In-Store Plant Care & Merchandising

4 Basic Tasks:

There are only four things to know, remember and do when performing basic tasks in the plant department:

Task 1: Water properly. Water all foliage plants twice a week and blooming plants three times a week (except monthly for cactus & succulents)

  • Give the plants a good soaking; do not just wet the top of the soil.
  • Water according to pot size. smaller 4″ and 4 1/2″ plants need less water than medium sized 6″, which need less water than larger 10″.
  • Set a watering schedule for each week, such as all plants (except cactus) each Monday and Friday, with blooming also on Wednesday.

Task 2: Groom all plants. At least three times per week, look at your plants. Use scissors and your fingers to remove all brown or yellowing leaves, dead leaves or broken stems from your plants. Just as we all need a haircut and bath, so do the plants need to be periodically groomed.

Task 3: Merchandise Plant Displays. At least three times per week, work through the plant department to make a well organized presentation to our store customers.

  • Make sure all plants are grouped by size and variety.
  • Make sure all front facings are filled;many facings may be at least three deep for small plants and two deep for larger plants.
  • Make sure that each area has proper signs for prices and descriptions.

Task 4: Rotate the Products.Keep fresh, top quality plants on the shelves. Look for old, dead or dying plants in the department, and remove them. No one will buy them, and they reflect poorly on the whole plant department. If you wouldn’t buy it, get rid of it!

Grooming, Merchandising and Rotating will usually be done together. Watering may or may not be done with the other steps. These minimum tasks must be performed on a weekly basis. Other important tasks like receiving products, ordering products, merchandising techniques and cleaning guidelines, as well as more detailed coverage of care and watering, are covered in the rest of this section.


Every plant department head must plan for sales in order to be successful. You should do the following every week:

  1. Plan the sales you expect to achieve.
  2. Plan what you are going to sell to achieve these sales.
  3. Plan your weekly order for products to meet those sales demands.
  4. Plan how and where you will merchandise your product to maximize your sales.
  5. Plan on improving the following week.

How Much Time Do I Need?

By planning your sales and your personnel needs for the following week, you can make sure that you have enough hours to get everything done. Often, the normal weekly routine can be followed. However, you must also consider those certain times (holidays for example) when additional effort is needed. During these times, you must ask yourself:

What else am I trying to sell?
The answer to this question can generally be found in considering two areas of extra work:

Ad Item –As soon as you get the ad planning information for any ad, ask yourself how will you sell all of that particular item at its sale price? Then ask how much reasonable time you will need to prepare it (receive it, process it, merchandise it, sign it, etc.)

Special Promotional Displays – How much more can you sell if you make special promotional or “theme” displays, special tie-ins with other departments or displays in other locations? Then ask how much reasonable time it will take to complete your plans?


Consider how many hours you will need to meet your goals, being flexible and realistic as to where your priorities are. When planning your schedule include time for:

*Customer Service *Maintaining Department *Watering Product Well
*Cleaning *Building Ad Display *Receiving Product *Writing Orders
*Planning & Evaluation


To obtain the results you desire for your department you must have organization. Organization minimizes the time wasted looking for supplies or trying to locate your ad survey or plant department mail.

Keep in mind the ease of accessibility when organizing your work area:

  • Are all cleaning and watering supplies handy on a daily basis?
  • Are your signage materials organized and available?
  • Are your files and records complete and readily accessible?

This is a key to achieving all your expectations for your department. This takes place not only verbally, but in the form of notes, records, schematics, planning and proper follow through. It is the basis for all performance evaluation.


Communication can reduce your workload tremendously while increasing coordination and cooperation. It means involving your store managers and produce managers in helping to make your plant department a success. Communicate to them regularly about your plans for your department. If you need an extra display space for a particular week or a little labor for a large shipment due, let them know.

“Communication is a major key in unlocking the door to success!”

Receiving Products Properly:

One of the most important steps in maintaining the quality of your plants is receiving them properly. Remember that every store needs to do a complete check-in.

As the driver is unloading (and based on your trust/confidence in your driver):

  1. Count the number of cases and compare it to the number on the invoice.
  2. Check boxes to see if what is on the invoice is what you received. Receipt must be in eaches, not cases.
  3. Check the cases for evidence of shipping damage.

    Immediately after the driver leaves:

  4. Open the cases to let out any heat that may have built up in transit and to let the plants breathe.
  5. Inspect the plants carefully to note their “upon arrival” condition.
  6. Notify the vendor of any problems you see.

These six steps must be performed as quickly as possible. If plant department personnel are not present, the store manager, produce manager or other designated individual must receive the plants and perform the six receiving steps. Please remember that your driver delivers to many stores. Help keep him on time for you and his other stops.

Preparing Plants for Display:

It is equally important to make sure that plants are displayed as soon as they are received. Customers will not buy what they can’t see! Not only does this result in increased sales and lower shrink, it also eliminates the possibility of damage to the plants from being stored in the back rooms.

Care must be used when taking plants out of shipping cases. Avoid “bruising” the leaves and blooms or damaging the stalks and buds. Remove the plants carefully! Water the plants right away to help settle both the plant and the soil in the pots after transport.

Grooming of the plants can now be done. Start by wiping off any excess dirt from outside the pot or speed cover. “Groom” the plant by removing any damaged leaves, stalks or blooms. Check to see that the plants are properly priced. Now the plant has its best face forward and is ready to meet the consuming public.

Don’t forget the signage! An attractive, informative sign not only tells the customer what the price is, but, more importantly, tells them what the plant is called and a little about it. It welcomes them to the plant, and is often the difference between selling a plant and not selling it. A good sign is your greatest selling tool!

Watering Requirements:

No rules or guidelines can substitute for the experience and good judgment of plant department personnel. Each store environment will be different as to amount of light, temperature ranges, drafts, companion products, etc., that the plant experiences, and must be judged accordingly. However, clear and comprehensive instructions on a plant care label can guide the less experienced personnel or consumers. And the following gives general guidelines for the watering requirements of most plants.

A most important step in maintaining your plants is to water and care for them properly. Certain plants need more water than others. Check the care labels or a good plant care guide for tips on watering specific varieties. The temperature of the water that is used is of great importance! COLD water will shock the plant and set it back. Use water that is room temperature only!

As a general rule, flowering plants need much more water than non-flowering plants. But different green plants take different amounts. A simple way to test is to place your finger against the soil. If it is moist, the plant may not need to be watered. If in doubt, water! If a plant is stressed from lack of water, it may need two to three times its normal water requirement to come back.

General Rule of Thumb:
The best way to determine the watering needs of a plant is to press your finger into the soil about 1 inch. If the plant is moist, don’t water it. If the soil remains dry more that 1 inch down, water it.

Other General Guidelines:
Most 4″ and 4 1/2″ green plants require water twice per week.
Most 4″ and 4 1/2″ blooming plants require water every other day.
6″ green plants require a good watering once a week.
Many 6″ blooming plants require water almost every day, depending on the temperature in your store. (Check soil wetness.)
8″ plants require water once each week.
10″ plants require lots of water once each week.
Hanging plants require water twice a week.
Most cactus need water only once a month.

All plant watering requirements listed above are for plants in saucers. Any plant placed in a decorating basket, pot cover, or lined basket of any type will have different watering needs. Water will not drain from the soil as rapidly in these containers. These plants normally require far less water and must be checked daily for moisture with your finger pressed into the soil.

Common plants with special watering requirements are as follows:

  • Hairy leaves on plants must not get wet. Water on these leaves will cause mold immediately. Varieties in this category include Gloxinia and African Violets. Water either in the saucer from the bottom up, or gently hold blooms and foliage to the side and place water directly on the soil.
  • Succulent plants (blooming or not) need far less water. One watering every two weeks is usually sufficient.
  • Ferns take in water through their leaves: therefore misting these plants with water will assure healthier plants.
  • Bulb plants, during blooming stages, generally require water at least every other day Tulips, Hybrid Lily, Daffodils, Amaryllis, Hyacinth and Narcissus

Merchandising Techniques:

Simply put, merchandising is everything you do with a plant once it is taken out of the box. Merchandising is not difficult if you look through the eyes of the customer. When a customer enters the store, it is generally to buy something else. A plant is very rarely on a shopping list. With this in mind, you must draw the customer into your plant department by using a very simple technique-having fresh, attractive and appealing plants and flowers at all times. This is the first step towards catching the customer’s eye.

Arrangement of plants is the second step. This is done by keeping the different varieties together, such as all of a blooming variety together, all dieffenbachias, all pothos, all cactus etc., and not placed indiscriminately all over the display. Full displays of a particular type of plant are more attractive, easier to sign, price and care for, and easier to order than a mixing here and there throughout the department.

Accessibility is so important in plants. It will ultimately mean the difference between selling a plant or not selling a plant. It’s that simple! If, for instance, you put a row of 4″ plants on the top shelf of your display, and then put a row of 10″ plants in front, no one would even know that there were 4″ plants on the top-shelf. Even if there were signs, no one would reach for the 4″ plants for fear of damaging them. A good rule of thumb is to place the same varieties and sizes of plants from back to front, rather than in rows from side to side. This will solve the problem of one variety burying or hiding another.

Quality starts from the time you receive your plants until they are gone. At no time should there be poor quality plants on display. The old saying holds very true:

“If you would not want someone you know to buy it, don’t expect your customers to buy it!”

This is one of the best ways to judge the quality of merchandise in your plant department.

Freshness shows! When policing the plant department, check daily for plants that need to be rotated. These plants should be either discarded immediately if they have a “shopworn” look or, if the plant is still of a good quality, it can be marked down and priced to move. Manage your inventory of plants!

Merchandise by Density

Plants that appear “dense” when merchandised should be separated on your display. This will keep your department balanced and not appear too”heavy”in certain areas. Examples of “dense” plants are:

Boston Ferns, Dallas Ferns, Caladium, Chrysanthemums

These “dense” plants should be spaced approximately every foot on your fixture (more for large pots). You may use a tile on the floor as a guide in spacing. Break these plants with other items in your merchandising plan.

Merchandise by Color:

Plants that are not at all dense in appearance should be merchandised closer together. Many bulb plants, such as Tulips, Hyacinth, Daffodils, and Hybrid Lilies, are great examples of this. These plants should be slightly closer together and may be staggered (one in front, one in back and to the side, another in front) on a shelf to fill in large air spaces. Even with primarily green foliage plants in an area of your department, you can merchandise by color shadings. Stripe in dark green varieties with lighter green or variegated plants. The effect can be dramatic.

Avoid side-by-side clashing colors that will fight for your customers’ attention. Multi-colored Chrysanthemums next to multi-colored Violets next to multi-colored Caladium will all blend together and appear confusing to your customers. No one item will stand out from another, and therefore nothing will catch the customer’s eye. You’ve lost a sales opportunity when you fail to catch the eye of a customer! A better merchandising plan is to either separate each item with a block of green plants or separate each item with a blooming item that is strongly one color, preferably a contrasting color.

Merchandise by Height

Arranging plants according to height accomplishes two important objectives: it creates a pleasing and eye-catching presentation for the customer and it avoids hiding or screening plants from view. Many departments put all pot sizes together on the same shelf. However, within the same pot sizes, there can be dramatic height differences. Just compare an 4 1/2″ Areca Palm with a 4 1/2″ Pink Splash. And during major promotions, you might build displays outside the plant department.

Generally, taller varieties will either be put in the back or in the middle of your display. Tall-to-short from back-to-front is the general guideline. Along a shelf or backdrop, you might taper the run of plants from middle to the ends. For example, in a display area, you might place three or four taller 10″ tropicals in the middle, flank them on each side with two or three shorter 10″ plants, and then flank these with 6″ tropicals to finish the run.

In a corner presentation, the taller items should be placed in the corner itself. Then gradually reduce the height of the products displayed out from the corner.

Principles of Good Display:

While it is easy to get caught up in the individual techniques and elements of merchandising, one must always remember that these only work if used in conjunction with an overall merchandising plan. And that plan needs to reflect consideration of these Principles of a Good Display:


Freshness Variety Cleanliness Creativity Color- or Shade-Contrasted

And to implement those principles, and to make the display easy to shop, it must be:

Clearly priced, Properly identified, Easily accessible, Properly highlighted for advertised specials, Clearly identified for seasonal varieties

Rotation, Markdowns and Shrink:

You only get one chance to make a good first impression on our customers. It is therefore very important to keep only fresh, top quality, very appealing plants on the shelves of the plant department. A rotation policy that removes any old, dead or dying plants from the department is an important part of a good plant program. Look for any such old products in the department, and remove them. On one will buy them, they reflect poorly on the whole store, and we need the space for saleable plants.

Some markdowns (and thrown out products) are an inevitable part of any plant department. Plants and flowers are perishable products that have a given period of salability in the store and usability by the consumer. Just as bananas will not all last in a grocery store until shoppers have purchased every last one of them, neither will every plant or flower last until it is sold.

One of the keys therefore to both sales and profits in a well managed plant department is to manage and minimize the markdowns and shrink factors.

Good management involves:

  • Good buying – Getting the proper amounts and mixes of products into the store.
  • Good merchandising – Creating an appealing, eye catching display of product with good signage.
  • Good store positioning – Most, but not all, plant departments are located in a high traffic area with appropriate fixtures and lighting.
  • Great product care – Giving the products and the area daily attention to maintain the health and appearance of the product.
  • Proper markdown/shrink policy – Removing less-that first quality product from the plant department on a planned basis.

The appearance of the plants in the plant department sends a clear message to the store’s customers about the store and everything in it. If there are overage, wilted or dying plants in the department, it reflects negatively on every other plant in the department and on every other product in the store. Why leave such plants in view? Does anyone really think a customer will buy them? At any price? They just take up space and time, and do no one any good. Get rid of them. Use the space and time on a product that will sell.

Shrink in a well run plant department will average about 3% to 5% for foliage plants, and 8% to 10% for blooming plants. Without a proper commitment to rotate properly, to care for the plants, and to take timely markdowns, these shrink percentages will go much higher. With departments operating on plant product margins of about 40%, it’s very clear that control of shrink is a major key to a successful and profitable department.

Cleaning and Sanitation

To properly sell plants, it is a must to keep all products and the whole plant department very clean! The appearance of the plant area is your first in-store advertising tool, and the best one you will ever have. And since 80% of plant sales are impulse, imagine how important that first look at your department is!

The customer often makes a purchase decision based in large part on how the plant will look in their home. If a special plant can give a pleasing look to a store environment, just think what it can do for the customer’s home.


  • Keep the floor clean and free from dirt or leaves that may spill from plants.
  • Always keep a dry mop handy, just in case a saucer spills or a hanging plant drips water.
  • Keep paper towels handy to clean a dirty pot or saucer, or to quickly clean a small spill of water or dirt.
  • Keep a sharp knife or scissors handy for those occasions when the plants themselves need a bit of cleaning or trimming.
  • Completely clean all shelves and displays as often as needed, generally at least every two weeks.

Other Display Stands and Shelves:

Keeping these clean need not be hard. If done regularly, it never gets ahead of you. A simple dusting or spot sweeping is usually all that need be done. mirrors (if applicable in some stores) and glass will also need to be cleaned often.

Putting off cleaning until tomorrow will only hurt your sales today and double your work later.

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