Succulents: What’s Old Is New

Succulents meet consumers. Consumers meet succulents.

That may be a little extreme–they aren’t complete strangers–but a familiarity of this market on a consumer level has definitely been lacking. Until now.
As one grower states, succulents are far from new and with consumer tastes becoming more refined, these plant types are beginning to see a resurgence in popularity.

Making Sense Of It

When it comes to ease of maintenance, clean-lined aesthetics and durability, succulents are at the head of the class–a message many growers aren’t passing onto retailers, who are then missing out on their customers. Grower Lloyd Traven of Peace Tree Farm, Kintnersville, Pa., says, “There’s a definite disconnect between the grower and the buyer for the store.” He says growers are not giving a clear message to the retailers, and also many buyers aren’t concerned with hearing this message because it doesn’t impact them directly.

“Succulents don’t use water and they’re low maintenance. You also don’t have to worry a lot about insects,” Traven adds. “They’re easy and that is what’s not coming across. Customers will look at succulents in a store and say, ‘Oh, I don’t have enough light’ or ‘I don’t have desert-like conditions for that to survive.’ And the fact is, the vast majority of succulents like it cool. Sure they can handle scorching hot, but they don’t like scorching hot.”

This grower says there’s no doubt succulents are gaining popularity points, now more than ever. At Peace Tree Farm, Traven is seeing a greater demand in mixed combinations, which is not limited to standing containers. Hanging succulent baskets are proving to be standout sellers. “Retailers are asking us for composed patterns. Not freeform, but mosaics, geometrics,” he says. “They want a definite theme and a pattern that’s duplicated precisely.” Traven is also noticing a call for more specimen plants.

“I don’t mean grafted cactus with eyes glued on them,” he says. “I mean they are looking for something that can stand alone in a clay plot. Something beautiful, full, lush. Not something in a thermo-formed orange plastic pot with little pebbles. They don’t want to spend a ton of money, but they want it to look elegant.”

Plug Connection’s Juan St. Amant agrees with Traven that the succulent stock is on the rise. So much so, Plug Connection decided to get into this market just a few years ago with its Tessera collection. “With concerns about water usage here in the Southwest and across the country, succulents fit the bill,” St. Amant says. He explains that the California Spring Trials have been a great way for Plug Connection to open up a dialogue on succulents. “No matter how much the staff likes them, as long as the broker and grower community isn’t interested, there’s no sales potential,” he says. “But for us that hasn’t been the case. There’s a lot of interest.”

St. Amant goes on to quote a Plug Connection grower: “Everything that is old is new again.” He says old favorites that have been around for many years are being redone and are cycling back into popularity again. He also notes that green roofs and living walls are being spotted in Southwest high-end shopping centers and private homes. “Sedums and sempervivums are doing really well in those,” he says. “Going into this spring, we were able to get stock material for eight or 10 of the very, very cold hardy sedum varieties that are popular in green roofs.”

Who’s Really Responsible?

Deena Altman of Altman Plants is a believer that succulents went undiscovered for a long time and now consumers have, in general, a more sophisticated palate for plants. “They’re buying orchids and bromeliads,” she says. “Over time, like cooking, tastes in plants have really evolved. I think they were just waiting to be discovered.” Altman says people aren’t just looking for flowers anymore and they are starting to appreciate the plant’s shape and its subtleties.

“Designers and tastemakers are the ones really responsible for this trend,” she says. “Ads, consumer magazines and architects have been key over the last few years. It takes time for people to catch up with that.” Altman also credits high-end interior living stores like Crate & Barrel and West Elm for using succulents in catalogs and in-store displays. “Succulents are very geometric and clean, not like ferns and begonias that are more of a cottage looks,” she adds.

Debra Lee Baldwin, garden photojournalist and author of the newly released “Succulent Container Gardens,” agrees with Altman. “There is a whole new type of gardener now. They have a finer and greater appreciation of foliage over flowers.” She says in addition, “They have a drought-fueled interest. Succulents are the closest thing to plastic in the plant world. They don’t really need to be pruned or deadheaded and they’re great for people who travel.”

Topics:

Leave a Reply

More From Varieties...
Bee on Lavender feature

March 23, 2017

Allan Armitage: Plant Consumers Don’t Talk About Varieties; They Talk About Solutions

Allan Armitage says it's time to get in touch with our true audience and market plant solutions, not plant products.

Read More
Spin Top Gaillardia Series (Dummen Orange)

March 22, 2017

New Perennials and Tender Perennials for 2018 from California Spring Trials

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the true perennials and tender perennials that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. Here's a sampling of some of the varieties hitting retail shelves in 2018.

Read More
Zinnia Solmar Series (Floranova)

March 17, 2017

Phlox, Zinnias, and More for 2018 From California Spring Trials

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Latest Stories
Bee on Lavender feature

March 23, 2017

Allan Armitage: Plant Consumers Don’t Talk About …

Allan Armitage says it's time to get in touch with our true audience and market plant solutions, not plant products.

Read More
Spin Top Gaillardia Series (Dummen Orange)

March 22, 2017

New Perennials and Tender Perennials for 2018 from Cali…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the true perennials and tender perennials that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. Here's a sampling of some of the varieties hitting retail shelves in 2018.

Read More
Zinnia Solmar Series (Floranova)

March 17, 2017

Phlox, Zinnias, and More for 2018 From California Sprin…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Cosmos ‘Apollo’ (Floranova)

March 14, 2017

Begonias, Dahlias, and More for 2018 from California Sp…

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new annuals that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Pennisetum First Knight Feature

March 11, 2017

Now is the Time for Growers to Plan for Fall Perennial …

If you haven’t already put in your orders for the items you’ll sell this fall, it’s time to start now.

Read More
Dianthus Pink Kisses Selecta Feature

March 8, 2017

Growing Tips for Selecta’s Dianthus ‘Pink Kisses’

Kyle Peterson, Production Manager at Fessler Nursery, grew Dianthus ‘Pink Kisses’ on a trial basis and says he was pleased with its performance.

Read More
Limbo GP burgundy picotee

March 7, 2017

New Petunias and Calibrachoas for 2018 from California …

We asked breeders to share with us pictures and information on some of the great new petunias and calibrachoas that you'll see at California Spring Trials 2017. They didn't let you down.

Read More
Butterfly on a Pollinator Plant Feature

March 7, 2017

Allan Armitage: Why You Should Focus on the Functionali…

New crops are great, but Armitage says selling plants by function makes more sense.

Read More

March 5, 2017

2016 Young’s Plant Farm Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Young's Plant Farm in Auburn, AL.

Read More
kelly-norris

March 4, 2017

Kelly Norris Describes How Growers Can Help Plant the F…

The tough plant varieties unique to their regions could be the urban superstars of tomorrow.

Read More
Welby Gardens field trials

March 2, 2017

2016 Welby Gardens Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Welby Gardens in Denver, CO.

Read More
Zinnia 'Zahara XL Fire Improved'

March 1, 2017

2016 University of Minnesota Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for University of Minnesota in Morris, MN.

Read More
Geranium Combos feature

February 27, 2017

Tips for General Combination and Hanging Basket Product…

Bell Nursery’s Head Grower Tom Wheeler provides his recipe for success when growing premium combos that put on a show at retail.

Read More
Portulaca 'ColorBlast Tangerine'

February 26, 2017

2016 University of Georgia Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University Of Georgia trial gardens in Athens, GA.

Read More
University of Wisconsin field trial gardens

February 25, 2017

2016 University of Wisconsin Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University of Wisconsin display gardens at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station in Verona, WI.

Read More
Poinsettia 'Christmas Joy Marble'

February 20, 2017

5 New Varieties Shaking Up the Poinsettia Tradition

With poinsettias trending toward non-traditional colors, growers may find new opportunities to spread sales beyond the winter holidays. Here are five of the newest euphorbia varieties to hit the market that may play a role in redefining the future of the poinsettia market.

Read More
University of Tennessee trials overview (2015 University of Tennessee Field Trials)

February 19, 2017

2016 University of Tennessee Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for the University of Tennessee Gardens in Knoxville and Jackson, TN.

Read More
Reiman Gardens field trials

February 18, 2017

2016 Iowa State University Field Trials Results

Check out the 2016 field trials results for Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University in Ames, IA.

Read More