University of Vermont Extension System
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Commercial Ornamental Horticulture (COH) Leaflet 30

Marketing Perennials

Leonard P. Perry, Extension Associate Professor

Worth an estimated $1.37 US billion in retail sales in 1993 in the U.S. and Canada (Perennial Plants, summer 1994), this crop continues to increase in popularity and sales and is a key income or growth area for many firms, especially during recessionary times.

In addition to basic marketing and merchandising techniques that apply to other plants, herbaceous perennials require two approaches to be marketed most successfully--information and selection.


The tens of thousands of perennials potentially available yield almost limitless new selections for marketing, but to consumers may be overwhelming (and even to some retailers!). To help sort them out, and make proper selections, it is crucial that customers be provided education, such as from:

  • knowledgeable employees
  • POP (Point of Purchase) materials--brochures, leaflets, labels, signs
  • color photos on labels (eg preprinted) or signs (eg laminated) are crucial since they usually sell in flower, and they are often not in flower
  • displays (especially suggested groupings) and display beds/garden.


    If perennials are not a focus of sales, a basic selection of popular ones may suffice (50-200). Even if they are not a focus, a specialty "niche" may be useful, especially to compete with competition or mass merchandisers. A niche, in addition to a wider selection of species, and cultivars of species, is needed if perennials are a main or the focus (250-1000).

    Top selling perennials for 1993 (PPA survey):

    1) Hosta (17% of firms listed as #1)
    2) Hemerocallis
    3) Coreopsis
    4) Astilbe
    5) Grasses (#8 in 1992)
    6) Phlox (#5 in 1992)

    Increasing in popularity (PPA): Geum, Astilbe, Coreopsis, Hemerocallis, Grasses, Salvia, Echinacea, Ferns, Veronica, Heuchera

    Decreasing in popularity: Chrysanthemum, Lupinus, Bergenia, Oenothera, Gaillardia, Polemonium, Cerastium, Geranium, Dianthus

    Top selling perennials in Maine and Vermont (ranking).

    Maine 1990		Vermont 1990		Vermont 1982

    Delphinium (1) Delphinium (1) Delphinium (1) Hemerocallis (2) Daisies (2) Phlox (1) Phlox (3) Phlox (3) Heuchera (2) Bleeding Heart (4) Digitalis (4) Papaver (2) Astilbe (5) Papaver (5) Coreopsis (2) Sedum (6) Peony (6) Lupinus (3) Hosta (7) Hemerocallis (7) Iberis (3) Silver Mound (8) Astilbe (8) Aquilegia (3) Coreopsis (9) Coreopsis (9) Campanula (4) Aquilegia (10) Hosta (10) Digitalis (5)

    Top selling perennials, Bluebird Nursery, 1993-94.

    1. Coreopsis v. 'Moonbeam' 14. Potentilla n. 'Miss Wilmott' 2. Hemerocallis 'Stella d'Oro' 15. Veronica 'Sunny Border Blue' 3. Ajuga r. 'Bronze Beauty' 16. Athyrium goeringianum 'Pictum' 4. Scabiosa c. 'Pink Mist' 17. Heuchera a. 'Palace Purple' 5. Hosta f. 'Albomarginata' 18. Aegopodium p. 'Variegatum' 6. Sedum s. 'Dragon's Blood' 19. Campsis radicans 7. Rudbeckia f. 'Goldsturm' 20. Heuchera s.s. 'Snow Angel' 8. Scabiosa c. 'Butterfly Blue' 21. Arenaria verna 9. Thymus serpyllum 22. Ajuga r. 'Burgundy Glow' 10. Vinca minor 23. Hosta f. 'Francee" 11. Campanula c. 'Blue Clips' 24. Dictamnus a. 'Purpureus' 12. Coreopsis rosea 25. Imperata cylindrica rubra 'Red Baron' 13. Lamium m. 'Beacon Silver' (scented geraniums if grouped would be #9)

    Return to Perry's Perennial Commercial Page

    Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. Lawrence Forcier, Director, UVM Extension System, Burlington, Vermont. University of Vermont Extension System and U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating, offer education and employment to everyone, without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status.