The love language of plants

Departments - Straight Talk | Honest insights from an IGC expert

Explore the emotions and memories plants can evoke around the holidays.

July 13, 2022

The stories and symbolism that surround holiday favorites like amaryllis, poinsettias and rosemary can draw customers in and warm hearts around the holidays.
photo © Eakkaluk | adobe stock

Every plant has a good story, and all effective marketing involves good storytelling. So why don’t we tell more plant stories to our customers? The goal, when storytelling, is to make our customers feel something that inspires them to make a specific plant purchase. It’s our job to make them care. When it comes to marketing traditional holiday plants in fresh ways, there are simple storytelling strategies we can use to elevate their perception of value and inspire action.

Get emotional

When crafting your marketing messages around holiday plants, it’s important to remember that it may not be the plant itself that means something to your customer — or the recipient of the gift plant — but the emotion the plant evokes or the memories it stirs. Whatever holidays you celebrate, or how you choose to celebrate them, there are core emotions we can agree on, at least as ideals, like generosity, togetherness and love. These are the emotions we are all trying to evoke, either for ourselves or for those we buy for, when we decorate and gift holiday plants.

When we decorate with holiday plants, or gift them, we’re using a sort of love language. When we shift our perspective on plants in this way to focus on the emotional experience these plants offer, versus simply their form and function, we enhance their value.

Get literal

When it comes to an individual plant species, you can get literal about their stories as well. There are many stories and fun facts about our traditional holiday plants that can enrich your marketing and create emotional tethers to specific plants.

The name “rosemary” for example, is derived from the Latin name rosmarinus, which means “dew of the sea”… it has nothing to do with either the names Rose or Mary! The Greeks and Romans believed rosemary improved memory, and as such, they would weave it into their hair to improve their minds. (I’m envisioning some great marketing photos of your staff with rosemary in their hair happening this holiday season!) Rosemary is also a token of remembrance for loved ones who have passed.

Poinsettias have a fascinating human interest story that dates to the 1300s in Mexico. In addition to having immense value to the Aztecs as a medicinal plant (this is historical, not a current recommendation). Plants were also used to create intense red and purple textiles dyes. The Mexican legend of Pepita and the “flowers of the holy night” have long tethered the plants to Christmas culture.

Gifting an amaryllis? The folklore behind this beloved holiday bulb is all about love. As the story goes, a love-struck maiden named Amaryllis pierced her heart with a golden arrow, leaving drops of blood on the ground every day as she visited the handsome but unreceptive Alteo. Finally, on her 30th visit, a beautiful red flower bloomed along the path where Amaryllis’ blood droplets had fallen … warming Alteo’s heart and healing Amaryllis’. Awwwww.

These stories are just a taste of the fun folklore you can weave into your marketing for holiday plants that help flesh out the meaning of such seasonal gifts and décor.

Trend spotting

Health and wellbeing are at the very top of many of our priority lists right now. Being good to ourselves and those we love involves taking better care of ourselves regarding what we put in our bodies. This can be especially difficult to achieve during the holiday season. If you haven’t noticed, non-alcoholic aperitifs and wine alternatives are having a heyday, as are floral infused and decorated cocktails. I suspect fancy non-alcoholic cocktails are going to be quite popular during the upcoming holidays.

This trend offers you a unique opportunity to expand marketing for holiday gifts of herbs and flowers into the healthy holiday lifestyle space.

Herbs and flowers are great holiday gifts for cocktails or mocktails during the winter months.
photo © sea wave | adobe stock

Living the lifestyle

You’ve probably noticed I’ve repeated the word lifestyle. That’s really what the holidays come down to, isn’t it? When you’re telling the story of your plants to your customers, what you are really doing is reflecting to them the story of their lifestyle, or desired lifestyle, and how your plants fit into that vision. All with the intent of eliciting a specific range of emotional responses.

When you send out that e-newsletter about holiday gift plants, it shouldn’t be about listing off the plants you’ll have and why people should buy them. It should be a story about how holiday plants create a sense of love, togetherness and well-being in the context of holiday gifting and entertaining. Include personal or staff memories that specific holiday plants evoke for you and them — perhaps a story about your grandmother’s Christmas cactus passed down to you. Include images and recipes for custom non-alcoholic cocktails enhanced with fresh herbs and flowers. Offer up plant folklore your customers can use to elevate their gift giving. Provide suggestions for related products (even ones you don’t sell) that make the perfect accompaniment to a holiday plant for family, friends, hosts, teachers and so on.

I don’t mean to sound crass here, but essentially what I’m saying is that there’s margin in the meaning. As you prepare for your holiday season marketing, don’t underestimate the value of tapping into your plant love language.

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