I believe the houseplant resurgence is largely driven by the fact that people are living their lives online. Frequent posts show interiors are enlivened by indoor greenery, and plants are a fast and fun way to change a room’s look. This is, of course, a gift to our industry.
Jumping on this trend are garden centers that are building their stock of houseplants. In addition to succulents, customers are filling their interiors with tropicals and seasonal flowers. To address this interest, IGCs are scheduling houseplant classes or make-and-take indoor plant workshops. But beyond increased sales and additions to the event schedule, many garden centers are using this interest to build their tribe.
Caitlin Miller, the events coordinator and assistant manager at Riverview Gardens & Gifts in Temple, Pennsylvania, is building community at their garden center with a houseplant club.
“Houseplants are really trending,” Miller says, “and each shipment of new plants gets us excited. Once I started posting pictures of these on social media, the response was so good that I decided that this would be something that would bring people in, and it’s grown from there.”
The Riverview houseplant club started in November of 2018. “It went from two or three people per meeting to 20 or 25 at this point,” Miller says. True to what’s trending, they find that the attendees are largely millennials. “The age range is from 13 to 80,” Miller says, “but the majority who come are from 25 to 40 years old.”
Meetings are held once a month, and the level of houseplant experience among those who have joined is as varied as their ages. “I have one girl who has over 250 houseplants and runs her own houseplant video blog,” Miller says, “but [also] others that have no experience with plants at all.”
Riverview’s houseplant club meets on the first Saturday of the month at 10 a.m. “It’s supposed to be an hour long, but it usually goes to about noon, ” Miller says. I have coffee and juice for them when they arrive, and then we chitchat for a while. After our program, we all go from the event space into the greenhouse and end by walking around among all the plants.”
Every month, Miller features a different plant and at the end of the meeting, club members hear which variety will be highlighted next time. She says that although last year the schedule was sort of trial and error, in January of 2020, they chose all of the plants for the months ahead and are even planning to do some field trips. Club meetings are not only planned around plant information, but general fun as well. “Some people bring in their own plants for show and tell,” Miller says. “Or they might bring in cuttings to share with others if they’re trimming or splitting something they have. And at Christmas, we did a Secret Santa cutting exchange, which was a great holiday celebration party. We played ‘guess how many airplants are in this jar’ and had a plant identification game.”The club at Riverview draws a devoted core of people. “A lot of people came and thought it was neat, so they recommended it to their friends,” Miller says. “Now the group that comes consistently have all become friends. We have two people that travel an hour and a half to come to our meetings.”
In addition to bonding as a group, the club drives sales as well. “For the most part” Miller says, “they always walk out with a new plant or a pot. If we’ve talked about pests or problems, they might walk out with Neem or other products, or some fertilizer. Whatever topic we’ve covered that day often results in the purchase of a related project.”
Yet, sales aside, what Miller is most pleased about is the way the club cultivates each individual member and the group energy. “It really has built community for us,” she says. “Introverts come alive in the meetings, and that’s one of my favorite parts about it.”