Selling succulents as holiday plants

Features - Green Goods

Mix traditional fall and winter plants with unexpected varieties to spice up sales this holiday season.

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November 15, 2017
Maddie Capron
This cold-season container combination from North Haven Gardens is one of many the Dallas retailer creates for the holidays.
COURTESY OF NORTH HAVEN GARDENS

Even if the weather outside is never frightful, and there’s no white Christmas in sight, people still love decorating their homes for the winter holidays. In mild climates, “decking the halls” is tradition, and consumers are looking for the best ways to brighten up their indoor and outdoor areas.

Shannon Kuhrt, vice president of M&M Wintergreens Inc., based in Cleveland, Ohio, says the demand for traditional evergreens mixed with other plants is high in many regions of the U.S. Some of the biggest trends she’s seen include mixing evergreens with succulents or magnolias.

“The mixture of succulents in with the fresh evergreen branches looks really, really cool,” Kuhrt says. “Another thing — magnolia is huge. We carry it up north, and we incorporate it all across the country into the porch pots and into wreathes … because of the contrast of that dark green, shiny leaf with that brown underside.”

Cody Hoya, general manager of North Haven Gardens in Dallas, Texas, says he’s also had success mixing succulents in with traditional holiday plants.

Calocephalus
COURTESY OF NORTH HAVEN GARDENS
Lemon cypress
COURTESY OF NORTH HAVEN GARDENS

“Succulents continue to grow as a trending plant for DIY and décor projects year-round, especially during the holidays,” he says. “We introduced a variety of made-in-store terrarium ornaments that feature tillandsias, and those have continued to grow in popularity, as well.”

Hoya and Kuhrt aren’t the only ones who have seen succulents become a hit during the holidays. The Washington Post also reported the trend in 2015, and it shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

“Succulents come in so many different colors that you can fit them in with any theme,” Tawni Daigle, author of “DIY Succulents: From Placecards to Wreaths, 35+ Ideas for Creative Projects,” told The Washington Post. “If you are going with autumn, there are orange, yellow and brown varieties. For Christmas, there are reds and greens. The possibilities are endless and so versatile.”

Additionally, Hoya has seen success with other plants for the holiday season that go beyond poinsettias and cyclamen. Those include Calocephalus, lemon cypress and Gaultheria procumbens. He says they make great container plants along with cyclamen and other annuals, and the plants can create ideal centerpieces and indoor decorations during the holiday seasons. North Haven has also seen an interest in bulbs during the winter months.

Succulent containers for Halloween
COURTESY OF NORTH HAVEN GARDENS
North Haven uses succulents for Halloween and Thanksgiving containers, too.
COURTESY OF NORTH HAVEN GARDENS

A short window

Despite that success, the window for the holiday and winter season in the south differs from the north. Kuhrt says the south has a much shorter window for holiday plants and decorations than the northern states in the U.S. do. While states in the Northeast and Midwest start prepping for the holiday season often at the very beginning of November, southern states traditionally wait until after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“They’re gearing up to that first part of December,” Kuhrt says. “For them, it’s really just a decoration for the month of December. I think leading up to that, they’re incorporating other, more fall materials. Northern states have to switch from fall to winter pretty quickly, and they don’t have much of a window to expand on their fall window.”

“Tulips and other spring-blooming bulbs continue to be a major feature of our winter inventory, both for landscape planting and for forcing indoors,” he says. “We’ve grown our assortment of amaryllis bulbs to about 20 unusual varieties beyond the classic red, and these continue to be very popular.”

Hoya says utilizing the fall season and preparing early has helped grow interest with consumers.

The fact that succulents come in many different colors and textures make them the perfect plants for any holiday.
MICHELLE SIMAKIS

“We build interest in the season early with a huge assortment of fall ornamental offerings including seasonal annuals, decorative pumpkins and gourds, and seasonal tropicals such as Crotons,” he says. “We offer solutions for homeowners no matter how they’d like to do their decorating; we provide the necessary materials for DIYers, we provide pre-made containers and centerpieces in the store, and we offer custom container and arrangement options for those seeking something different or in search of the perfect seasonal gift.”

Kuhrt says as big retail chains start to bring out their decorations earlier and earlier, people are looking for their horticulture products well before the holidays, too.

“A lot of it is being driven from outside of our industry, like the Targets and Walmarts that have Halloween candy out in August,” she says. “The other retail stores are pushing, and people tend to start looking for [horticulture] industry products at the same time they start seeing [other holiday items] in stores.”

No matter where the garden centers are located, however, consumers are looking to beautify their homes during the holiday season.

“Consumers will buy it even if it only lasts them a few weeks because it gives them that traditional [feel] of Christmas that they’re looking for,” Kuhrt says. “Even though the weather’s warmer where they’re at, they’re looking for that little piece of Christmas. [Plants] help them do that.”

Maddie interned with the GIE Media Horticulture Group during the summer of 2017.