With only a few-month’s selling season, greenhouse growers can always use new ideas to extend sales into fall. In fact, the onset of cooler weather traditionally brings customers to greenhouses in search of fresh varieties and décor to suit the season.
There are plenty of opportunities unique to the fall season that can be enhanced by a beautiful plant pairing, says Bill Calkins, Ball Seed’s retail business manager.
“For example, you can spark sales with school and team colors that go hand-in-hand with fall flowers,” Calkins says.
Embracing the fall season’s traditions and working with existing product can lengthen the selling season and give consumers a new experience.
Update Mums With Non-Traditional Pairings
While mums will always be king of the fall selling season, consumers are looking for new plants with which to decorate their doorways, according to the 2012 Mum Pals multi-year research program at PanAmerican Seed/Kieft Seeds, created to address the growing marketplace need.
The program researched annuals and first-year-blooming perennials, collectively called Mum Pals, that are easy and inexpensive for growers to produce, offer a wide variety of plant habits and flower types, focus on autumn colors and offer reduced-price competition items at the wholesale and retail levels.
The three-year research program produced a lengthy list of Mum Pals that can easily be combined with the mums, pansies, cabbage/kale and ornamental grasses that are popular in the fall season.
“Taishan marigolds, Zahara zinnias, Purple Baron ornamental millet and Black Pear ornamental peppers are a few of the Mum Pals specified as possible pairings to create interesting displays,” Calkin says.
Calkins also recommends Ball Seed’s ‘Romeo Orange’ Basket Diascia, ‘Celestial Twilight’ viola and Intenz celosia to add to your late-season product assortment.
Pair Plants With Multi-Season Interest
Another way to extend the fall season is to ease into the transition to fall by pairing plants with multi-season appeal, says Ryan McEnaney, communications specialist at Bailey Nurseries.
Pairing spring and summer flowers with fall varieties is both practical, in that it makes use of older product and provides consumers with a unique option that fuses two seasons’ colors in an attractive way.
McEnaney recommends Bailey’s ‘Red Flame’ hypericum collection that pairs spring and summer yellows with deep autumn reds, such as when the yellow spring flowers are followed by a bright red, long-lasting berries.
Or, McEnaney suggests, pair ‘Tiger Eyes’ cutleaf staghorn sumac with fall grasses, mums or kale because “the striking fall color of the sumac combines greatly with the other varieties.”
It’s also important, McEnaney notes, to offer varieties that age beautifully as they drift into fall. He recommends trying Bailey’s ’Strawberry Sundae’ or ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ hydrangeas, that move from the beautiful milky white to pink and strawberry red as the season progresses.
“Their panicles provide amazing summer beauty, but growers can capitalize on the beautiful fall color as a selling point,” McEnaney says.
Use Halloween To Pump Up Sales
Growers should also take advantage of Halloween décor to extend the fall selling season, Calkins says, as Halloween ranks No. 2 behind Christmas in terms of decoration popularity.
Calkins suggests growers should use this popularity to their advantage by offering traditional decorations and experiential opportunities for families such as fall festivals.
“From LED-lit zombies and glowing ghouls to corn stalks and straw bales, garden centers across North America sell the décor and host family-friendly festivals and events for kids and school groups,” Calkins says.
Growers and e-retailers can also use the traditional straw bales and corn stalks as displays to promote their plants by adorning them with pansies, mums and fun choices like black petunias and violas, purple-leafed plectranthus and ornamental peppers.
“When you have the foot traffic, load up on flowers,” Calkins says. “It may seem like the selling season is winding down, but no one can resist blooms when winter is on the horizon.”