Pass-along plant passion

Tap into customers’ nostalgic side and offer resources for legacy plant care while helping customers share their love of plants and sparking the joy of gardening for generations to come.


There is a ripe opportunity for IGCs to serve legacy plant parents by infusing propagation and plant care tips into their marketing.
Photo © sablinstanislav | Adobe Stock

Most of us came by our love of gardening and plants as a pass-along passion. The seeds of a gardening addiction are usually planted in us by other gardeners and plant lovers in our family or neighborhood, passing their legacy of a love of gardening onto us. Many of us can recall memories of our African violet-loving grandmother or iris-collecting mother as the inspirations for our personal plant addictions. Legacy plants, also often called pass-along plants, embody fond memories of special family members and friends.

Trying to figure out a new angle for marketing plants for very traditional holidays? You might be better off going with an old-school angle instead. With both Mother’s Day and Memorial Day coming up, you have an opportunity to tap into a little bit of gardening and houseplant nostalgia with legacy plants. Both to revisit happy memories and make new ones.

Plant passion

With houseplant and gardening popularity on serious overdrive, and new plant keepers making serious emotional attachments to their plants, it looks to me like we’re already experiencing a new legacy plant movement. I have no doubt that in 30 years or so, we’ll be hearing from the next generation who’ll inherit legacy Pilea peperomioides and Monstera deliciosa from their parents or grandparents.

As luck would have it, many conventional houseplants commonly kept and given as legacy plants — such as snake plant, holiday cactus, Pothos ivy, aloe, geraniums, begonia, arrowhead plant and African violets — are immensely popular again amongst new plant keepers. I regularly hear from people who have been tenderly caring for a specimen of one of these plants for decades or have recently had one passed down to them from a family member and are desperate for proper care instructions.

Legacy plants often carry with them intense emotional meaning and connection for their new adopters. I think garden centers could fill a unique educational void here for providing how-to-care information for inherited or shared legacy plants.

Mother plants

When it comes to houseplants, legacy plants are typically species that are relatively easy to propagate and pass along, which is a cornerstone of the legacy plant protocol. When you’re gifted a legacy plant, there’s sort of an unspoken expectation you’ll snip a piece of it to pass on a new plant baby to another family member or friend (if it’s not a patented plant, of course).

This is something you could have a little fun with and let your marketing efforts shine. Perhaps sell cute frames along with gift plants so that customers can either include a photo of themselves with the “mother plant” when gifting a plant baby, or so that the recipient can do the same when they are ready to pass along plants themselves. Or an add-on “baby pot” and a small bag of growing media for the future snippet they might propagate for a friend.

Add-ons like this are a simple way to elevate a gift plant and make it a more interactive experience for both the giver and recipient. What’s cuter than “Mother Plants” for Mother’s Day?

Photo © TippyTortue | Adobe Stock

The gift of gardening

A sense of legacy of course also applies to garden plants and trees. Planting trees and shrubs in memory of a loved one is a treasured gift. Legacy gardens, or memorial gardens, are a wonderful way to honor those we love. Smaller garden plants and bulbs can also be lifted or propagated, transplanted or propagated to pass along.

When my grandmother passed away when I was in college, I managed to dig up clumps of her treasured irises and lilies to transplant into my rental house garden and my mother’s garden, and subsequent gardens thereafter. When I purchased my first home, a tiny cottage built in 1941, it came with nothing in the landscape but a robust patch of Iris pallida presumably planted by the original owners, as it had been there “forever,” or so I was told. I, of course, saved and brought along clumps to plant in my current home garden once I sold that house … and will no doubt dig up a patch to take with me when I leave this home. Sometimes you can take the girl out of the garden, but not the garden out of the girl.

Unstuff it

Holidays these days often come with the added stress of gift-giving expectations. Personally, it’s gotten a bit too much for me. And let’s face it, we all have way too much stuff. A lot of that stuff is plastic or non-biodegradable and will eventually just pile up in a landfill somewhere. I’m not sure about you, but all the stuff doesn’t make me feel great. Plants do make me and lots of other people feel great.

With an appreciation for plants, nature, and environmental impact growing amongst our customers, gifting pass-along plants — especially those that bring or bear legacy — is a marketing message that’s both on-point and responsible. Plus, it just makes everyone feel good.

Leslie (CPH) owns Halleck Horticultural, LLC, through which she provides horticultural and business consulting, as well as product development and branding for green industry companies. She is also a horticulture instructor, industry writer and book author. Find out more at lesliehalleck.com

March 2022
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