Making Hydroculture Work

January 11, 2005
Written by Anja Sonnenberg
Many different civilizations have utilized hydroculture-growing techniques throughout history.

It’s believed to have started in the ancient city of Babylon with its famous hanging gardens, which are listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Since then, the system has evolved drastically, becoming the low-maintenance, foolproof method for homeowners to create their own indoor tropical paradise.

Hydroculture was first introduced to the North American market 15 to 20 years ago, but at that time, availability and price were two big issues that prevented the popularity of the system. Since then, the products have become readily available to retailers and consumers alike. Hydroculture has become a huge success in Europe, and as the trend continues to gain popularity, it won’t be long before the Canadian market is looking to introduce this innovative growing method.

The integrated hydroculture system offers customers several advantages over the traditional potted tropicals including:
•  Low-maintenance plant care
•  Eliminating the soil in house-plants reduces many pests and diseases.
• Houseplants improve the air-quality and regulate the climate of the house.
• The current trend for 2005 is  to incorporate houseplants to beautify a home.

16a Hydroculture refers to plants being rooted in expanded clay granules, not soil. This provides an ideal balance between air, water, and food supply, creating optimal growing conditions for the plant. Conventional planting with potting soil is the ideal medium for professionals to use in a control environment where light, humidity, water, and fertilizer are closely regulated. This method, however, becomes flawed when a customer brings the potted plant home, and strays from the regimented schedule the grower has followed. Hydroculture provides the consumer with a foolproof system, which maintains the plant’s health as well as extending the plant’s shelf life.

The hydroculture system is extremely beneficial to the plant, given people’s busy lifestyles, for it provides low-maintenance plant care.  The system also helps to beautify the customer’s homes, as well as regulating the temperature and humidity indoors.

 “You don’t need to have a green thumb,” Kunze says. “You only need the right environment, and the plant will tell you the rest.” The one thing that consumers have to understand is that this system is a bit of an investment in the beginning. The pots require a food-grade glaze to avoid an adverse chemical reaction when adding water to the system, which adds to their cost. But from the consumer’s perspective, once the plant is established, the only maintenance required is to check the water meter. The pots specifically designed for hydroculture are as unique as the system. They tend to be very trendy and fashionable, which enhances the appearance of the plant.

When the big box store phenomenon hit, they shifted the market to focus on mass merchandising. The independent retailers suffered because they couldn’t meet the supply and demand of large quantities of products. Now, with the changing market, independents have realized that their success lies in bring unique products into their stores. Hydroculture isn’t something that the big box stores would sell, and independent garden centres have educated and experienced staff, which allow them to explain the system to potential customers.
“The only restrictions that you have are the mental inhibitions of stripping the soil and cutting the roots,” says Kunze. “It’s a mental block that people have and they don’t want to take a chance.” Knowledgeable staff are the key to the success of selling hydroponics.

16b “The independents are going to come back strong in the next 5 to 10 years. I guarantee it,” Kunze says. “The opportunity is here to introduce something new to the market.”
As with anything new, some consumers may be resistant to change. Once the idea of hydroponics is conquered, consumers will realize the simplicity of the system. As independent garden centres, it’s vital to offer customers exciting new products, which they can’t find anywhere else. It all goes back to educating your customers and providing them with excellent customer service to make them feel confident and comfortable in trying something new.

For more information on hydroculture, visit Effective System for Houseplants

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