Effects of Benefits Messaging on Consumer Purchasing of Plants

Raleigh, NC: A deeper understanding of the relationship between plant benefits, consumer perceptions, and demographic differences is important when shaping marketing strategies for communicating the benefits of plants. In the ornamental plant industry, plant benefits are numerous and diverse; however, their influence on consumer behavior and how that varies by age is not well understood. This study expands upon the findings from a 2019 study by Hall and Knuth summarized the research validating the diversity of plant benefits and identified three major plant benefit themes: emotional and mental health benefits, physiological or physical exercise benefits, and social benefits.

An online survey of plant purchasers was conducted to ascertain the influence of plant benefits messaging on consumer behavior. Three plant attributes, including type of plant, price, and plant availability, were used to distinguish purchasing preferences. To assess plant purchasing behavior, participants viewed a list of 12 different plant types and selected those they had purchased in the past year.

Our previous research has demonstrated a difference in perceived plant benefits by age cohort. We build on this work and hypothesize that different types of plant benefit information will differentially influence purchase intention by sociodemographic characteristics. We tested this hypothesis via an online survey to better understand the impact that the knowledge of different types of plant benefits has on LTB, retail outlet choice, and demographic characteristics of plant consumers.

Age influences consumers’ purchases in many industries, including the ornamental

plant industry. Age cohorts, unlike chronological age, better reflect the impact of life

events on purchasing behavior. Baby Boomers, individuals born between 1946 and

1964, have been entering retirement. They are described as having substantial

disposable income, which is attractive to marketers. This age cohort buys more floral

products than Gen X and Millennials and is often identified as the “core consumer” of

plants. However, evidence suggests this may be changing, with younger cohorts

expressing more interest in gardening and plants.

The retail outlet where the consumer buys plants is another significant factor because consumers view floriculture crops from different retail outlets differently. Independent garden centers are viewed as having better customer service, more knowledgeable staff, higher-quality products, and more expensive products relative to plants from less specialized retailers. Conversely, home improvement centers and mass merchandisers are viewed as having more competitive prices and/or the lowest priced plants. Given the perceptual differences between retail outlets, it is important to incorporate retail outlets into marketing research related to ornamental plants.

The most common retail locations patronized for plant purchases were home improvement stores, closely followed by independent garden centers. Consumers were grouped according to eight different plant benefit messages that they were exposed to, including physical, emotional, cognitive, social, educational, environmental, financial, and aesthetic benefits. Although some of the groups (clusters) exhibited similar purchasing behaviors in terms of plant types purchased, price levels preferred, and their preference for rare, common, or moderately available plants, there were just enough differences among groups to be able to distinguish them from other groups. The plant benefits were clearly affecting purchasing behavior, but further study is needed to understand the underlying reasons more fully.

Dr. Knuth is an assistant professor of Horticultural Science at North Carolina State University. She specializes in innovative management and marketing strategies to investigate consumer attitudes and behaviors for horticulture crops – both edible and ornamental.

Read the entire article on the ASHS HortScience electronic journal website at:


Established in 1903, the American Society for Horticultural Science is recognized around the world as one of the most respected and influential professional societies for horticultural scientists. ASHS is committed to promoting and encouraging national and international interest in scientific research and education in all branches of horticulture.

Comprised of thousands of members worldwide, ASHS represents a broad cross-section of the horticultural community – scientists, educators, students, landscape and turf managers, government, extension agents and industry professionals. ASHS members focus on practices and problems in horticulture: breeding, propagation, production and management, harvesting, handling and storage, processing, marketing and use of horticultural plants and products. To learn more, visit ashs.org.

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