Consumer Education On Plant Care

If gardeners are broken down into segments, one segment will try to get as much information about the plants they purchase as possible. They are the customers who purchase gardening books, participate in Master Gardener workshops or check for further information on your Web site.

The second (and probably much larger) segment of gardeners don’t ask any questions or don’t know to ask questions. They just buy the basket or pot and walk out the door. For this second segment of gardeners, the plant tag becomes their primary or only source of care information. As an industry, we therefore have a problem (and an opportunity)!

Consider most plant tags. The goal of the A side of the tags is to attract the consumer to purchase the plant, identify the plant name and brand and show how the plant can work well in the landscape. The goal of the B side is to give cultural information. However, often the information is too generic to be of much use. To quote tags from a typical company: "Fertilizer: monthly for best growth" or "Water: as needed during dry weather." Advice to apply water or fertilizer "as needed" or "regularly" or keep media "semi-moist" is meaningless to a novice or inexperienced consumer.

Consumers who are knowledgeable about plant care are more likely to succeed with large potted plants and their success will increase future sales. We encourage you to evaluate whether the B side of your tag gives your customer the best chance of success. The exact wording you use to describe this information will depend on the size of the tag and the amount of space allocated to cultural information (generally around 80 to 100 words).

Enough detail is needed on the tag to provide useful, specific information. For example, after the purchase is made, what are the most important decisions we want to influence? The biggest priorities (and therefore number of words) are to put the pot in the right place and then water it correctly. If the pot is to last more than a few weeks, fertilization may be needed and, depending on the cultivar, deadheading spent flowers. 

Put It In The Right Place

Should the plant be placed in a sunny/partial sun/shady spot? Will the plant be killed by frost? How long can the consumer reasonably expect blooms to remain (taking into account heat, cold and day length)?

Terms should not be overly technical. What proportion of our new consumers understand "cold hardiness" or, worse, an undefined zone? There is not much room to describe temperature tolerance, but can this information be distilled down to clear instructions, such as "Bring indoors during frost"? 

Proper Watering

Water relations in a 10-inch hanging basket could be described in detail. For example, a finished 10-inch basket plant uses 16 to 32 fluid ounces of water per day. The "average" root media in a 10-inch basket will retain about 60 fluid ounces of plant-available water. Finally, a dry basket weighs 2 to 4 pounds, and a thoroughly irrigated basket weighs 6 to 8 pounds.

However, most greenhouses grow a large number of pot sizes so getting specific about the amount of water that needs to be applied to the pot may be impossible. The key information the consumer needs is: "Water when soil feels dry and basket feels light (every three to five days in gray cool weather or every one to three days in dry summer). Water until some water drains out the bottom and the pot feels heavy." You may be able to come up with a better description.

Extra watering details may not fit onto most currently sized tags, but can be helpful. If the media in the pot or basket has become excessively dry and has shrunken away from the sides of the pot, extra care is needed when applying water. Remember, just because water is running out of the bottom of the pot, it does not mean the media is fully moist. One method of reapplying water to a dry pot is to water multiple times over a few hours. If the basket or pot is small enough, it can be placed in a bucket and allowed to soak for 10 to 20 minutes. For a large pot or basket, it may be best to place it under a lawn sprinkler for an hour or more to rehydrate the media.

Vacations are the time when containerized plants die due to lack of care (usually lack of water). Before leaving, the plants should be watered thoroughly and then moved to a sheltered area with less sun. For example, the north side of the house, under the shade of a tree or even inside a garage or house. Upon returning, move the plants back to their normal location. Flowering may be reduced for a couple of weeks, but the plants will still be alive and should recover. 

Proper Fertilization

Fertilization is clearly a challenge, and label advice depends on whether the grower/retailer has pre-applied nutrients. An ideal approach for home performance would be for the grower to surface-apply slow-release fertilizer immediately before sale, although we recognize this adds additional labor, time and cost. Assuming the grower has applied little if any slow-release fertilizer, the consumer should purchase slow-release fertilizer and surface-apply it themselves at label rates.

With 17-6-12 slow-release fertilizer (four to six month), one tablespoon (about 18 grams) applied to a 10-inch pot at the end of production was sufficient to maintain a number of different species for three months with some additional water-soluble fertilizer applied at the end of the summer. A 2 tablespoon rate (about 36 grams) lasted through the summer without any need for additional water-soluble fertilizer. Because of the wide variety of pot sizes sold by most greenhouses, a recommended surface-applied rate would be to use the medium to high rate for the slow-release fertilizer product, or if a lower rate is used, additional water-soluble fertilizer applications may be required. An alternative strategy is to purchase a water-soluble fertilizer, and apply it at medium label rates every one to two weeks as a regular watering.

Traditional water-soluble fertilizers sold to consumers typically contain between 15 and 25 percent nitrogen, along with phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients. Using 20-20-20 as an example, 1 to 2 teaspoons (about 0.2 ounces or 6 grams per teaspoon) put into 1 gallon of water will supply about 300 – 600 ppm N. This solution can be applied to a container as a thorough watering every one to two weeks to maintain active growth and flowering through the summer. If applying fertilizer with every watering, cut the rate in half (0.5 to 1.0 tsp/gallon).

Liquid fertilizers typically have much lower concentrations of nutrients in the formulation, so the rate should be increased accordingly. For example, a liquid fertilizer containing 8 percent nitrogen would require 2 to 4 tsp/gallon, giving a solution with a concentration of about 250 to 500 ppm N. With organic-type fertilizers with very low concentrations of nutrients, follow directions on the label. 

Deadheading

Some species require grooming on a regular basis. For example, geraniums, fuchsia and Nonstop begonias are three cases where the presence of dead or dying flowers can cause disease problems and the formation of seed pods may reduce flowering. Removing dead flowers or seed pods on a weekly basis improves the appearance of many plants and may help the plant bloom more vigorously. Cultivar selection for minimum care is more likely to succeed than requiring the consumer to deadhead.

Growers and retailers work hard to produce a quality hanging basket. However, inexperience or neglect by a consumer can quickly ruin months of growing a quality plant, making them hesitant to purchase a similar container next season. We encourage you to check your labels and overall approach to consumer education.

Leave a Reply

More From ...
The-Capitol

July 7, 2015

Washington Gridlock Could Block Industry Research Funding

The latest standoff on Capitol Hill could have some implications for the floral industry, including future funding for floriculture and nursery research initiative activities, says Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations. “Republicans in the House and Senate are determined to work within the sequester-imposed limits for domestic spending in the federal budget, but Democrats have threatened to block any appropriations bills until Republicans agree to spend more money than that agreement allows,” McBurney says. “With both sides digging in, there could be an impact on budgets that affect programs and services important to the floral industry.” The back and forth over spending limits isn’t new, McBurney says. In 2013, then-Budget Committee Chairmen Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) negotiated an agreement that increased spending levels for defense and nondefense discretionary spending equally above the sequester level for two years, offset by fee increases and changes to mandatory […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

July 6, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s Choice And Industry’s Choice Awards

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More
Latest Stories
The-Capitol

July 7, 2015

Washington Gridlock Could Block Industry Research Fundi…

The latest standoff on Capitol Hill could have some implications for the floral industry, including future funding for floriculture and nursery research initiative activities, says Shawn McBurney, SAF’s senior director of government relations. “Republicans in the House and Senate are determined to work within the sequester-imposed limits for domestic spending in the federal budget, but Democrats have threatened to block any appropriations bills until Republicans agree to spend more money than that agreement allows,” McBurney says. “With both sides digging in, there could be an impact on budgets that affect programs and services important to the floral industry.” The back and forth over spending limits isn’t new, McBurney says. In 2013, then-Budget Committee Chairmen Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) negotiated an agreement that increased spending levels for defense and nondefense discretionary spending equally above the sequester level for two years, offset by fee increases and changes to mandatory […]

Read More
Medal of Excellence Award

July 6, 2015

Get To Know The 9 Variety Finalists For Editor’s …

Greenhouse Grower‘s Evening Of Excellence reception is rapidly approaching. Here, you can learn more about the varieties that are finalists for the Medal Of Excellence Editor’s Choice and Industry’s Choice Breeding Awards. Thank you to the 2015 sponsors of Greenhouse Grower‘s Medal Of Excellence Awards, Landmark Plastic, Nufarm and Stockosorb. Editor’s Choice Asclepias ‘Monarch Promise’ (Hort Couture) Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Salvia Grandstand Series (Green Fuse Botanicals) Scabiosa ‘Kudos Pink’ (Hishtil Nurseries) Industry’s Choice Basil ‘Balsamic Blooms’ (EuroAmerican Propagators) Bidens BeeDance Series (Suntory Flowers) Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’ (Sakata Seed) Dianthus Jolt Series (PanAmerican Seed) Lobelia ‘Starship Deep Rose’ (Kieft Seed) Vinca Valiant Series (PanAmerican Seed)     Join us Monday, July 13 in Ballroom 2 at the Columbus Convention Center to find out which varieties will receive the coveted awards. The reception begins at 5:15 p.m. and the ceremony […]

Read More
crider-rd2-internal_Rough-Brothers_featured

July 1, 2015

Rough Brothers Is Acquired By Gibraltar Industries

RBI Solar Inc., Rough Brothers Manufacturing Inc. and affiliates have been acquired by Gibraltar Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of products for residential and industrial markets, for $130 million. Capitalizing on its 80 years of design-build experience and leadership as the largest greenhouse manufacturer in North America, Ohio-based RBI has established itself during the past five years as North America’s fastest-growing provider of photovoltaic (PV) solar racking solutions. The transaction will enable Gibraltar to leverage its expertise in structural metals manufacturing and materials sourcing to meet global demand for solar racking solutions. The company also announced that it anticipates its second-quarter 2015 financial results will be in line with its previous expectations. “Acquiring RBI is an important step in the transformation of Gibraltar into a company with a higher rate of growth and best-in-class financial metrics,” says Gibraltar CEO Frank Heard. “This acquisition directly aligns with key end markets and product platforms […]

Read More

June 30, 2015

Opportunities Abound For Women In Horticulture, Says Do…

My love for horticulture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers in upstate New York. My family’s involvement in agriculture left a lasting impression that has spanned decades, and still drives my passion for our industry today. I started my career in horticulture when I owned a greenhouse, nursery and garden center in Sayville, Long Island, N.Y. We specialized in ground cover production, later branching out to producing perennials and bedding plants.     I then went onto wholesale hard goods distribution. In the 1980s, I was the first woman salesperson on Long Island. What an eye opener that was! New York is a very special place, different from anywhere else in the country. You cannot imagine how difficult it was walking into greenhouses and nurseries as a woman, in a man’s world. Luckily, I grew up in New York City in an Italian family, who taught me great […]

Read More
lighting feature

June 29, 2015

Customizing Crop Foliage Color With LEDs: Red Leaf Let…

In the first of a four-part series highlighting the multiple uses of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), researchers share how end-of-production supplemental lighting with LEDs enhances red leaf lettuce color prior to harvesting and shipping.

Read More
LuxFlora logo feature image

June 29, 2015

Luxflora Wants To Create A Lifestyle Movement

A new organization for women in horticulture plans to take on some of the industry’s toughest marketing challenges by promoting the use of flowers and plants in everyday living.

Read More
window flower boxes

June 28, 2015

The Horticulturist And The Decorator

Allan Armitage tells shares a story about a horticulturist and a decorator to illustrate why gardening and decorating are not jobs; they are simply meant to bring pleasure.

Read More

June 28, 2015

Keep Your Cool In The Greenhouse

Summer is in full swing, and that means growers need to worry about protecting plants and greenhouse employees from brutal temperatures. No sweat! These product manufacturers have offerings to help beat the heat.

Read More
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 27, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Wins The 2015 Excellence In…

With its emphasis on education and its Perennial Plant Of The Year program, the Perennial Plant Association boosted the popularity of perennials and helped make it the vital category it is.

Read More
Prewashing surfaces and produce can reduce debris in wash solutions.

June 27, 2015

Keeping Your Greenhouse Fruits And Vegetables Safe: San…

The last article in the four-part food safety series highlights sanitation training, policies and protocols to maintain for an effective and successful food safety program.

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

June 27, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabi…

As most growers know well, the federal government regulates all insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other commercial chemicals used on agricultural crops. Therein lies the problem with use of chemicals on cannabis crops – so far, the feds want nothing to do with legalized marijuana. According to “Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabis,” a June 17 article on the National Public Radio (NPR) network by Agribusiness Reporter Luke Runyon, the lack of regulated chemicals for cannabis has left growers to experiment on their own. “In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.” Denver officials held tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year due to safety concerns, but […]

Read More
Petunia-cultivarsSelecta4CMYK

June 26, 2015

Selecta Klemm’s ‘Night Sky’ Wins Fleu…

Fleuroselect, the international organization for the ornamental plants industry, announced that the FleuroStar Award 2015/16 was given to petunia cultivar ‘Night Sky’ from Selecta Klemm. Andrea Dohm, director of breeding and research and Antonella Capo, breeder of ‘Night Sky,’ accepted the prize from Fleuroselect President Herman Hamer, FleuroStar Committee Chairman Heike Gronemann and Secretary General of Fleuroselect Sally van der Horst. The winner was announced at the Green Inspiration Event on Thursday, June 11 in Bleiswijk, Netherlands. The new networking event is organized by the Dutch media agency TuinbouwCommunicatie in cooperation with Fleuroselect. Selecta Klemm’s ‘Night Sky’ was competing against Begonia tuberhybrida F1 ‘Nonstop JOY Yellow’ (Benary), Bidens hybrida ‘Beedance Painted Red’ (Moerheim New Plant) and Osteospermum ecklonis ‘Serenity Blue Eyed Beauty’ (Florensis). ‘NightSky,’ The Rising Star In Garden Centers ‘Night Sky’s White spots on the dark-violet flowers look like an ever-changing star constellation. This cutting-raised newcomer is easy to grow and […]

Read More
Figure 1. Pak Choi grown in a deep plug tray on a flood and drain bench.

June 26, 2015

The Intrigue Of Edible Petiole Crops For Hydroponic Pr…

In a twist to traditional field production, experiments with petiole crops Pak Choi, kale and Swiss chard determine their suitability for hydroponic production systems using plug trays.

Read More

June 25, 2015

Berger And Theriault & Hachey Peat Moss Form Strate…

A strategic alliance between Berger and Theriault & Hachey Peat Moss allows Berger to continue to meet its customers by ensuring the continuity of its Baie-Sainte-Anne and Bay du Vin facilities for the next 40 years.

Read More
Carol Miller

June 25, 2015

Anatomy Of How A Garden Retail Business Deal Is Made

For the regional chain SummerWinds, a clear-eyed assessment of suppliers is needed for both to succeed in a competitive market.

Read More
Syngenta Vegetable Trial Overview

June 25, 2015

Vegetable Trials Test Variety Adaptability In Contain…

How do crossover varieties normally grown by fresh market farmers, and now available to home gardeners, perform in patio containers? Vegetable container trials at Syngenta Flowers show surprising results.

Read More
Feature image The 2015 Perennial Plant Of The Year, Geranium x cantabrigiense ‘Biokovo.’

June 25, 2015

Perennial Plant Association Names Six Scholarship Winne…

The Perennial Plant Association awards six scholarships for horticulture students to attend its July perennial plant symposium, plus a stipend of $1,000.

Read More

June 24, 2015

Perennial Container Combos And New Intros Shine At 2015…

Despite a rainy start to the day, more than 300 perennial enthusiasts showed up at 2015 Darwin Perennials Day to see the latest perennial introductions first-hand and connect with some of the best suppliers in the business.

Read More