Scotts Miracle-Gro general manager Martin Breddy has told the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Horticulture and Gardening (APPGHG) annual reception that the trade needs a "new language" if it is to inspire young gardeners.
Breddy told more than 130 industry figures and politicans at 18 November's event at the House of Commons the tone of speeches on the state of the industry in 2012 was described as "gloomy" by Alan Titchmarsh.
He added 2013 had been better: "But we're not yet out of the woods."
Breddy said: "Many businesses in the sector are on a par with 2012 and that sort of performance is not really sustainable. We need growth."
He said at a talk he gave to Oxford University careers service he played a word association game. Students linked peat to mud, fertiliser to pesticide and gardening to grandparents.
Breddy said: "We need to find a new language to inspire them if we want to inspire a new generation. But I'm not sure how to do that and still make some money."
He praised David Domoney's Cultivation Street project and said he wanted to see secondary school gardening become as widespread as it is in primary schools.
The reception, opened by APPGHG chairman Baroness Fookes, was addressed by Defra Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Lord de Mauley, Horticulture Week editor Kate Lowe and actor Jim Carter.
For a full report on issues raised at the event, see this Friday's Horticulture Week magazine.