How to buy - Pots and containers

Bright colours and bold printing are helping retailers to sell more plants, Sally Drury finds.

Printed pots: increasingly popular option - image: Desch Plantpak
Printed pots: increasingly popular option - image: Desch Plantpak

See list of pot and container products and supplier details

Q: What is the most important consideration when choosing pots and containers to increase plant sales?

A: According to LS Systems and other suppliers, colour tops the list of marketing advice. An increasing choice of colours is now available. The firm's latest catalogue includes bedding packs, planters, hanging baskets and decorative pots in vibrant colours, as well as TEKU-FLEX+ photo printing on black and coloured pots.

Modiform UK sales manager Shaun Herdsman says growers are realising they are no longer selling plants but a product. "Everything has to be right, from the quality of the plant to the colour of the label, the colour of the pot, what is printed on the label and the pot and even what the pot or pack sits in," he adds. "Successful growers market plants well, offering bright colours and bold messages on their packaging. If we want to sell product, we need to stand out from the crowd."

Neil Howick of Howicks Nurseries near Nottingham offers red pots for his tomato plants that practically shout "tomato". He also offers bedding pots in white printed packs with a simple but effective design and he has chosen to go with two-colour white and grey six-packs.

At Edwards Nursery in Derbyshire, director Mark Edwards offers white bedding pots with the nursery's own design, including the British Protected Ornamentals Association "Home Grown" logo. Doug Wilson, a partner at Trioscape in Gloucestershire, has branded all his products in a stunning arrangement of purple and black, with colour-coordinated labels.

Last year, Herdsman organised a trial at Landlands Garden Centre in York to find out whether bedding plant packaging influences the way that consumers buy. He set up one trolley with standard black six-packs of mixed petunias and an adjacent trolley full of coloured six-packs - blue, purple, green, red, yellow and pink - with the same plants. He stayed in the garden centre for two days filming the buying process and talking to the consumers. "It quickly became apparent that people were drawn to the coloured trolley," says Herdsman. "The coloured bedding packs out sold the black packs 6:1."

On the back of this trial, Modiform has produced bedding packs in six colours. These are now stocked at LS Systems and offered in boxed quantities. Herdsman plans another trial this year but will colour coordinate the product, so a pack full of yellow petunias will be in a yellow pack with a yellow handle. He will offer these at 50p more than black ones on an adjacent trolley

"Consumers like to see a bit of colour from the flowers," he adds. "The coloured packs help with this, especially if the colour of the flowers co-ordinates with the pack and handle. This trial will help to tell us whether growers can make a little more money by doing it."

Modiform has teamed up with the Concept Factory to help get an understanding of trends in the market and to aid growers and retailers with the design process.

Desch Plantpak now offers the full E-PLA range of decorative containers, bowls and hanging baskets in a range of 50 colours for a minimum order of just one pallet. Marketing and area sales manager Chris Breed says: "Colours are a cost-effective way to add value to plants and to enhance the retailers' display. This includes the new 'Nora' 27cm hanging basket, which has a built-in reservoir to improve shelf life."

Q: Is there anything new to help encourage root development?

A: Designed for faster root development and with anti-spiralling properties, the Idel Vinci pot from Lows of Dundee has its lateral holes located on a "V" surface to improve drainage and reduce rots. Harvesting cycles are said to be half that of plants in normal pots with the same medium and irrigation.

An air-pruning-type container arriving in the UK this year, the Vigoroot is made from an air-permeable fabric and is available from TOMS Manufacturing, suitable for herbs, trees or shrubs. The firm also markets Rootrainer hinged plant-growing cells for use in nursery and forestry production.

Q: Are there any new degradable products available?

A: Fertil has extended its range of biodegradable pots with the introduction of the new 100 per cent peat-free pot. The Fertilpots are made from spruce wood thinning plus a ligno-cellulosic compound and are free from chemical product residues and printing inks. The pots are totally organic.

Q: What else has been introduced to the UK market?

A: Aeroplas has a number of new products, including 2.7and three-litre square/round deep pots as well as a three-litre pot that fits 36 units to a Danish trolley shelf. For roses, the company has introduced a new 6.7-litre round deep container. New bedding packs include a six-pack that fits 24 to a shelf and a 20-pack that fits 12 to a shelf.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, H Smith Plastics has produced an additional version of its Vacapot 60s. These trays are only 35mm deep - so they take less soil - and could be used as a cheap alternative to plug trays. They are available in either cut or uncut versions. A seed tray with 35mm depth has also been developed to hold the Vacapots.

Desch Plantpak has launched a range of "Y" base container-pots in one-, twoand three-litre sizes. Four litres and upwards will follow. The new pots feature the popular and effective three-level base drainage system designed to allow maximum drainage through the base and avoid blocking drainage holes while on the ground. The new top rim is larger for better automatic pot dispensing and incorporates improved label slots. These have been strengthened to eliminate weakness and distortion of the pot rim. Thirty two-litre pots fit a Danish trolley shelf. All three sizes can be made in a selection of colours and can be printed.

Also new from Desch Plantpak are twoand three-litre square/round containers with "Y" base improvements and a strong label slot. These pots have a gloss finish.

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