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How to design and grow premium recipes that sell

October 21, 2018  By Proven Winners (edited)

Mixing plants you can eat with ornamental flowers in large containers is especially popular with younger gardeners who have limited space.

Container recipes are popular with home gardeners because they offer instant beauty and colour in a convenient take-home package. So how do growers create the combinations customers love, and produce them as efficiently as possible? Here are seven tips from Brian Bourdon, Four Star Greenhouse’s offsite and product line manager, who has created hundreds of Proven Winners’ most popular recipes.

Pair Plants with Similar Vigour
One of the biggest mistakes people make when designing container recipes is not matching plants with comparable vigour ratings. When a high vigour plant is paired with plants that are less aggressive, it quickly overtakes the other plants and sets the combination off balance. But when it is grown with other high vigour plants, the recipe grows perfectly together.

We’ve tested and rated all of our annual plants for vigour using a scale of 1 to 4. Pay close attention to these ratings when designing your own recipes. If you are following one of our named recipes, we’ve already factored vigour into account.


Match Cultural Needs
Growers are savvy at pairing plants with similar needs together in production to increase efficiency. The same rule applies when matching up plants in container recipes. Factors to consider include: lighting and shade requirements, moisture, nutrients, growing temperature and heat tolerance. Most annuals will perform well at a pH of 5.8-6.2, so this detail is less critical to examine.

Stretch the Imagination
Once your top-selling recipes are established, let’s think beyond the standard 3-variety thriller-filler-spiller formula and create premium complex container recipes with higher price points. These can be sold in much larger, high quality decorative containers as cash and carry items. Watch how quickly they fly out the door when it’s time for people to decorate for graduation parties and other special occasions. Container recipes are trending larger and more complex as people look to create fewer plantings with higher impact for their decks and porches. Choose an unconventional thriller like Toucan cannas to create a lush look, then surround it with larger fillers and spillers to create a stunning mosaic of colour and texture.


Follow the Diagram
We provide planting diagrams for all our hanging basket and upright container recipes found online. It’s important to train your production department to follow these diagrams when transplanting liners into new hanging baskets and upright containers. This will ensure enough liners are used and that they are positioned to achieve the most attractive mix of colours and textures.

Easy Design Formulas
If you’re looking for an easy way to combine plants in premium quality hanging baskets and upright containers, the thriller-filler-spiller method continues to be a success. Consumers have come to know and love this formula, too. There are countless varieties that will work in these types of recipes – the hardest part is narrowing down your choices. Instead of a typical spike or grass, try something different this year and use a Toucan canna, Meteor Shower verbena or Pegasus begonia as your thriller for a more premium finished product.

Colour Schematics
We all know that colour sells. While pink and purple rank consistently as consumers’ favorite colours, bicolours also rank near the top of that list. Colour preferences tend to shift through the seasons too. While pastel pink is often sought after for spring recipes, bold magenta pink plays prominently in warm season combinations. To accommodate the colour preferences of a broad array of consumers, Proven Winners has created container recipes in 15 different colour schemes. From pastel to patriotic, vibrant mixes to earth tones and more, you’ll find over 950 container recipe ideas at

Classic v. Unconventional Pairings
Your design and production staff surely has a list of favorite container recipes they grow beautifully every year. Don’t be afraid to substitute in a new colour or variety from time to time. We’re constantly working to improve even our most popular varieties and significant advancements have come in foundational plants like Superbells Yellow and Supertunia Royal Magenta. Alongside the standard recipes you produce every year, try a few unconventional pairings, too. Many younger gardeners relish growing unusual plants and will quickly snap up a recipe featuring our funky new Truffula Pink Gomphrena or Rockin’ Fuchsia Salvia, for example. Mixing edible plants like Berried Treasure Red strawberries and Amazel Basil with ornamentals in large containers is also trending as consumers downsize their gardens.

For more tips, check out the 2019 Receipt Guide for Professional Growers

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