Americans potty over potted plants

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Washington, May 2 : A web site devoted to the technique of growing plants in pots suggests that Americans spend more than 1.3 billion dollars a year on plotted plants.

The site called Container Gardening Associated has revealed that container gardens, the use of a variety of plants in any type of container, are popular with the elderly and disabled.

They are also hit in areas where soil quality is a problem, or where pots define an area or direct traffic, adds the Web site.

Dr. Terri Starman, a horticulturist at Texas AgriLife Research whose findings are based on an online survey, says that the results suggests that retailers can cash in on container gardening by offering more extensive plant care information, making plant and container selection easy and pricing the pre-planted or do-it-yourself containers properly.

"We found that there is a potential to increase the value of a container garden through providing educational material with the purchase," she said.

Appearing in the journal HortScience, the study's findings also show that most people prefer a container garden with a complementary colour harmony in the price range of 25 dollars.

Complementary colours are opposite each other on the colour wheel, says the study report.

Terri believes that the findings hold significance for retailers, particularly as the U.S. economy slips.

"The trend toward 'green' awareness calling us to reduce our carbon footprint also pertains to container gardening. Everything in container gardening is confined, so it takes less water and other inputs. And people are using them not only for flowers but for growing vegetables and herbs as food prices increase," she said.

Terri noted that retailers were initially hesitant for fear that the plants would not last long and the consumer would become dissatisfied, when container gardening became trendy about a decade ago.

"So retailers have developed ways to provide containers that last longer. For the money, a container lasts longer than a similarly priced bottle of wine or dinner out, for example, and that's important to the consumer," she said.

She says that 'take-home packs' of plants, marketed to replenish annual plants that have died in containers or to change out seasonally, may be credited with the rise in this gardening method.

Terri believes that the next big step will be to increase the availability of care information requested by people in the study.

The results of the survey show that more than three-fourth of the participants would be more likely to buy a container garden if extensive information was provided, while 85 per cent would be willing to visit a Web site to obtain that information.

"Developing Web sites for the information would save growers the expense of putting tags for all the plants, especially if there are multiple plants in one container," Terri said.

She feels that further research is required, especially on the pricing side of container gardening, because of the existence of two types of consumers for such product - the do-it-yourself type and the do-it-for-me type.

"Some are willing to spend a lot more money for a beautiful container garden. And there is also a market for servicing container gardens, especially for independent nursery operators who can sell it, deliver it, maintain it and change it out seasonally, for example," she said.

ANI

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