Titillating Tillandsias

Titillating Tillandsias
Whether it’s because of the plant’s popularity on Pinterest boards, its mod foliar architecture or because everything old is new again, the tillandsia plant has made a comeback in the horticulture world—and in a big way. Kristin Busse, greengoods supervisor for Greengate Garden Centres in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, noticed an uptick in tillandsia sales about six to 12 months ago. “Lots of 20- and 30-somethings were coming in looking for something that didn’t take a lot of maintenance nor a lot of effort,” Kristin says. “And now it seems to be everybody. There’s no specific demographic attracted to them now. And they are certainly flying out the door.” Bisser Georgiev, CEO of LiveTrends Design Group, sees Millennials driving the tillandsia popularity. “This is a very hot item for the 18- to 25-year-olds,” Bisser says. “They want it and they love it for its simplicity, but also for a college dorm room decoration or desktop because it’s so easy to care for.” Bisser points out that tillandsias are excellent for small spaces, and so are attractive to people living in smaller, downtown condos and lofty-style apartments, which are popular among the younger demographic.

Not only are they easy to grow, says owner of BeeDazzled Media Dawn Hummel, they are funky and look different. “Tillandsias are something that have a very modern edge to them. I think Millennials are into something that looks different from what their moms grew, something that has an architectural or sculptural context.” There is another aspect of the tillandsia that might explain their popularity: They require little water. Rick Enthoven of Plantaflor, a large wholesale tillandsia grower in Carpinteria, California, points out that it’s a great plant for areas struggling with drought.

Display Matters
Thanks to great photography and their many uses, tillandsias catch the eye of Pinterest users and readers of crafting blogs. The real question is, how are you attracting tillandsia fans and increasing sales at your store? Bisser explains that while tillandsias are stylish, they are also versatile and easy. Glue them into a glass terrarium, staple them to driftwood, attach them to a shell—whatever it is, tillandsias can take it. His company, LiveTrends, sells tillandsias in a variety of desktop and hanging vessels made out of glass and ceramics. Each product is shipped in POP trays. “Displaying the plants and the POP trays together is important because it’s a very simple way to create impulse purchases,” Bisser says. He adds that coordinating the packaging color with that of the product is also a great way to visually appeal to the customer.

Another idea is to create a hanging display with a variety of tillandsia products. Whether it’s old branches, a branch-like coat rack, a Christmas tree or a mobile hanging from the wall, the hanging display gives customers a great 360-degree view of each item plus inspires them about how to use them in their own homes.

Selling DIFM and DIY
Kristin says they sell tillandsias in terrariums at Green Gate Garden Centres, but “the majority of the product that goes out the door is all loose,” she says. “The traditional tillandsia on driftwood or on a magnet doesn’t sell very well here.” Instead, they set up a display nearby that has the glue, terrariums, wood and all the other items needed for someone to get their DIY on. Bisser has found having both the pre-made items and the loose tillandsias side-by-side is a good way to appeal to the entire range of consumers—those who want a convenient, grab-and-go item and those who are looking to get crafty. Another option is offering combination containers. These could be a potted orchid accompanied by moss and tillandsia. Have those items—pots, tillandsias, moss and other succulents nearby for folks who want to create their own. Selling loose also gives retailers the opportunity to highlight a range of tillandsia varieties. The most popular sellers according to Rick at Plantaflor, are Tillandsia tectorum (a variety with “fuzzy” foliage) and T. xerographica.

Spread the Word
For Dawn, increasing tillandsia sales is all about information and education. “The hard part about tillandsias is that they are easy plants, but also easy to kill,” she says. They may be low-water use plants, but they still require watering. Care information, whether on a sign at point of sale or on an accompanying tag or label, would go a long way in helping customers succeed with tillandsias. After all, we want to cultivate tillandsia fans for as long as we can—not create a “one and done” customer after they unknowingly neglect it. Dawn says signage can be both a silent salesperson and silent educator. But have real-life educators, too, she reminds us. “A garden center may want to have a tillandsia expert on staff to answer questions,” she says.

Here Comes the Tillandsia
Millennials are getting married, and what are they including in their wedding flower plans? Tillandsias. “Wedding work has really taken off,” says Rick of Plantaflor, who has wedding floral design customers. Dawn herself has used a large tillandsia as the bride’s bouquet. A quick search on Pinterest reveals tillandsias of all sizes used on hair clips, as table and venue decorations, as boutonnieres and on wedding cakes. Tillandsias are seen as “green” plants, and that’s right in line with how many weddings are being planned nowadays. It’s yet another way a local garden center can cash in on the tillandsia trend. GP

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