Spring 2013 Trend Watch: What’s Selling At Garden Centers And What Isn’t?

Spring 2013 Trend Watch: What’s Selling At Garden Centers And What Isn’t?

Retailers from across the country are reporting on which products and selling and which aren’t faring as well so far this spring.

Have You Noticed A Trend In Any Product Category Customers Are Buying? 


With much of the country experiencing a delayed spring, weather and its effect on the garden industry is on a lot of retailers’ minds.

Despite the delayed season, most felt sales were indicating consumer desire to spend on gardening.

Here are most commonly mentioned product categories performing well in 2013, from a short survey of retailers by Today’s Garden Center magazine:

  1. Vegetables
  2. Pottery and containers
  3. Hanging baskets
  4. Custom projects, like container gardens or small garden bed designs
  5. Shrubs

Many retailers also say that fairy or miniature gardening is a still a big demand. “Terrariums and their supplies have stayed strong through spring,” says Cactus Jungle Nursery & Garden’s Hap Hollibaugh. “It was odd to have to reorder glass this time of year after stocking up heavily after the Atlanta Gift show in January.”

 “We are in the heart of the path of the Sandy storm,” says Sickles Market owner Bob Sickles. “We were worried about landscape material sales as most homeowners had massive repairs to their homes and that would come first. That is true, but the homeowners that had no problems with the storm and their home, but did have landscape problems, are making up the difference.”

Which Category’s Slow Sales Have You Been Surprised By?

Since cold weather in much of the country delayed plant sales, it’s no surprise that annuals tops the list of slow-moving products:

  1. Annuals
  2. Trees
  3. Pots
  4. Tools
  5. Perennials

Pottery seems to be a volatile item this spring —  performing strongly for some, sluggishly for others. 

One retailer thinks she knows what’s having an impact on items like containers and garden art. 

“A tour of Big Lots may reveal the reason,” says Tish Llaneza, owner of Countryside Gardens. “They have Commerce Corp. closeouts filling five aisles at the Big Lots down the street.”

What Has Been The Biggest Positive Surprise This Spring In What Your Customers Are Buying?

 What surprised retailers weren’t necessarily the strongest sales, although organics and vegetables easily made the list. Big-ticket items like patio furniture, grills and trees saw a surge in sales for many:

  1. Organic
  2. Trees
  3. Patio furniture
  4. Vegetables
  5. Big ticket or high number of items purchased

Organics can probably thank the vegetable trend for its rise in popularity. And it is definitely popular throughout the country, even in the Midwest, where organic product sales had lagged behind the coasts.

“Organics is becoming the first choice for what I’d say is the majority of gardeners now,” says Phyllis Williams, co-owner of K&W Greenery in Janesville, Wis.

Those retailers who experienced a late-breaking spring saw trends that took them by surprise. “Since we’ve had a very late, cold spring (17 degrees one night last week) customers have been hesitant to buy live plants. We were suprised by the sales we’ve done in decorative garden items,” says Julie Hoffmann of East River Nursery, Huron, S.D. “It seems they just feel like they need to buy something, even if they aren’t ready for planting.”


There do not seem to be any major shortages. The few retailers who reported having problems mentioned shortages in trees and shrubs most often.

Cactus Jungle’s Hollibaugh says small items are a hit with the party-planning crowd, making it difficult to source some of those items. “I’m having trouble finding small terra cotta, can’t seem to get the tiny stuff in and lots of people want it for weddings.”

Peggy May, marketing manager for Enchanted Nurseries and Landscapes, not only has had trouble sourcing larger specimen trees and shrubs. “It’s hard to find knowledgeable staff,” she says.