The latest info on today’s houseplant market, along with the hottest trends and marketing ideas.
By Nita Robertson, AIFD, CFD
Selling plants can be profitable; however, choosing the right niche is critical. That niche can include green houseplants, flowering plants, succulents, cacti, or specialty or rare types—or even perennials, vegetables or seasonal. Find an area of interest to you and your market area—that would be profitable—and develop knowledge of those plants; become the expert in your area on a specific type (or types) of plants. That said, choose your plant inventory carefully, and keep in mind that a diverse selection can attract a broader customer base.
Data Bridge Market Research, a market research and consulting firm in Maharashtra, India, reports that the indoor houseplants market worldwide was valued at USD 17.93 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 26.23 billion by 2029. The growth rate of the indoor plants market in forecast period of 2022 to 2029 is 4.87 percent, so there is plenty of room to be successful with plant sales.
Increasingly, plant lovers have become interested in collecting unusual and rare houseplant types and varieties, especially plants with interesting foliage patterns, colorings and variegation. “We foresee a rise of interest in golden foliage,” Shares Katie Dubow, president of Garden Media Group, a public-relations agency specializing in the home-and-garden market and based in West Chester, Pa. “On the heels of the current boom in pink-and-white variegated foliage, gold will be the next bold color to brighten homes and offices. Our favorite golden-hued plants include ‘Chameleon’ ZZ plants [Zamioculcas zamiifolia], ‘Lemon Meringue’ pothos [Epipremnum aureum], ‘Painted Lady’ Philodendron [P. erubescens], ‘Golden Violin’ Philodendron [P. bipennifolium aurea] and ‘Golden Crocodile’ Philodendron [P. pinnatifidum × melinonii].”
Justin Hancock, a certified professional horticulturist and brand marketing manager at Costa Farms, a large grower of new and unusual houseplants and outdoor garden plants based in Miami, Fla., shares, “As we navigate a period of economic uncertainty, we see consumers look at houseplants as a way to add life, comfort and wellness to their indoor spaces. Sales aren’t rising as meteorically as they did during the pandemic, but they continue to be strong and aren’t showing signs of decreasing. Houseplants make us feel good and add to our social status—just look at the nearly 10 million houseplant photos tagged on Instagram or the 4.6 billion views for TikTok’s ‘PlantTok’ hashtag.
“One major influence on the industry is the accessibility of formerly rare plants that are now readily available from tissue culture,” Hancock notes. “For example, ‘Pink Princess’ Philodendron [P. erubescens ‘Pink Princess’] is in production by growers large and small, helping consumers of all experience and income levels add it to their plant collections.
“While sales are steady, trends seem to be, too,” Hancock continues. “We’re still seeing a lot of interest in plants with variegated foliage, particularly plants streaked, splashed or otherwise marked in white, silver or pink. Consumers are delighted to find hip varieties like ‘White Knight’ Philodendron [P. erubescens], Schismatoglottis wallichii [drop-tongue plant], ‘Global Green’ pothos [Epipremnum aureum] and ‘White Aspen’ corn plant [Dracaena fragrans] at retail and gleefully posting their new finds on their social media channels of choice. Statement plants—those with big, bold foliage and that instantly add to the tropical feel of any home or office—continue to be hot, with varieties like white bird-of-paradise [Strelitzia nicolai]; Monstera deliciosa [Swiss-cheese plant]; and white, cream, pink and red variegated rubber trees [Ficus elastica] selling consistently well, especially in urban areas. We’re also seeing a lot of interest in easy-care plants like ‘Chameleon’ ZZ plants; ‘Lemon Meringue’ pothos; and Aglaonema [Chinese evergreen] that are variegated with pink, red, white, cream, gold, silver and other colors, all of which are rewarding and beautiful even if consumers forget about them from time to time. Who doesn’t love the promise of a plant that pretty much takes care of itself?”
Patricia (Patti) Fowler, AIFD, CFD, owner of Flowerama Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pa., says that houseplant sales have continued to be strong post-COVID, with the most popular being 4-inch and 5-inch plants that are suitable for a desk or side table. “Plants have a positive impact on our mental health, productivity and creativity, and caring for them and watching them grow can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment,” she says. “The most popular plants in our area are orchids and succulents, largely due to their low maintenance requirements and wide range of shapes, sizes and colors.”
In addition to thoughtfully selecting a houseplant niche, corresponding inventory and quality suppliers, it is important to offer a variety of containers from which customers can choose to pair with their plant purchases. Pay attention to current home décor trends, and offer vessels that are distinctive, desirable, and on trend and that are available in a range of prices.
“Function comes first, and as long as the pot is the right size, there are inspiring trends in color and technique that really pop,” says Natasha Pantelides, vice president of Design at Accent Décor in Chamblee, Ga. “In addition to great classic neutrals like black and white still going strong, we see green emerging as an important color. We love adding an artful take to function and including a mix of fresh colors, special details like a foot, a mix of matte and shiny finishes, interesting textures and glazes, and unexpected whimsical motifs on pots and playful character plant sticks that bring joy and humor in the mix.”
Remember that the houseplant market can be competitive, so differentiating yourself through quality, customer service and a unique brand identity is essential for long-term success. Building a community around your brand, where plant enthusiasts can connect and share their experiences, can foster customer loyalty. Develop a strong online and offline presence to market your plant business. Use social media, your website and local advertising to reach potential customers. Here are a few ideas.
• Create a visually appealing website that showcases your range of houseplants, with high-quality images and detailed information about every plant.
• Post high-quality images of your plants, share care tips and engage with your audience on social media platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Post regularly on your social media accounts and website, to keep your audience engaged.
• Run contests, giveaways or challenges that encourage user-generated content and participation.
• Offer workshops, webinars and/or blog posts on plant care, to help customers nurture their plants successfully. • Create informative videos about plant care, plant styling and the benefits of indoor greenery.
• Employ SEO techniques to ensure your content ranks well on search engines.
• Provide specific care instructions for each plant you sell, both in store and online, to increase the likelihood of success with the plants customers purchase.
• Provide excellent customer service by assisting customers in choosing the right plants for their needs. Ask and answer questions, and elaborate on specific plants’ care requirements.
• If you have a physical store, create an attractive and organized display to showcase your plants. An inviting and well-maintained store can encourage impulse purchases.
Veronica R. Oh Happy, owner of Oh Happy Plants! in Seattle, Wash., says, “I’m seeing an increase in demand for good houseplant care information based on science and data rather than old wives’ tales, nebulous terms like ‘low light’, etc. I urge my wholesale customers (plant shops) to educate employees using science-based information. So much of the information available online isn’t quite true and just frustrates their customers when the ‘experts’ at the plant shop don’t provide accurate information that solves their problems. Providing excellent service and accurate diagnoses of houseplant issues as a way to improve customer retention and increase word-of-mouth marketing.
“I’m also seeing more demand for plant-specific soils for both collector plants as well as old standards,” Oh Happy continues. “Retail customers are getting smarter and more discerning in every arena, and the houseplant market is no different, so that’s the need we’re working to fill with our products and free online info.”
Marie Danielle Vil-Young, founder and creative director at À Votre Service Events in New York, N.Y. and Milltown, N.J., adds, “We hear all the time from customers that they don’t have a green thumb, so I make sure my staff is well educated on the plant options to recommend. We are proactive in matching our clients with the right plants for not only their settings but also their habits and lifestyles. For example, I ask questions about the home, office or whatever setting the plant will be living in—whether the space will receive sunlight or has only artificial light—so I can assess the plant’s need for sunlight. ZZ plants, pothos and Chinese evergreens thrive in lower light. For someone who travels a lot, I recommend lower-maintenance plants that can survive and thrive with less care, such ZZ plants, snake plants, spider plants and pothos plants. I have also been experimenting with plants that can be grown in just water such as pothos, Monstera, Philodendron and Begonia.”
Vil-Young continues: “My background as a scientist has been tremendously helpful in advising my clients about watering, type of soil, propagation, pest identification and control, disease control, how to recognize when a plant is ‘sick,’ and how to cure those problems. When selling, the more knowledgeable one is, the more confidence the customer will have in making that purchase. In addition to plants, we sell plant care products, including plant-specific fertilizers and soil mixes, pest-control products, plant lights and more, as well as beautiful, unique pots.
“A tip for making all this easier is to categorize and display plants according to the levels of care, light and maintenance they need,” Vil Young recommends. “For example, so I would not recommend plants such as Calathea, which require more expert-level care, with just the right climate and watering, in the section for plant parents just starting their journey. Customers will get discouraged if a plant does not survive, and our strategy of alleviating clients’ anxiety about plant care and giving them the tools for success ensures they become repeat customers.”
On the topic of watering, Vil-Young elaborates, “I explain to clients that how often they will need to water a plant depends on several variables, including light, room temperature and humidity, air circulation—all variables that affect how quickly the soil will dry out. I also advise them to pay attention to the soil moisture deep in each pot—not just the surface soil—to determine how quickly the soil is drying out.”
Vil-Young also points out that her success in selling houseplants is also due to understanding her clients’ demographics. “For example,” she says, “our higher-end clients prefer larger, more impactful plants. They are impatient about watching their plants grow; they want more instant gratification. They want beautifully designed spaces, and they are prepared to invest in more mature plants.” Vil-Young also proffers that in areas largely comprising younger consumers with less disposable income, 4-inch and 6-inch potted plants might be the best-sellers.
“We also add artistic touches to our plants and plant designs, to set our offerings apart from discount and big-box stores,” Vil-Young adds. “We incorporate decorative wire accents; handmade trestle structures; gnarly branches; moss or wire spheres; moss; and seasonal accents such as pine cones, branches of winterberries, miniature ornaments and more.”
THE MYRIAD BENEFITS OF HOUSEPLANTS
Phots by Marie Danielle Vil-Young, À Votre Service Events
Plants provide not only beautiful ways to enhance any space but also plenty of wellness benefits. Spending time around plants has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.
Air Purifiers: Many houseplants, such as spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) and snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata, formerly Sansevieria trifasciata) are known for their air-purifying properties. They help remove toxins like formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia from indoor air.
Improved Air Quality: NASA’s “Clean Air Study” found that certain houseplants can effectively remove indoor air pollutants, contributing to better indoor air quality
Humidity Control: Houseplants release water vapor through a process called transpiration, which can help increase indoor humidity levels. This is particularly beneficial in dry indoor environments.
Mood Boosters: Studies have shown that interacting with and caring for houseplants can reduce stress, boost mood and improve overall mental well-being.
Improved Concentration: Having plants in one’s workspace or study area can enhance concentration and productivity. They provide a calming effect that can aid in focus.
Natural Décor: Houseplants add a touch of nature and beauty to indoor spaces. Because of their various shapes, sizes and colors, they are versatile decorative elements.
Aromatherapy: Some houseplants, like lavender (Lavandula) and jasmine (Jasminum), release pleasant fragrances that can promote relaxation and better sleep.
Low-maintenance Options: There are many low-maintenance houseplants, making them suitable for beginners or individuals with busy lifestyles. Examples include succulents, Philodendron species, pothos (Epipremnum aureum), ZZ plants (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), snake plants (Dracaena trifasciata), Chinese evergreens (Aglaonema spp.) and many others.
Natural Stress Relievers: Caring for and nurturing houseplants can be a therapeutic and rewarding hobby. It provides a sense of accomplishment and responsibility.