We all know that cut flowers have been having a renaissance in recent years, and you’ve probably noticed the same trend happening in houseplants. That trend was well underway prior to the pandemic, but spending more time at home has given us all more time to enjoy our flowers and plants.

There is a category of plants that falls squarely between cut flower and houseplant that is well poised for a return:  the flowering gift plant. Outside of grocery stores and mass market outlets, these “pot plants” seem to have been overlooked of late. Generally these are flowering plants that are greenhouse grown and brought into flower with the intention of enjoying them inside for a few weeks before composting them. They are better thought of as cut flowers with roots than as true houseplants. The best part is, you probably already know how to grow them! Many of these crops happen to grow well in cool greenhouses, so they can be started in the winter with minimal heating expense.

 

Many of our tall cutting strains have shorter cousins bred specifically for pot plant production. Ranunculus, anemones, freesia, campanula, lilies, callas, carnations, stock, and lisianthus all have compact versions perfect for pot plant production. The same suppliers you use for seed, bulbs, and plugs can help you get your hands on these products and provide you with cultural information.

Bulb crops are especially well suited to this market. While there are some dwarf bulb varieties, many full-sized tulips, narcissus, amaryllis, muscari, iris, crocus, and ornithogalum grow beautifully in pots. (Do yourself a favor and watch Val Schirmer’s presentation from the Nashville meeting on forcing bulbs for use in bulb gardens.) The cultural requirements of these crops are well documented and with a little skill you can time their flowering for Christmas, Valentine’s, and Mother’s Day.

Tender and hardy perennials such as hellebores, hydrangeas, astilbe, alstroemeria, gerberas, and many more can also be forced in pots for gift sales, then planted outdoors for further enjoyment. Suppliers can provide dormant plants ready to be potted and flowered under your care.

Cyclamen and primula are still seen with some regularity and are excellent winter potted flowers. Cineraria, calceolaria, and schizanthus are cool growers that were once staple crops but seen only occasionally these days. They all deserve a second look.

There are plenty of true houseplants you can grow as well that may or may not have a flower. Succulents have been growing in popularity for at least 20 years now and are a breeze to grow and propagate. Gloxinia, African violets and their relatives are true houseplants that also offer flowers. Begonias can be grown for foliage or flower, and the range of true foliage plants is vast.

I know we are all first and foremost cut flower growers, but traditionally “florists” have grown and sold all manner of flowering plants. Rather than looking for new customers to buy your cut flowers, perhaps there is an opportunity to sell a new class of flowers to your current customer base. Talk to your trusted supplier about adding these crops to your production plans. Educate your customers on what to expect from these plants, and just maybe you can develop a whole new market for some of these old-fashioned plants