), but tried-and-true plants like golden pothos, crotons (Codiaeum) and Dieffenbachia still hit high notes with consumers, as well.
• Statement Plants: There’s also in sizeable plants that make statements. Among high-impact plants are Monstera deliciosa (Swiss-cheese plant, split-leaf philodendron), rubber trees (Ficus elastica) and white birds-of-paradise (Strelitzia nicholai).
• Trailing Plants: A decade ago, hanging houseplants were seen by many as passé. But younger generations have discovered how hanging houseplants from hooks in walls and ceilings not only saves space but also keeps them out of reach of children or pets. Hanging houseplants such as Philodendron, golden pothos (Epipremnum), wax vines (Hoya) and spider plants (Chlorophytum) have definitely made a comeback.
• Texture: Today’s plant parents see their collections beyond just size and color. Texture has become important, too, with consumers flocking to frilly ferns, big-leaf plants like Ficus lyrata (fiddle-leaf fig) and Monstera deliciosa (Swiss-cheese plant, split-leaf philodendron), as well as intriguing varieties like Peperomia caperata ‘Schumi Red’ (red-ripple Peperomia) and Pilea involucrata ‘Moon Valley’ (‘Moon Valley’ friendship plant).
• Raven® ZZ (Zamioculcas zamiifolia)
What’s not to love about this plant? It features intriguing purple-black foliage and an incredibly easy-care nature. It may be among the top 10 houseplants in terms of tolerating neglect. This makes it perfect for beginners and a choice selection even for plant pros.
• Dracaena trifasciata ‘Laurentii’—formerly known as Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’
(striped/variegated mother-in-law’s tongue, striped/variegated snake plant)
You can’t go wrong with a classic like this. It’s incredibly durable, able to go weeks without water (if need be) and tolerant of low light conditions. Stiff sword-like leaves edged in gold give these houseplants a modern look that is a perfect accent for contemporary décor.
• Geogenanthus ciliates (geo plant)
Crowned the “‘It’ Plant for 2022” by The New York Times last April and winner of the “Cool Product Award” at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition in January, this plant features glossy, purple-black, paddle-shaped leaves. It stands out from every other houseplant with its one-of-a-kind look.
Marketing Tips to Increase Houseplant Sales
It is important to offer a variety of fabulous containers that customers can choose from to pair with their plant choices. Pay attention to current home décor trends, and offer a line of vessels that are distinctive and desirable. Create customization options and multiple price points by offering different containers for the same plant.
It is also crucial that you add your artistic twist to plant designs, to set yourself apart from discount and big-box stores. Options include customizing plant designs with decorative wire accents, handmade trestle structures, gnarly branches, moss or wire spheres, moss and seasonal accents. During the holidays, dress up plants by adding seasonal décor like pine cones, branches of winterberries, miniature ornaments and more.
The Wright Gardner, an indoor office plant design and maintenance company in South San Francisco, Calif., shares some marketing tips for selling plants. According to Christian Figueroa, CFO of The Wright Gardener, there are two tops factors to consider in making your plant sales a success. “Number one, be confident in your pricing,” he advises. “Plants are expensive, but never apologize for the price. Remind customers of the incredible impact that plants will create for every staff member and guest who enjoys them. Second, provide high-quality images to help customers envision what specific plants look like in home and office environments.”
Kelsey Thompson, AIFD, CFD, owner of Bloom in Algona, Iowa, shares several of her fabulous social marketing ideas for boosting houseplant sales and attracting and retaining customers. “Many consumers became new plant parents during the pandemic or started exploring propagating and collecting different varieties of houseplants as a hobby,” she says. “And that’s one habit they aren’t dropping! Market your shop as the go-to place for plants and accessories. Unique planters, decorative watering cans, small bags of soil, propagation tubes and care books are easy add-on sales. We offer a ‘Plant Parent’ gift box that kicks off a six-month houseplant subscription, and we also have created custom plant care tags for each type of plant we sell. Signage with QR codes in the plant section lead shoppers to short educational plant videos we’ve made and to links to our plant blog on our retail website.”
Thompson continues, “Plant-themed social media is always a top performer for engagement and sales. We hold Facebook plant auctions and live sales. We also connect with our social media followers by having them share their plants with us; we even hosted a virtual ‘Plant Pageant’ that was a big hit and grew our page following by 5 percent. By submitted photos and names of their plants, consumers became qualified to win prizes. Another popular post is to have customers vote for ‘Who Wore it Best,’ showcasing two in-store plants, pictured side by side, in the same pot.
“Positioning yourself as a plant expert will attract both growing newbies and plant fanatics,” Thompson continues. “Post educational videos on social media, and host workshops on repotting, propagation and basic plant care. Hosting a ‘plant swap’ will bring in new customers and create a community of plant fans that keep your shop top of mind.”
Houseplant Stats and Facts
• Seven in 10 millennials (26- to 41-year-olds) call themselves plant parents.
• The average plant parent has killed seven houseplants.
• Houseplant demand surged 18 percent during the COVID pandemic.
• 66 percent of American households own at least one houseplant.
• Only 15 minutes of interaction with houseplants daily reduces stress levels.
• Houseplants improve productivity by up to 15 percent.
• People with multiple plants in their workspaces take fewer sick days.
• Houseplants remove up to 87 percent of airborne toxins in just 24 hours.