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Novel ways to sell more new plants

January 22, 2014  By Gary Jones

It’s a few days before Christmas as I write this column. The scene is filled not with fluffy snowflakes and adorable winter scenes, but with the sound of commercial Christmas music and constant ads exhorting us to buy, buy, buy.

It’s a few days before Christmas as I write this column. The scene is filled not with fluffy snowflakes and adorable winter scenes, but with the sound of commercial Christmas music and constant ads exhorting us to buy, buy, buy.

I’m no marketing expert, but I am always intrigued by the ideas being circulated that encourage us to buy the stuff other people think we need or can’t possibly live without.


You can no doubt think of a few items that have made you wonder how on Earth they ever get sold. Who would have thought, for example, that selling “pet rocks” would be a viable proposition until a couple of decades ago when it became all the rage? Those were the days, eh?

When introducing new plant cultivars, we have to remember that we’re up against some stiff competition. We need to capture those expendable dollars from customers who might otherwise be tempted to spend them on alluring electronic gadgetry, dining out or the latest fashions.

Or pet rocks.

Competition is fierce. So, we have to think of novel ways to get our products seen and, hopefully, bought.

For a start, new varieties of plants are just that – “new” – and “new” always heightens curiosity.

Plants are attractive. Who doesn’t like flowers in the home or office, especially in the middle of a dull, grey winter? They are thought to bring health benefits and make the workplace more productive.

With breeders always looking to improve their offerings, new cultivars are coming along all the time, but as a commodity plants never go out of date – there is no “built-in obsolescence.”

Plants are suited to all tastes, allowing one’s unique personality to shine through. Are you a tall, green tropical-type person or a colourful, flowering potted plant person?

Which lasts longer in your home – a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine, or a healthy, vibrant potted plant? Our products have such great features and benefits.

Recently, I’ve been following the adventures of Deliflor’s one-billionth Anastasia that’s enjoying life being pampered by its very own butler. It has its own blog.

“In the greenhouse, the Golden Anastasia’s personal butler again gives his cutting some more water and attention. This cutting is really being pampered. After 10 days in this greenhouse, the cutting will have developed roots,” reports Hortidaily.1 Weekly updates for one product. Hmmm…

Have you thought about the multitude of interesting facts about plants that might help catch someone’s attention? Find something weird (but good!) that relates to your crop and make it a hook. For instance:

  • “In 17th-century Holland, tulip bulbs were more valuable than gold! The flower symbolized immortality, life and love.”2

During a layover of a few hours between flights at Schiphol airport recently, I wandered down to the famous flower market in central Amsterdam. Nestled alongside the marijuana boxes I stumbled across tulip bulbs in ring-pull cans. While not quite more costly than gold, their ingenious packaging certainly made them more costly than loose-pack tulips.

  • “Dandelions look like weeds, but the flowers and leaves are a good source of vitamins A and C, along with iron, calcium and potassium.”2

You probably aren’t selling dandelions, but nasturtium has a wonderfully mustardy-flavoured leaf that is great on salads. That’s added value for your bedding plant customers!

If all else fails, I guess one could take the approach of some enterprising Italian criminals reported by the BBC.

“Police in Italy have arrested four alleged mafia gangsters over a Christmas extortion scam. The men have been forcing shop owners to buy poinsettias – known in Italy as “Christmas Stars” – for 100 times the wholesale price. The gangsters in the southern city of Naples have been demanding as much as 100 euros ($140) a plant for the past three festive seasons, police say. Owners who refused the mob’s “Christmas offer” had their shops vandalized.”

On the other hand, perhaps that’s not such a good idea after all.

  2. Sharpex Gardening Community accessed at

Gary Jones is co-chair of horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Langley, B.C. He serves on several industry committees and welcomes comments at

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