Remember the trendy houseplants of the 70s? Now fast forward to 2015 — they’re back.
Except today’s tropicals and potted foliage plants, with their architectural foliage and bold flower colors, have become a basic element of upscale home décor. Paired with eye-catching containers, they are a can’t-miss statement in the home or on the patio.
And whereas in the 70s not much was said about the physical and psychological benefits of indoor plants, that message is one of their biggest selling features today, with lots of marketing potential.
Not Your 70s Houseplants
Today’s tropicals and foliage plants are bred with the busy consumer in mind. They are easy to maintain and have the architectural features and clean lines modern designers crave.
Sansevieria, also known as snake plant, is a hot item with interior designers and a plant of choice for Millennials who favor an easy-to-maintain contemporary look.
Snake plants’ sculptural foliage speaks of simplicity and adds a vertical element to the home. They also fit in well with the environmental challenges homeowners often face, namely low light, low humidity and cool temperatures. Several varieties like ‘Black Coral,’ ‘Golden Hahni’ and ‘Laurenti,’ to name a few, work well for these conditions, says Karen Pumphrey, founder of Costa Verde Imports.
“Tillandsia are also perfect for indoor applications,” Pumphrey says. “They can be glued to decorative containers and sold for seasonal promotions or everyday décor.”
Easy maintenance plants like tillandsia and sansevieria, habitually touted as foolproof for brown-thumb gardeners and nearly impossible to kill, present the perfect marketing opportunity. Costa Farms takes full advantage of it by putting a novel twist on no-fail varieties for its Glowee line of plants that have a glow-in-the-dark effect.
Highlighting colorful plants is another strategy to get consumers thinking about tropicals and potted foliage plants in new ways, says Justin Hancock, marketing manager at Costa Farms.
“Fun plants such as red aglaonema or our Desert Gems line of easy-care cacti, or highly variegated fittonias and hemigraphs on the Exotic Angel side catches consumers’ attention and automatically gets them thinking of plants as more decorative items than just a plant they put in the house somewhere.”
Spare No Expense On Containers
Hancock says Costa Farms also utilizes new container ideas to broaden plant usage, like its WindowPots, which stick on a window and are a great way to display 4-inch plants.
In the tropical and foliage plant market, containers go hand-in-hand with the plants. Like the jewelry that finishes off an outfit, containers set the tone for a plant, transforming it into a sleek, contemporary sculpture or a rustic accent piece loaded with charm.
”There really must be no expense spared on containers,” says Nicholas Staddon, Monrovia’s director of the new plants team. “People want to have plants in pretty, novel containers. What an ideal opportunity for retail sales.”
Glass ranks near the top as a potentially profit-making container for retailers. Old-fashioned bell jars or glass cloches, originally used to protect plants from frost outdoors, add a delightful touch when brought inside and add needed humidity and protection from drafts.
Part of the appeal of glass is that it shows everything, roots and soil, whether it is tulip bulbs in slim glass vases on a windowsill, simple cuttings placed in a vintage bottle or layers of rocks, soil and sand in a succulent container.
Containers are also going vertical. Living walls have caught on, ranging from the size of a picture frame to a full-size accent wall. A combination of sedges, succulents, tropicals and ferns and plants like pothos, philodendrons and crotons work well for these treatments.
Macrame planters are making a comeback, and string gardens with moss-covered balls substituting for containers are popular (also known as Kokedama), as well. Wall gardens featuring a grouping of eye-catching containers dressed with succulents and air plants work well for those with limited floor space.
Escaping To The Outdoors
Along with vertical trends, tropicals and potted foliage plants are migrating from indoors to the outside and back again.
“What used to be considered indoor or interior plants (i.e., tropicals and potted foliage) have escaped the indoors to the back porch, patios and even seasonal landscaping,” says Gary Hennen, president of Oglesby Plants International. “On the tropical side, color seems to be the keyword. Flowering vines like mandevilla (dipladenia) continue to grow in popularity.”
Suntory Flower’s Sun Parasol line and Original Series focuses on the outdoor garden. Avid gardeners will bring mandevillas inside to overwinter, says Marketing Manager Delilah Onofrey, but they are more dormant and being kept alive, rather than actively blooming indoors.
Onofrey says she likes to promote mandevillas as lipstick for the landscape, a sexy finishing touch. Mandevillas are versatile. They can be planted in containers for the patio and then brought indoors, grouped en masse in a garden bed or planted in baskets like petunias.
Tesselaar Plants’ Festival Series of cordyline serves as both outdoor deck plants and indoor plants during the winter months. They don’t get leggy when brought indoors, even with limited sunlight, says Judie Brower, director of U.S. marketing at Anthony Tesselaar Plants, They are drought tolerant and can survive indoors with limited water usage if necessary, she says.
Tropicals and foliage plants are also showing up in outdoor containers as feature plants, alone or in combinations. They can be treated as annuals or potted up for use indoors when cold weather arrives.
“People are trying to put more in containers than ever before,” Staddon says. “Plants like aralias (fatsia) are being used in containers with other plants grouped at the base.”
Versatile Plants For Busy Lifestyles
Tropicals and foliage plants can play a major role with modern-day plant lovers who have limited space and greater environmental awareness. The trick will be how to tap that potential through marketing, not only to promote plant benefits, but also to educate about plant care.
“The industry has done a wonderful job of providing educational materials, tags, etc. that promote plants,” says Bodie Pennisi, associate professor and Extension landscape specialist at the University of Georgia.
“The bottom line is a majority of the population doesn’t know how to take care of plants. They think they have brown thumbs, when all they really need is to have a basic knowledge of how plants grow.”
In the end, the tropicals and foliage plants coming on the market are something gardeners can get excited about. They fit with busy lifestyles, and their versatility lends itself to untold uses in the home and the garden.