Plants need food, protection and, most of all, water! Wilted, moisture-deprived plants may not be the first thing that comes to mind in April, but if you experienced the intense heat from last August (one of the hottest months on record!), you’ll read on.
Our retail efforts to sell plants to consumers in spring often don’t include tips for survival or maintenance of the plant for the duration of the season. Plant labels clearly state whether the plant requires sun or shade conditions, and occasionally mention keeping the soil moist. Some flowers and plants, however, drink more than their share of water during periods of high heat! We can combat those issues, and set our customers up for long-term success, if we’re proactive sellers in early spring.
Consumers wonder why curbside trees show lavish growth and new leaves in spring only to dry up and wither later on. Knowing the conditions, the type of tree root system and its planting location, we can determine that the tree is likely growing faster than its root system can support. Once a tree fully flushes out in leaves, it requires a lot of moisture to maintain its health. When planted in clay soil, near a super-heated asphalt road surface, one can only imagine how that tree could survive! Some don’t.
The tell-tale signs of tree roots being restricted appear when root systems change direction in search of moisture, sometimes undermining sidewalks and creating surface roots. Most of the moisture is used up quickly by the lower branches and never reaches the top portions of the tree.
We’ve all experienced the temptation to cut corners when cooking up our favorite recipe, in the interest of finishing faster or maybe dirtying a few less dishes. Why would we want to cut corners on something a lot more expensive than a meal, like a tree or shrub? The most basic task of good planting success is simply adding water. This, too, can be a consumer challenge. Remember: Where there’s a consumer challenge, there’s a retailer opportunity!
The top-selling product sold at retail, besides plants of course, is bagged soil or potting media. Yet many consumers skip this important step in their purchases. And many have buyer’s remorse when they fail to keep their plants alive. Is it safe to assume that everyone knows how to plant anything these days?
Our biggest challenge in retail is to communicate what our customers need to be successful. Selling a bag of soil should be easy to do with almost every plant transaction. What’s in the bag can be the difference between success and failure. It can keep the consumer’s plant supplied with key nutrients, and help it to retain all-important moisture.
The ingredients in a media mix vary from peat, topsoil, humus, compost, coir, manure, kelp, crab or lobster shells, dried meals, castings, root stimulants and even moisture-control agents like a polymer. How do we lead our customers to the correct product?
It’s not about price. The cheapest product usually has the cheapest content. If you feel it’s enough to get the job done, then you believe we all should be driving a Fiat. It gets the job done. Instead, our motivation is to offer a soil that meets certain performance criteria.
Growers choose professional media to produce great results. Retailers should be offering (and recommending) performance and value-added potting media along with their plant and pottery selections. Unless you can successfully predict the weather, it’s best to plan ahead for water management. Sun Gro manufactures several great options for moisture-control media. The new Black Gold package label clearly states features and uses from the retail shelf. Each product has different characteristics for specific applications, making it easy to stage and sell in your store.
Today’s polymers are water-holding crystals that store hundreds of times their weight in water, releasing the water as the soil and plant demand moisture uptake. Polymers aid to reduce watering, limit transplanting shock and minimize soil compaction when used according to the label instructions. When planting directly into the soil, polymers will last several years and are a favorite of landscape professionals.
You may offer your customers a variety of polymer products from granules, pouches, spikes, mats, infused soil mixtures (sold with and without fertilizers) and mycorrhizae, too! The leading manufacturer is JRM Chemical, which sells Soil Moist brand products. If you’ve ever experienced a drought before, you’ll appreciate the value of teaching consumers to plan ahead at the time of planting their flowers, roses, trees and shrubs.
If your customers are starved for time and can’t water their baskets, window boxes and containers, a premium potting soil with these moisture-retentive crystals or premium coir should stand proudly in your pottery department as a recommendation to be used at the time of planting. Your simple store sign of “We Recommend” should create more selling opportunities at a higher ticket than you may realize.
Don’t wait to promote good planting success until the summer heat arrives. It’s just a matter of time before it’s too late: Plant me correctly now, or pay to plant me again later.