For the second year, Metrolina Greenhouses turned to consumers to find out what they want in a plant and what they would choose as their top pick.
The grower held its second annual Plant Of The Year Contest to determine a new winner for 2014.
A group of 53 panelists were given two months to try out 10 different plants, and in the end, vote for their favorite.
Going Back To Consumers
Through research, Metrolina has concluded that consumers rely on friends and family for advice and inspiration when gardening. The contest is based on that logic. Metrolina solicited a wide range of home garden panelists to select the winner.
“It helps us support and encourage gardening,” says Mariah Holland, director of marketing for Metrolina.
As for how it benefits gardeners, Holland says consumers “trust and believe in their peers and it is important to have an outlet [to] communicate their successes.”
“A product selected by their peers and tested in real world conditions bestows a vote of confidence they can trust,” says Myles Wynn, marketing research coordinator for Metrolina.
Since August 2011, Metrolina has been surveying a group of home garden panelists, which is comprised of average gardeners representing the most significant plant consumer demographics. From this panel, the grower collects consumer market data, including seasonal color preference and shopping habits.
In 2012, the Metrolina marketing team decided that the year’s survey questions would focus on an effort to “learn and confirm,” so they could challenge assumptions made about the consumer and gather data to confirm or refute any industry myths.
This is what led to the decision to have consumers choose a favorite plant in a contest format, as opposed to having them answer general questions.
In 2013, the grower took the same approach to determine this year’s winner. A total of 10 plant breeders submitted cuttings, liners or seed to Metrolina to grow out in one-pint pots. The plants were distributed by the panel throughout the country to 53 consumers.
Each consumer received a box of 10 one-pint plants. They were instructed to plant and care for the plants for two months, from May to July, and then vote for their favorite. The final votes were tallied in July.
Consumers Want Easy Care And Colorful Blooms
The consumer panelists chose zinnia ‘Profusion Double Hot Cherry’ from Sakata as the winner for 2014.
Begonia ‘Big Red’ from Benary took second place and zinnia ‘Zahara Sunburst’ from PanAmerican Seed took third.
In addition to their final selection, consumers submitted comments about their experience and images to support their decision.
“The consumers in general were most attracted to plants blooming multiple times with full, lasting color,” says Wynn.
In addition, the ability to withstand difficult weather conditions with minimal care requirements was an important asset.
One consumer commented that ‘Profusion Double Hot Cherry’ had “a ton of colorful blooms and never stopped blooming the whole time. [It was] very little maintenance, even with the extreme weather conditions we have had.”
Another reported that the begonia selection withstood the heat and rain the best.
“It still looks like the day it was sent,” she said. “The leaves didn’t turn brown and it adapted really well and is flowering nicely.”
An industry panel makes a selection, as well, but Holland says the final vote rests with the consumers.
“The thought process is to get a sample of gardeners from across the U.S. to vote on plants that perform best for them,” Holland says.
The industry selection is a more informal process at the Trial Garden Open House, which took place in June 2013. Coincidentally, the industry’s top choice was also zinnia ‘Profusion Double Hot Cherry.’