An Inside Look At The Tropical Plant Trend

Aglaonema ‘Pink Sapphire’

With the Tropical Plant Industry Expo (TPIE) just around the corner, several breeders shared their insights concerning the latest and greatest on the market. While some have focused on creating marketing programs to stop consumers in their tracks at retail, others have taken a step back to entice customers with unique varieties. As growers continue to improve as marketers, the focus has also shifted to educating the consumer on the beyond-beauty benefits of indoor plants like bromeliads, ferns and more. Take a look at what’s popular and what’s in the pipeline for this plant category.

“What’s Old Is New Again�

If you ask Kerry Herndon of Kerry’s Nursery, Inc., one trend involves tapping into the market for plants of the past, such as rare fern varieties.

“One of the things we are doing is going back in time a little bit,� Herndon says. “We’re growing bird’s nest fern, Asplenium nidus, now. When’s the last time you saw a specimen bird’s nest fern? It’s been decades since anyone has grown that really cool stuff. And there has been a demand for it. People love wonderful, beautiful things like that.�

Herndon, who got into the market by growing bromeliads and rare ferns for collectors, has begun growing A. nidus ‘Victorian’ in 5-inch, 6-inch and 8-inch pots. He anticipates selling more smaller-sized plants and has found that many people have embraced the fern program.

“Although we are continuing to expand, they pretty much all sold,� Herndon says. “It’s been surprising how well-received it has been.�
Herndon also has a theory about why these old favorites are coming into fashion again.

“What’s old is new again,� he says. “My opinion is that there is a sense of nostalgia attached to these older plant varieties. They remind people of a simpler time, and it gives them comfort. They remember them at grandma’s house. Besides, these are really good plants.�

Houseplants As Home Décor

While tropicals have long been centerpiece staples and colorful additions to bland workspaces, young plant producer ForemostCo has collaborated with KP Holland, a breeder specializing in anthurium, curcuma, kalanchoe and spathiphyllum, to offer a kalanchoe program called Taranta Pretty Wild. The Taranta mixes K. blossfeldiana with africanas genetics with “wild� results.

“You have a nice, compact kalanchoe with very funky leaves,� says ForemostCo’s Vice President Randy Natalino. “The thing that consumers like is the long shelf-life and home life of the kalanchoe, and now we’ve added some funky leaves. We’ve found it to be very popular.�

The leaves, however, aren’t the only wild thing about the Taranta. The Pretty Wild program also features animal print packaging to complement a consumer’s home décor or spice up a dull corner. ForemostCo is working on presenting a complete marketing package with the pot, sleeve, tag and plant to make it easier for growers to market the tropicals line. Now in the mid- to late-trialing stages, the program is set to roll out in spring 2013.

“At the IPM Essen show in Germany, a lot of breeders and young plant producers will create a complete marketing package all the way to the consumer end,� says ForemostCo’s Joseph Roberts. “The wild marketing concept comes from the breeder initially. This is something you see a lot in Europe, not so much in the U.S., and we thought it was a great idea. Instead of supplying the plant and saying, ‘Go figure it out,’ we are offering you a complete package.�

When it comes to packaging, Herndon, whose company has traditionally offered stylish ceramic pots, has picked up on another trend he calls “de-materialization.�

“We have been famous for these containers that we bring in. We’ve seen people say, ‘Enough.’ There are two different things happening at the same time. One is that people are de-materializing. This is a fundamental trend in our world,� says Herndon, who admits to packing up books to donate to the library and returning leftover plant containers to the nursery in his own life. “People don’t want to throw away containers, but they tend to build up over time.

“The same time this is going on, companies like Chemkin and Deco Wrap continue to improve the style and design of their simple, inexpensive wraps. The fact is that people don’t mind throwing away a piece of plastic — they do it all day, every day — but they do mind throwing away a ceramic pot. [With wraps] you get the visual bang for the buck without the guilt of possession,� he says.
Although Herndon’s customer base has grown used to the ceramics Kerry’s Nursery offers, he is working to get more people onboard.

“Change is always hard, but I think it is the right direction,� he says.

Tropicals Provide Benefits And Solutions

Delray Plants has also made marketing and selling tropicals easier for growers by offering two houseplant-specific programs, Breath of Fresh Air and Green Greetings. Breath of Fresh Air, a program developed on the premise of educating consumers on the benefits of indoor plants as air purifiers, focuses on creating a need for plants that won’t come from aesthetics alone. Green Greetings works to encourage sales by providing a solution to the never-ending consumer challenge: what to get someone for [insert holiday/special occasion here].

“Green Greetings is a novelty program we are excited to further develop,� says Delray Marketing Coordinator Natalie DiSciascio. “It’s a greeting card and a plant all in one. We currently offer designs for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas, but if the program continues to grow, we hope to expand designs into other themed holidays or life events.�

The new marketing programs work to get consumers thinking about tropicals in new ways, but this group of plants retains its traditional appeal in and around the home. For those who want to continue using tropicals as “wow� plants, butdon’t know where to use them, Delray Plants has stepped in to help.

“Tropicals are used in landscaping, home décor and interior designs, and it is up to us to remind consumers of the many uses, as well as the best tropicals for these uses,� DiSciascio says. “We will be launching a new website and one of our goals is to offer consumers suggestions and ideas on the uses of houseplants. Within the new site, we will be launching a section called Right Plant, Right Place. We will soon be dealing with a generation of consumers that want and like plants, but don’t necessarily know what to do with them. It is our responsibility to educate them.�

Hort Couture also strives to educate consumers by offering two collections that indicate where to make the most of their tropicals right in the name. The Patio & Garden orchid line and Centerpiece cordyline collection make it easy for consumers to know how to use each variety in an appropriate way, even if, in the case of orchids, the use is unconventional.

“Patio & Garden orchids revolutionize the mixed container by bringing the orchid off the living room table and outside on to the patio,� says Hort Couture’s Jennifer Hatalski. “One of the latest trends has also been to purchase tropicals you can use not only outside during the summer, but varieties you can pull inside during the winter months. Our Centerpiece cordylines are great for this use and provide added value for the consumer.�

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Foliage & Tropicals...
Marc van Iersel

September 1, 2015

GROwing Floriculture Research And Extension

Research and outreach efforts help keep floriculture production profitable. With seemingly continuous budget cuts to university and federal budgets, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to sustain their programs and to keep making a positive impact on the industry. So what can be done to ensure that the industry will keep getting the research and outreach support it has come to rely on? There already is a variety of funding programs that support research and Extension programs in our industry. This funding is critical for many floriculture research and outreach programs. What can we do to leverage that funding and make sure it has the biggest possible impact? A program that I was part of in 2010 may serve as a model. LAUNCH was co-founded by NASA, NIKE, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State as a program to help make innovative ideas become a […]

Read More
Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler - Feature image

September 1, 2015

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler Of Bell Nursery USA Leads By Example

Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler is laying a strong groundwork for the industry by mentoring future growers and instilling a sense of pride in growing quality crops.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Head Grower Of The Year Tom Wheeler - Feature image

September 1, 2015

Bell Nursery USA Cultivates New Growers Through Internships

Bell Nursery USA started its internship program two years ago with the aim of identifying and training the growers of the future. Each season, the company’s internships give interns a broad overview of the company, exposing them to everything from growing and production to distribution, retail and finances.

Read More
Latest Stories

January 14, 2015

Liven Up Indoor And Outdoor Living With 24 New Tropical…

Uniquely colored foliage and vivid blooms are just two of the great features new tropicals and foliage plants add to energize indoor and outdoor spaces.

Read More

December 31, 2014

Engage Busy Consumers With Modern-Day Tropical And Foli…

Contemporary tropical and foliage plants fit right in with the hustle and bustle of the twenty-first century. Their versatility lends itself to countless uses both inside the house and out on the patio.

Read More
Basics & Beyond: New Kalanchoe For Cultivation

November 24, 2014

Basics & Beyond: New Kalanchoe For Cultivation

Several species of Kalanchoe show promise for commercial production as flowering potted plants. Learn how to improve quality and flowering for these underused varieties.

Read More

March 20, 2014

13 New Tropical Plants For 2014

New tropical varieties are great options for containers and combination planters, and boast bold-colored foliage which is sure to draw attention to patios and landscapes.

Read More

September 16, 2013

Colocasia Royal Hawaiian ‘White Lava’…

Colocasia Royal Hawaiian ‘White Lava’ is the latest in the elephant ear breeding of Hawaii’s Dr. John Cho. ‘White Lava’ forms a tight clump that provides a tropical look in the garden without sacrificing premium real estate. Large glossy green leaves are adorned with a wide band of creamy white down the center of each leaf, later radiating out into the side veins. Each leaf is further highlighted by a large purple spot where the leaf attaches to the stalk. ‘White Lava’ is a medium grower reaching 48 by 36 inches at maturity. It makes an ideal 6-inch pot, 16 by 12 inches. It is perfect for large containers, garden borders or mass landscape planting. For more information, contact PlantHaven International, Inc. at 805-569-9179, email new.plants@planthaven.com or visit the PlantHaven website.

Read More

July 16, 2013

Hot New Potted Plants And Tropicals From 2013 Californi…

Each stop at Spring Trials offers exciting new plants and products and this year, that included a lot of new potted plants and tropicals varieties. Take a look at some of these unique new varieties you can put into next year’s program.

Read More

February 28, 2013

Logee’s Introduces New Fruiting, Rare And Tropica…

For more than 120 years, Logee’s has been the go-to source for fruiting, rare and tropical plants. For 2013, the family-owned company has introduced 75 new plants that are sure to delight both experienced and novice growers. The new plants for 2013 include a “condo mango” tree that is small enough to grow in a pot, and an striking flowering houseplant called a lifesaver plant because its flowers boast a dark red lifesaver rim. “Fruiting plants that can be grown in containers and flowering tropical plants are easy to grow both indoors and in outdoor living areas such as patios, balconies and porches,” says Byron Martin, a third-generation owner of Logee’s. “We are proud that Logee’s has become America’s favorite source for tropical and fruiting plants from all over the world.” Logee’s catalog and website is known for its vast selection of tropical container plants, dwarf citrus trees, vines and […]

Read More

February 27, 2013

Colocasia Royal Hawaiian ‘Kona Coffee’ Is Compact For S…

Colocasia Royal Hawaiian ‘Kona Coffee’ from PlantHaven International has a unique dwarf compact habit with an ultimate height of 2 to 3 feet. It forms a tight clump that provides a tropical look in the garden. This introduction by master breeder Dr. John Cho of Hawaii is topped all summer with glossy slightly cupped foliage that ranges from dark forest green to roasted coffee-bean brown held on dark petioles. Colocasia ‘Kona Coffee’ grows well in full sun or part shade and prefers moist soil. It’s perfect for that wet spot in the yard next to the downspout. Colocasia ‘Kona Coffee’ makes a great container plant or addition to the garden where it can be used en masse with contrasting colors. This variety is robust and disease resistant while not exhibiting any signs of runners. For more information, please contact PlantHaven International Inc. at 805-569-9179, eMail new.plants@planthaven.com or visit the Plant […]

Read More

December 20, 2012

Slideshow: 8 Tropical Plants Your Customers Will Love

PlantHaven The Royal Hawaiian colocasia series from PlantHaven has been bred to be sturdy garden performers and container specimens. Each is disease-resistant with fabulous foliage, stem interest and a tidy clumping habit. Colocasia ‘Maui Gold,’ which has unique white stems, and Colocasia ‘Hawaiian Punch,’ with its bright-red stems, are the latest additions to the series and provide striking complements to the series’ other cultivars.

Read More

December 11, 2012

An Inside Look At The Tropical Plant Trend

Green industry experts explain which plants have become highly popular choices, as well as reveal the up-and-comers they are most excited about.

Read More