June 2019
Tips from the Garden Center By Erik Friedli

With tropicals, we can offer seasonal indoor color and holiday plants which round out the department.

These days, everyone should be focused on tropicals, as this category offers the highest dollars-per-square-foot return in our garden centers and is celebrating a renaissance which rivals the 1970s. Of course, the first things to consider with tropicals are function and use. We need to offer hanging baskets, tall and medium floor plants, and tabletop options. Customers also want the patio tropicals, such as flowering trees like hibiscus or gardenia, and trellised beauties like mandevilla.

Adding the heat of tropicals Erik FriedliTropicals should not be seen only as dull “houseplants.” They bring drama and texture to one’s garden. With tropicals, we can o¢er seasonal indoor color and holiday plants which round out the department. When I think of tall and medium floor plants, I immediately think of Homestead, Florida, whose climate offers the right growing conditions for expansive nurseries to produce acres and acres of plants in 10-inch and larger containers.

When I think of tabletop plants, I think of Apopka, Florida, whose collection of greenhouses and shade houses spread throughout the back roads of this central Florida rural area. Hanging baskets also come from both areas.

As you’re planning your tropicals selections, look at current plant trends like Ficus lyrata, sansevieria, monstera, succulents, ZZ, and consider if these plants are trending up or down.

If we believe they are trending up, then we want them in every size we can find in quantities that make a statement. If they are trending down, then offer smaller sizes in more conservative quantities to satisfy those late to the party.

RELATED: Adding the Heat of Tropicals

Also, look for which plants are riding the next wave, and pull in enough to test the market. Is texture trending? Or color? Look for programs or categories within the department for opportunities such as ferns. An area in the garden center which showcases the depth of variety of ferns will stand out to customers. Orchids and small flowering plants like Rieger begonias and African violets are great additions to the department. Incorporating pottery nearby and fountains to set a scene also help customers with home visualization.

Anyone new to the market should definitely attend the Tropical Plant International Expo (TPIE), an annual industry trade show which includes hundreds of plant and plant-related vendors, which takes place each January in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Also, newcomers should talk to as many other retailers as possible to gain their perspective and ideas. Focus on growers who are able to ship. Many of those which don’t ship may have relationships and connections with companies which do.

Another tip is to use growers as a resource to learn which plants are hot. Growers know they cannot send more plants if the first shipment has not sold. I have never had one steer me wrong.

The secret to a successful venture in tropicals is about developing relationships which lead to current and future sales.

Erik Friedli

Erik Friedli, Casaplanta Garden Center, Miami, Florida