Indoor plants are all the rage these days, especially among the younger crowd. A good selection of plants will keep these customers coming back. Plants are much less perishable than — and a great complement to — fresh flowers. Many florists choose not to stock potted plants, and that’s a mistake in my books. Plants can clean the air; improve our physical and mental health; increase creativity, productivity, and concentration; and provide natural beauty to any space. Most houseplants are tropical plants, kept because they are easy to care for and fare well in a typical indoor setting.

Bringing plants into the flower shop can seem daunting if you don’t know where to start. If you’re new to indoor plants, there are some easy ways to become comfortable caring and merchandising them.

There are lots of great tropical plant suppliers across Canada. Plants are typically sold from lists without any visuals. The suppliers can help guide you in the right direction, offer easy care suggestions, and get you started with plants. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take some time and sit down with a plant list and Google the plants you are unfamiliar with, learn what they look like and the care they require. Choose the ones that best suit your skill level and your shop’s aesthetic. Consider the lighting you have and where each plant will fit into the displays based on that. Sun-loving plants should be near the front by the windows; place shade-loving plants farther back in your displays.

When the plants arrive, make it a point to share the care needs with the staff. It should be everyone’s job to learn about those plants so they’re able to sell them confidently and accurately. For example, a sun-loving plant should never be sold for a shady spot; that’s a guaranteed bad experience associated with your shop.

Here are some great pointers when dealing with plants:

CHOOSE WISELY: If you are ordering it, learn about it! Learn the care requirements, as well as the common and botanical names of each plant you bring in. Challenge yourself with one unique plant each order.

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PROPER CARE: All plants need water and sunlight in varying amounts throughout the year. Some are quite adaptable; others are not. Too much — or not enough — light or water can kill. Typically, plants require more water in the summer and less throughout the winter. Don’t equate water with love, though. Too much water can often be a killer.

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DON’T PESTER THEM: Most plants like to be left alone. Don’t touch or move them too often. Most tropical plants will show signs of stress after transportation. It will take a little while for them to adapt to the unique light and humidity levels of your space.

GROUP PLANTS WITH SIMILAR CARE NEEDS: Some tropical plants like to share humidity while others like it dry. It is wise to mist them, place containers of open water under them, or invest in a humidifier, especially in the winter. Others, like cacti and succulents, can go without all the extra attention as long as they have lots of sun.

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ACCEPT LOSS: Many seasonal plants die at the end of their associated season or aren’t interesting after the bloom dies. Otherwise, death is an opportunity to learn what you’ve done wrong.

INSPECT REGULARLY: If you don’t find a pest or disease quickly, you risk losing a plant and having it spread the infection to other plants in your store. An infection caught early is easier to treat. Sometimes the green bin is the best option to cut your losses if it’s beyond control.

KNOW WHEN TO POT OR RE-POT: Keeping plants in their plastic pot and setting them into decorative pots is best. Most plants like to be a little bit snug in their pots. When repotting, don’t plant into a pot much larger than the original. Replanting is best during the spring so the plant can recover more quickly during the active growing season.

ALWAYS BE LEARNING: Invest in a comprehensive plant book to keep at your shop for quick reference. My favourite is “The House Plant Expert” by Dr. D.G. Hessayon. We reference it almost every day. Google is your friend, too. Plants can be a unique part of your product offering. Consider offering a selection of terrariums, terrarium supplies for the DIY type, or even workshops — if you feel your knowledge is solid enough to teach others. Animal lovers come in daily with requests for plants that won’t harm their pets. Be prepared to guide them.

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The ASPCA website is the best resource I’ve found for information on plant toxicity with cats and dogs. Many common houseplants act as great natural air purifiers and people love to keep them for that purpose. NASA has a top ten list of the best air cleaning plants; look it up. This is a great marketing angle that helps sell plants.

Plants can really help your bottom line. Start small but think big for the future. Consider offering an outdoor seasonal planter service, in-home plant consultations, plant subscriptions, or standing orders. Plant supplies and accessories like decorative pottery, mosses, watering cans, soil, and fertilizers complement the plants themselves. Soon enough, plants will become a mainstay in your shop and customers will know to come to you for a beautiful selection.

Plants can clean the air; improve our physical and mental health; increase creativity, productivity, and concentration; and provide natural beauty to any space.

Joseph Delarge
Joseph DeLarge, CAFA, CFD, is the owner of eco|stems in Toronto.
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