Kate Spirgen

There’s been a lot of talk about the new customers who took up gardening over the past year and a half, and advice from experts seems to be unanimous: make it easy, make it fun and make it more. When I say ‘more,’ I mean plants that do more — more seasonal interest with foliage, more blooms that last longer, more pollinators coming to the garden. It seems like just pretty plants aren’t going to cut it for a lot of these new gardeners.

In his state of the industry report at Cultivate’21, Charlie Hall said, “It’s incumbent on us to continue talking about the benefits of plants.” I think those words ring true for anyone in the horticulture industry, no matter what level of experience their customer base has.

In this month’s cover story, we delve into the wants and needs of those new gardeners, but it’s not just new gardeners who are looking for plants that do more. Master gardeners are eco-conscious plant people who want pollinator-friendly and edible options just as much as any new gardener, if not more.

You may already be offering plants that do more. Natives and nativars are great for the local ecosystem and are often easy to grow. While they may be suffering from a bit of an image problem, a little education can go a long way to show your customers why they’re an eco-friendly (and often beautiful) choice.

Whether your plants are good for your customers’ butterfly and bee population, good for their next recipe, good for their mental health or good for their busy schedule, the key is to show what plants can do. And who knows better what plants can do than you and your staff? Even before customers get into the garden center, show them what plants can do on your social media, your marketing and your signage.

That’s true when it comes to indoor plants as well. They clean the air, provide ambiance and give plant parents a sense of satisfaction. Do your customers know what their new plant babies bring to the table besides great Instagram photos?

By telling the story of what your plants can do and helping customers on their path to success, any IGC can prove just how much value they provide to their community. There’s no shame in showing off when it comes to what your IGC can do.

Kate Spirgen