Why can’t you buy plants online?


Because it is hard to do.  That was the conclusion of a recent article in Horticulture Week which explored some of the challenges garden centres face when trying to sell online.  The cost of shipping was also cited as a significant hurdle as it can dramatically increase the price to the consumer.

Despite these challenges, some retailers have found success selling live plant material online, particularly those serving niche markets, where there are few alternatives. Here in Canada Valley Succulents would seem to fit that profile.  They have made a business selling a selection of rare and unusual cacti and succulents online from their location on Vancouver Island.

So is e-commerce a none starter when it comes to live plants?  I think a better question is what is the potential for growth?  Compared to other types of retailers in other markets (think clothing & electronics), garden centres and nurseries are behind when is comes to e-commerce adoption.  Given the unique challenges associated with selling live plant material, there may be a lower cap on the potential for growth, but there is still plenty of room to grow.

The market for live plant material tends to skew older.  Now that so called digital natives are buying homes and settling down, they may start gardening, landscaping and purchasing plants in significant numbers. These new gardeners are used to purchasing from Amazon and other online retailers, and will soon come to expect this option to purchase online when dealing with their local garden centre.  Retailers that figure out how to sell plants online will be rewarded.

Thankfully online commerce is not an all or nothing proposition.   There are ways to ease into this new sales channel.  Businesses can start with online marketing, and making their inventory available online.  They can develop a blended “clicks & bricks” model that let’s a customer purchase online and pick up in store like the program developed by Monrovia.

The first step is establishing online connections with your customers, be that your website, social media, or mobile apps like Plantola.  Get comfortable interacting with your customers through digital channels, and demonstrate to your customers that you are responsive. Amazon started out selling a single science textbook online.  Eventually they figured out how to sell much, much more.  The horticulture industry needs to go through a similar learning curve.  Thankfully, the journey should be much easier since many others have already traveled the same path.


About Plantola

Plantola makes it easy to catalog and share your garden with friends and businesses, like your landscaper, or local garden center. Like the look of that tree down the street? Take a picture and share it with your plant guy. Captivated by the rose growing in your friend’s garden? Look it up while you are at the garden center. Plantola lets gardeners spend more time in the garden, and less time looking for plants.  For more information visit www.plantola.com.

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