April 2024
Top recommendations for shoulder-season sales By Steven Engel

Merchandising tips and plant classes that can help your garden center capture essential off-peak sales.

Solving Springtime Emergencies

It’s a good problem to have, but what happens if your early-spring traffic reaches a fever-pitch and benches begin to look empty? PanAmerican Seed’s Sow Fast. Grow Fast. program can provide fresh flowers and combos for additional sales. Explore the full list of flowers and vegetables that can be sown, grown and shipped in 10 weeks or less — giving you more opportunities for shoulder season sales — at panamseed.com/sowfastgrowfast.

The power of plants is still a driving force in today’s consumer market — people just can’t get enough! The key for retailers, however, is to build on those initial spring fever sales, inspire them though the peak season, and bring them back in summer and fall. In short, capturing shoulder-season sales is essential for success in today’s garden centers.

Here are a few practical display tips that can help draw in shoppers right off the bat:

  • Use bright and bold seasonal colors merchandised in the front of the garden center, such as yellows in spring and reds in summer, to kick off sales and pull customers into the store as they see new options from the parking lot.
  • Offer large combo planters and hanging baskets filled with seasonal décor to make early- and late-season decorating easier for customers looking to spruce up a patio or balcony.

Beyond swapping up your storefront to entice new business as the months roll on, there are several plant classes that herald each new season, as well as give shoppers more chances to easily freshen up their outdoor spaces.

Here are a few of my favorite go-to classes across multiple seasons of sales.

Play It Cool

Petunia ‘E3 Easy Wave’ and the new petchoa ‘Caliburst Yellow’ are great premium options, and both tolerate the unpredictable weather of early spring. The Easy Wave petunias bloom early due to their 10-hour-or-less daylength requirement — that means mounded, tidy baskets filled with flower color at the first stages of spring fever.

Paired together, petchoa ‘Caliburst Yellow’ and petunia ‘E3 Easy Wave Pink Cosmo’ make a great early-spring mix.
Paired together, petchoa ‘Caliburst Yellow’ and petunia ‘E3 Easy Wave Pink Cosmo’ make a great early-spring mix. Photos courtesy of PanAmerican Seed.

Petchoa ‘Caliburst Yellow’ is day neutral, making it early to flower as well, plus its vibrant yellow blooms are a calling card for spring. Paired together, petchoa ‘Caliburst Yellow’ and petunia ‘E3 Easy Wave’ complement each other very well and make attractive early-season mixes.

The Coronet dianthus series, with its large blooms and availability in multiple colors, is another great early-season annual. Coronet can take a frost and performs throughout spring, making gardeners feel successful. It thrives in the landscape for those who want to dig into the ground early, but it also looks fantastic in a color bowl when sold as an impulse item for patio tables.

A great perennial option for early-season sales is leucanthemum ‘White Lion’. With its 10-hour daylength, this shasta daisy will bloom early without the need for supplemental lighting (that’s an energy saver with a sustainable message!), plus it is hardy to Zone 3. This compact, first-year-flowering perennial will be one of the first spring bloomers in your customers’ landscapes year after year.

Heat It Up

As temperatures rise and spring transitions into summer, attention turns to keeping customers coming back to the store after peak traffic by focusing on heat-tolerant and pollinator-friendly plants.

Cuphea ‘Sweet Talk’ is new for 2024 and launches in three colors: Red, Deep Pink and Lavender Splash.
Cuphea ‘Sweet Talk’ is new for 2024 and launches in three colors: Red, Deep Pink and Lavender Splash.

Cuphea ‘Sweet Talk’ is a natural source of pollen for bees, hummingbirds and butterflies. It is a heat-loving plant that will bloom throughout the summer months. ‘Sweet Talk’ is new for 2024 and launches in three colors: Red, Deep Pink and Lavender Splash. It can be planted in the landscape or in large patio containers as components of mixed containers. Gardeners will love the backyard activity these plants receive!

The award-winning Jolt series of dianthus is a heat-loving summer dianthus that performs in the landscape or can be used in containers and summer combination planters. With four colors to choose from, it’s a must-have vibrant option to catch the eye of shoppers looking for seasonal color.

Salvia ‘Big Blue’ and salvia ‘Lancelot’ are two other great pollinator attractors. ‘Big Blue’ will mature to 24 to 36 inches tall, has dark-blue blooms throughout summer, and tolerates heat and low-water conditions. ‘Lancelot’ is a Salvia canariensis and has unique silver-white felted leaves and lavender blooms that burst in mid-summer. It begs to be touched and is water-wise in hot, arid climates.

Summer-blooming, first-year-flowering perennials add beauty and longevity to landscapes and containers. The echinacea Artisan collection blooms throughout the summer and is hardy to Zone 4. The three colors — Red Ombre, Soft Orange and Yellow Ombre — are bright, prairie colors that stand out in the yard and are a beacon for butterflies and songbirds.

Another summer standout perennial is the Starship lobelia series. This is a versatile series with six colors that can be used in the landscape or in combinations with annuals or perennials. I like the tall, upright stature of this perennial, and foraging pollinators enjoy it, too. It’s also great in heat and humidity.

Stepping out of the summer sun, a great shade option is Beacon impatiens. Beacon impatiens have high resistance to impatiens downy mildew and are available in numerous colors and mixes for shoppers to customize a shade garden all their own.

Take It Inside

When talking about true shoulder-season sales — sales for any time of the year — we’re talking indoor plants. The Kitchen Minis collection of edible potted vegetables and herbs is the perfect addition to garden centers’ indoor departments. Kitchen Minis includes sweet peppers, hot peppers, tomatoes, cucumber and (coming soon) an herb basil. Fast-growing and compact, Kitchen Minis are meant for windowsills or table tops, and can be harvested by the shopper over the course of four to six weeks.

Cucumber ‘Quick Snack’ sets fruit without the need for pollinators and can thrive in a sunny indoor spot. 

Merchandising these indoor tabletop veggies and herbs with indoor floral displays is the best way to show the uniqueness of this collection. Kitchen Minis are great for consumers who don’t have the space or ability for larger vegetable gardens, for seasons that are not conducive for outdoor gardening or as a living gift option. Kitchen Minis varieties can also be mixed in window boxes and themed for cooking. Enjoy an Italian-themed window box or a salsa garden window box, and harvest fresh vegetables right from the windowsill.

I hope these shoulder-season recommendations help your garden center entice customers to visit throughout the year. With premium products, updated displays and new indoor options, you can offer consumers a fresh opportunity to garden through each season.

For an enhanced reading experience, view this article in our digital edition.

Steven Engel

Steven Engel is regional account manager at PanAmerican Seed. Reach him at [email protected].