Haute houseplants

Features - Cover Story | 2022 Houseplant Report

Despite years of explosive growth, the indoor plant market is still rapidly expanding, with garden centers increasing stock, selling more plant material and successfully charging higher prices, especially for rare or unique varieties.

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April 8, 2022

While many garden centers saw rising houseplant sales in the years before the pandemic, demand has skyrocketed since 2020 and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Nearly 80% of garden centers saw houseplant sales increase last year and even more expect revenues to continue growing year over year in 2022.

And as houseplant sales continue to grow, they’re becoming an even higher portion of total sales. When the pandemic first hit in 2020, only 6% of garden centers were getting two-fifths or more of their revenue from houseplant sales. Today, that number has jumped to 19%. On the other end of the spectrum, IGCs reporting less than 20% of total sales coming from houseplants has dropped from three-quarters to just half, showing just how important the houseplant division has become for garden centers.

Although the industry isn’t seeing the kind of explosive growth it saw when COVID first hit, our research shows that demand is continuing on an upward trend.

Survey methodology: Data for this report was collected in February 2022 via an online survey of nearly 400 independent garden centers in the U.S. and Canada that offer houseplants.

All images © Adobe Stock

Designated space

The number of garden centers that separate their houseplants into a special section jumped up 10 percentage points this year as stock increased. Many use a designated greenhouse or area, while others move their houseplants around throughout the year to maximize their visibility.

More home-grown

In keeping with the overall trend of garden centers growing more of their own plant material due to issues with freight costs, shipping delays and stock shortages, more IGCs than ever are growing their own houseplant material. In the past two years, less than 40% of retailers reported growing some of their own houseplants, jumping up 28 percentage points this year.

More modest growth

Overall, houseplant sales aren’t growing at the extreme rates they did when the pandemic hit in 2020. While the vast majority of garden centers are still seeing solid growth in their houseplant departments, the number seeing an increase of more than 15% year over year has slowed from 64% in 2020 to 36% in 2021.

Slightly fewer garden centers are expecting to see an increase in houseplant sales this year, however, with many citing increasing cost of living and rising inflation leaving customers with less disposable income. Others believe that more competition from concerts, vacations, dining out and other social activities will deplete consumers’ budgets for plants.

However, thanks to steady houseplant popularity and solid sales, most garden centers reported increasing stock last year, along with plans to continue growing their houseplant offerings this year.

Seasonal sales

Houseplant sales have become less consistent across seasons over the past three years, with sales becoming stronger in spring and summer. This year, garden centers reported fall as the slowest season for the first time, with spring remaining the strongest.

Steadily rising prices

After several years of rising demand for houseplants, garden centers are continuing to increase prices, due in part to increasing wholesale costs. Last year, 87% of respondents raised prices to some extent, up from 71% in 2020 and 75% in 2019. While the majority of garden centers take several factors into account when pricing their houseplants, the wholesale price was the most common single factor when it came to retail pricing, so as wholesale prices and shipping costs increase, so do the retail prices of plants.

Online options

Instagram is a huge driver of the current houseplant craze, as well as a popular place for plant parents to find their communities, whether they’re local or global. And garden centers are finding success marketing their stock via the social media platform, as well as Facebook, while an increasing number are getting on TikTok.

While COVID shutdowns and concerns forced many to explore online sales, the number of garden centers offering a virtual store is still low. Online options are popular for education, however, but in-person events remain the most popular way to educate customers.