Greenhouse Canada

Features Business Marketing
Boosting Bulb Sales

February 27, 2008  By Brian Minter

Fall bulb sales should be a five-month opportunity to enhance
much-needed sales during the slower months of the year. From early
August through December, bulb sales can be dramatically improved with
new marketing strategies for each of these three seasons.

Promoting Fall Bulbs Into the Winter

Fall bulb sales should be a five-month opportunity to enhance much-needed sales during the slower months of the year. From early August through December, bulb sales can be dramatically improved with new marketing strategies for each of these three seasons.


Fall blooming crocus and their giant cousins, the colchicums, are a great introduction to the season. Hardy to zone two, colchicums are readily available in white and shades of pink, as well as the stunning double ‘Waterlily.’ We sell them as dry bulbs and pot some to go into our perennial section with other fall bloomers.

In Europe, colchicums are a welcome sight in fall gardens and are used as naturalizing bulbs in lawns, around large trees and in perennial borders. The demand for traditional varieties of fall blooming crocus is also growing. The most famous of all is the saffron crocus, Crocus sativus. The novelty of growing this “spice” crocus in our gardens is significant. New Zealand garden centres make a huge production of saffron crocus, using special signage.

The true sleeper bulb for early fall is garlic. Specialty growers are supplying quite a few varieties for planting in home gardens by late September and we sell over 200 pounds each fall.

As we move into the fall season and later to Christmas, it’s important to be the leader in the sale of forcing bulbs. We hold back some forcing bulbs in our cooler and reintroduce them with pottery and glass accessories for Christmas sales. Forcing bulbs make fabulous gifts when accessorized in stunning vases with contorted branches, marbles in the water and lots of bling. This approach, which can extend into January, produces great value-add sales and opens new gift opportunities to your higher end consumers.

From observing trends across the country, two of Canada’s top bulb suppliers have some great ideas on how to increase fall bulb sales. Targeted themed displays top their list. One of the most interesting is the deer resistant theme.  The invasion of gardens by the ever-increasing deer population is causing many folks to simply stop gardening. Deer resistant bulbs are a great opportunity to add spring colour to their gardens. Bulb suppliers already provide us with displays, pop materials and bulb boxes featuring deerproof logos on them. We need to take this to the next level. Incorporate deer statues, huge deer photos and deer fencing with the product so folks grasp the concept immediately.

In a world where people know less about gardening, companion displays are also becoming very popular. Seek out great images that create “the look” folks can achieve in their gardens. It’s important to emphasize the simplicity of “do this now and this look will happen in spring,” especially for the X and Y generations.

It’s also important to counter the growing impression that bulbs are a one-time wonder. Themed displays of naturalizing bulbs are potentially huge. Market them as perennials that will multiply and will produce a magnificent show each year. This concept needs to be enhanced by photo images depicting combinations with other perennials like hostas, grasses and other early flowerers.
Shade is also becoming a huge theme as more folks have limited space gardens and limited light. There is an amazing selection of shade-loving bulbs that folks aren’t aware of.

The love-hate relationship with bulbs happens each spring when they look so beautiful and then so awful for a long period of time as their leaves wither and die down. Water plant baskets double nicely as bulb containers. You simply plant the bulbs in containers, bury the containers where you want the display and then lift them when the bulbs finish. This allows them to die down out of sight and leaves the area ready for new plants. Introducing this concept can create more bulb sales this fall and earlier bedding plant sales in spring. These containers are available from your suppliers, and it’s a unique way to position yourself as the leader in bulb innovation.

Another themed category that has legs features the family of alliums. When the traditional bulb season ends in May, our customers should be treated to a whole new display of unique colour. In our gardens we get “oohs” and “aahs” from a whole range of alliums, starting with the tiny blossomed ‘Drumsticks’, A. sphaerocephalum, to the spectacular giants, A. giganteum and A. schuberti. Dried bouquets of these giants in your allium display would certainly turn heads.
For today’s consumers, packaging is everything. Colourful photo cappers on each package are visually appealing and prevent inevitable mix-ups. Both bulb suppliers indicated that price points of $10 or less are the impulse limit. In bulb sales, pre-priced packages of 50s and 100s are the most convenient for consumers.

Used together, all of these marketing concepts will help independent garden centres position themselves as the leaders in fall bulb sales, but pricing should still be considered. One of the largest Canadian bulb suppliers firmly believes that independent garden centres should feature two or three items with strong price points to position their bulbs competitively in the marketplace. In doing so, it portrays independents as the leaders, the authorities and the best places to invest in spring.

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