California Spring Trials: New POP Messages And Unique Plants

California Spring Trials: New POP Messages And Unique Plants

Popcorn plant smells like buttered popcorn, grabs attention at retail.

Now that we are halfway through Spring Trials week, it’s apparent that some trends are emerging. And one of the main ones I’m seeing, and a very welcome and necessary one, is making things simple for the consumer.


Breeders have gotten the message that the average consumer thinks they have a black thumb and need suggestions that will inspire confidence in their plant purchases. This is expressed in a number of ways. Both Benary’s One Touch Combos and Syngenta’s Kwik Kombos make decisions easier for both growers and consumers. The idea behind both is to reduce decision-making. Growers can be certain that the pre-selected combinations will require the same cultural conditions and will time correctly, and consumers can purchase a beautiful basket or container combination without having to figure out which plants work well together — an intimidating decision that will put off many novice gardeners.

I know first-hand how many people lack confidence about gardening, and making it easy for them is paramount to the success of our industry. I’m thrilled to see this problem recognized by breeders, who are at the top of the food chain, so to speak, because many of them are doing something about it.

Yesterday I mentioned the Into the Blue POP concept being tested by Syngenta. Today, I was impressed by the People’s Choice POP concept that is being introduced this year by Master Tag. The concept behind this is that there are so many plants that are awarded each year – All-America Selections, Fleuroselect, Perennial Plant of the Year, Wisconsin Nursery and Landscape Association Plant of the Year and even Greenhouse Growers’ own Medal of Excellence awards.

Gerry Giorgio, of Master Tag, initiated this concept to allow growers and retailers to highlight award-winning plants to 1) make consumers aware that these plants have been recognized for excellence by experts and 2) inspire confidence in consumers. If they know these plants have been “vetted” by experts, they will feel more comfortable purchasing them.

The People’s Choice Program can be purchased at various levels, from standard black pots with tags and bench tape to colored pots to pots printed with cultural information, posters and display cards. I like this concept. As I said yesterday, I hoped to see more marketing concepts that make things more simple for consumers, and today I did.

Unique Plants

I’m traveling with Allan Armitage, and let me just say, it’s great. The man is a font of plant wisdom and knows everybody. And it’s gratifying to know that we like many of the same plants. Actually, a lot of the same plants are attracting our attention. However, because there’s so much to cover, we can’t write about the same things. So, we’re splitting what we like so we can cover more territory.

Today, on our visits to Greenex, Thompson & Morgan and Plant Source International there were a number of unique new plants that caught my eye. They may not ever be mainstream, but they will have their niche among consumers who are looking for something different.

The first one is the popcorn plant, Cassia didymobotrya. The leaves, when brushed smell just like buttered popcorn. The flowers are an eye-catching yellow spike that has a dark brownish-black tip. It’s a shrub that thrives in heat and is drought tolerant. What’s not to like? Once the message is communicated effectively, I think this could be a winner.

Another is an odd — yes, I will say it — treatment of sanseveria, the good old-fashioned snake plant. The leaves (of a variety of species) are grown, then cut and braided or twisted, then re-stuck. They root and finish in just six weeks and are ready to ship. It’s so different, consumers will want it for just that, and since sanseveria is virtually indestructible, they will have success with it. It will never be mainstream, but will certainly attract attention for its uniqueness.