Why America Needs Plant Evangelists

Carol Miller resized for online
Carol Miller

Consumers under 50 years old aren’t all that different from those over 50. Humanity doesn’t change all that drastically from generation to generation. But when it comes to gardening, we’ve found that this group really is dramatically different from their elders.

For the past three years, I’ve been working with Dr. Bridget Behe of Michigan State University through our own 10% Project to better understand why gardening and plants have decreased in popularity, and to figure out if we as an industry can reverse that trend.

We’ve conducted research in Georgia, Ohio, and most recently, in Ontario, Canada. The Canadian study is still on-going, so I’m not free to share specifics from that study. However, the results so far are in line with what we’ve learned from other parts of North America.

Here are two points I think everyone in the industry should be aware of.

People Aren’t Spending As Much Time In Their Yards As They Used To

If you only go into your yard to mow the grass, you’ll associate the term “gardening” with chores. Younger consumers focus more on all the work involved and see little of the pleasure that beautiful gardens can provide.

The great outdoors is appealing, but today’s consumers experience it away from home. It’s in a ball field for the kids’ game, on hiking trails, or at a nearby waterfront. Dinner party guests are more likely to gather around a kitchen island, not the grill or patio. Kids play indoors or attend structured programs like sports or dance classes. No yards involved.

At first glance, this seems like too big a trend for our industry to counter. Luckily, our research shows that parents worry about how disconnected their children are from nature. They want them to understand where food comes from, and they want them to have family memories built around the seasons.

There’s a tremendous opportunity to appeal to parents. Marketing messages can tap into their desire to keep their children healthy and help them build self-sufficiency. Growers and retailers can offer their expertise on which plants are ideal for beginners. They can identify and assemble all-in-one kits and projects designed to make gardening fun and successful.

Younger Consumers Don’t Know A Lot About Growing Plants, and They Hate Feeling Ignorant

We haven’t done a good enough job of making plants approachable. Consumers see a beautiful yard and assume only someone with an arcane, mystical understanding of nature can achieve that type of success.

That same attitude used to exist for interior design and cooking. But personalities and popular television shows have helped make everyone feel like they have some skill.

While we may not be able to control the programming at HGTV, we can act as ambassadors to our own communities. That means we all should get out to venues where people gather and emphasize how fun and easy it is to bring plants into daily life. We can all find ways to meet our neighbors and community leaders and help them understand plants better.

These barriers are not insurmountable. In fact, consumers are right on the brink of falling in love with gardening the way they have with cooking and home improvement. All we need to do is show them the way to success.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Why America Needs Plant Evangelists

  1. As an old old gardener I see a lot of things that are generational gaps. Most young people would rather buy produce than grow it…..that is because it is easier, what they dont see is the chemicals applied to make the produce look saleable…..chemicals that I have strong reason to believe are cancer causing…..the 2nd thing is young kids are not taught to garden…..as a child I remember my mom giving me bean and radish seeds to plant, she did this because both sprout rapidly and produce something you can eat……as a child picking and eating what I planted was a miracle, I was forever hooked with gardening. when I was a kid mom was home all of the time, dads salary was enough to support our family, now it is just the opposite, both parents work to make ends meet, gardening has taken a back seat to other chores both parents work on after their regular job . Perhaps gardening could be taught in schools at entry level.

  2. Great article. We have built a platform for ‘Plant Evangelists’ on Plantsmap.com so that others can learn and be inspired by them. We hope to cure ‘plant blindness’ across demographics and make it an inviting place for anyone to join in regardless of experience or growing interest. It allows for a shared knowledge base to learn together but at the same time you get to keep your own plants and collections as yours with your information. Our demographics so far show a nice equal range from 18 to over 65.

More From Greenhouse Grower's GROW...

November 22, 2017

Growers Showing Renewed Interest in Specialty Cut Flowers

At the brink of its 30th anniversary, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers is connecting a diverse and growing group of members dedicated to producing and marketing cut flowers.

Read More
Griffin Pennsylvania Expo

November 22, 2017

Griffin Sets Dates for 2018 Grower & Retailer Expos

The company will host two Expos next year — one each in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — and each will be a two-day event.

Read More

November 17, 2017

How You Can Help Berger in Donating to Hurricane Harvey Victims (While Learning More About Plant Production)

Between Nov. 23-27, Berger will donate $1 for every download of its free technical plant production guides to hurricane relief efforts.

Read More
Latest Stories

November 9, 2017

Dümmen Orange Throws Support Behind Seed Your Future In…

Dümmen Orange has announced it will pledge $450,000 over the next three years to Seed Your Future, the non-profit organization whose mission is to promote horticulture in the U.S. and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.

Read More
Marshall Dirks, Proven Winners

October 28, 2017

5 Rules for Creating a Lifetime of Outdoor Garden Memor…

Many customers are time starved. Their most important asset is time, not money, so be realistic about the investment of both when they are buying plants.

Read More
Living Umbrellas

October 25, 2017

Why Living Umbrellas May Have a Bright Future

Sometimes innovation strikes by chance. Such was the case with David Tilley, developer of the “Living Umbrella.”

Read More
Luxflora Paris Trip

October 20, 2017

Luxflora Paris Trip Offers Insights on Trends Shaping H…

Each year, Luxflora hosts an international trip that allows participants to gain insights on trends and gather inspiration that ultimately will shape and support our industry in many ways. This year’s event took the group to Maison & Objet and Design Week in the City of Lights – Paris, France.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

September 23, 2017

Producing Quality Plants in the Greenhouse Starts From …

It's common for growers to make mistakes. What you learn from those mistakes is what sets you apart as a grower and where quality starts.

Read More
Quality in the Greenhouse

September 21, 2017

Two Head Growers and a Retail Live Goods Buyer Talk Bes…

Ultimately, the quality of the plants you grow will be responsible for the success of the consumer, and consumer success will ideally translate to repeat sales. That’s why quality must be a top priority for all growers, according to Brad Julian, a Live Goods Buyer for Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Head Growers Dennis Crum of Four Star Greenhouse and Joe Moore of Lucas Greenhouses.

Read More
Jan Gulley, Gulley Greenhouses

August 25, 2017

Why It’s Important to Educate and Engage the New Hortic…

Young adults entering the workforce have more professional choices than ever before, and many want to work in environments in which their work has a clear purpose for both the organization and society at large.

Read More
Seed Your Future feature

July 26, 2017

Seed Your Future Aims to Inspire Careers in Plants

Who will be the next generation of horticulturists? The answer lies in helping to change the perception of horticulture and using contemporary new language to tell our stories.

Read More
Albert Grimm, Jefferys Greenhouses

July 8, 2017

How You Can Use Lifestyle Marketing to Sell Plants

Should we be trying to educate consumers into loving what we like to produce, or should we allow consumers to educate us into producing what they love?

Read More
Metrolina Make a Wish Greenhouse

July 7, 2017

Metrolina Builds, Decorates Greenhouse for Young Cancer…

When Michael VanWingerden and his wife Courtney heard through their work with the Make-A-Wish foundation that 11-year-old Jason wanted a greenhouse to grow vegetables in, they knew Metrolina Greenhouses could help.

Read More
Metrolina Greenhouses Dig and Swig Event

June 25, 2017

Consumers Revel in Gardening at Metrolina Greenhouses’ …

Metrolina wanted to promote plants, gardening, and creating a sense of community, so it decided to host Dig & Swig events at a local brewery.

Read More

May 23, 2017

6 Simple Ways to Acquire New Customers

Even the most successful brands need new customers if they want to grow their business, or stay profitable.

Read More
Tyler Beasley

May 21, 2017

Final California Spring Trials Thoughts From Allan Armi…

“I went home from California Spring Trials realizing that the students enrolled in our Greenhouse Management program at Spokane Community College need to experience the trials. Attending opened many doors of opportunity for me.”

Read More
Cannabis Adobe Stock feature

May 1, 2017

Why I Turned Down a High-Paying Offer to Grow Cannabis …

Young growers have passion for all aspects of organic and sustainable growing. The key to not losing them to the cannabis industry, according to Kelly Vance, a Technical Consultant for Beneficial Insectary, may be nurturing their interests in these fields by aligning greenhouse production with sustainable growing practices.

Read More
National Collegiate Landscape Competition Feature

April 27, 2017

Hoffman Nursery Cheers On the Next Generation of Hortic…

Hoffman Nursery was a sponsor of the recent 41st National Collegiate Landscape Competition, an event that offers several opportunities for companies in the green industry to meet and recruit the next-generation of horticulturists.

Read More
Kaylee South

April 22, 2017

American Floral Endowment Announces Winners of 2017 Pau…

Four students pursuing careers in horticulture now have scholarships to help them along the way, thanks to the American Floral Endowment.

Read More
Basil Planting feature

March 29, 2017

How You Can Embrace Greenhouse Food Production With Con…

Maintaining balance, learning continuously, and seeking support will help make your transition into producing greenhouse food crops a smooth one.

Read More
If your Wi-Fi is truly secure, your staff can help customers on the sales floor starting today

March 25, 2017

What Marketing Approach Can Attracts the Most Customers…

Inc.com surveyed more than a thousand customers to find out which marketing strategies worked best to entice them to try out a new business

Read More