The colour of plants sold is an important consideration for growers and planteria managers when it comes to selecting plants to offer the public, with fine sunny weather this spring leading to more yellow and orange plants being sold this season.
At WD Smith & Son's recent pansy and viola trials in March, the top four plants chosen by visitors were all yellow (Tiger Eye Yellow from Floranova, Viola Deltini Rose Pink from Syngenta, Viola Tear Drops Pink Blush from Ball Colegrave and Bunny Ears from Thompson & Morgan). WD Smith director Mike Smith says the winner was most popular "because people are looking for something different and it stands out from the bunch". He adds: "Yellow sold really well because of the weather. When the sun is out, yellow sold out straight away."
England and Wales averaged 120 hours of sunshine in March, 112% of average, and Scotland averaged 116 hours, 125% of average. South Wales and south-west England were the dullest areas, with under 100 hours. Temperatures in March 2016 stuck at about 12 degsC but reached more than 20 degsC on occasion in March this year.
FloraHolland's business and market intelligence department has monitored consumers' purchasing behaviour for a whole year, examining differences between the Netherlands, France, Germany, the UK and Sweden. Among summer annuals, multicoloured outdoor plants are selected most often in Germany, the Netherlands and the UK (around 20%). In France, red and pink are the most popular colours. In Sweden there is a slight tendency to choose white (17%). Among perennials in all of the countries surveyed, purple is the most popular colour.
Robert Wharton of Whartons Roses says: "The most popular rose colours have to be the rich deep-pinks to reds. The recently released variety 'Charisma' is a good example and it has a strong fragrance." About half of all Valentine's Day flowers sold are red roses.
Alton Garden Centre director Andy Bunker says with Senetti, for instance, the top sellers are pink, bicolour, cerise, then blue, while orange violas are also good sellers. But he adds: "If it's good and in colour, it will sell. People come in and want a viola. They don't necessarily want a colour." He made an order this month from Porters asking to be sent the range of what is in colour, which he says can be a good option when some plants are out of stock.
At Ball Colegrave's Summer Showcase in 2016, the top picks by visitors (Petunia 'Night Sky', Argyranthemum Grandaisy 'Pink Halo' and Calla Lily Callafornia Red) were led by a purple plant with white specks, followed by a pink and red, showing novelty can be more important than colour. The trade chose the same top two but had Calibrachoa Starlight Blue as third top choice and the Calla fourth.
Analysis of the top ranked plants shows the public prefers pink (four of the top 10). The trade chose an equal number of pink and purple, while the consumer list also errs on the side of pink ahead of purple, yellow and orange.
Ball Colegrave marketing manager Stuart Lowen says the company "has seen a distinct increase in popularity with certain colours in the past 12 months of bedding plants that match a number of our 'Trends' colour combinations such as 'Bollywood', 'Nautical Chic', 'Tangerine Twist', 'Brilliant Bling' and 'Sophistication'".
Further FloraHolland research shows summer annuals are bought most often in all five countries surveyed. On average, 35-40% of the purchases are outdoor plants, with the UK having the most. The most commonly sold summer annuals are petunia, fuchsia, violets, geraniums and chrysanthemums. Among perennials, lavender is the most popular plant in every country. Together with winter heather and pot roses, they are placed in the top five in every country.
The study found that in the UK fewer outdoor plants are placed on balconies and terraces in a pot. UK gardeners prefer to plant outdoor plants in the ground in the back garden. FloraHolland says: "This image matches what we see on offer at British garden centres, where many semi-grown products are sold rather than mature products."