BY WENDY BEDWELL-WILSON
With the advent of spring, pond hobbyists are itch- ing to get their feet wet—
and savvy retailers are ready to
inspire customers’ water garden
daydreams with tubs and tanks
filled with colorful and practical
It’s an important category
that deserves some attention,
said Mark Hamron owner of
Tea, S.D.-based AquariumPlants.
com, particularly for retailers
that sell plants and products for
both ponds and aquariums.
“Our customer data shows
that there is a huge percentage of
pond owners who have aquari-
ums, and vice versa,” he said.
Numbers from the American Pet Product Association’s
2015-2016 National Pet Owners
Survey back up Hamron’s observations. Among surveyed
fish owners, 20 percent of freshwater owners and 38 percent of
saltwater owners have a pond,
and “the most common garden
pond accessory owned is live
plants ( 62 percent),” the survey
reports. So pond owners invest
in live plants more than equipment, ornaments or treatments.
The pond plants they buy
include marginal bog plants,
submerged oxygenators, and
floating waterlilies and lotus,
“Waterlilies are popular be-
cause they are the easiest for cus-
tomers to identify as an aquatic
plant, and their large, vibrant
blooms are eye catching,” she
said. “Customers easily can pic-
ture what they will look like in
their pond. Water hyacinth are
also very popular for water gar-
dens as pond coverage, natural
filters and habitat for fish. With
no planting required, they are
also easy to add to a pond.”
Topping the waterlily hot list
are the winners of Internation-
al Water Garden Society’s 2015
New Waterlily Competition, in-
Aesthetics and Aquatic Plants
cluding Nymphaea “Srichon,” a
tropical intersubgeneric hybrid
grown by Nopchai Chansilpa,
“‘Srichon’ boasts large flow-
ers that change color gradually
from the first-day bloom to the
fifth-day bloom,” said Tamara
Kilbane, a horticulturist at Den-
ver Botanic Gardens in Denver.
“‘Manickam’ has peony-like,
pink blooms with a blush of yel-
low on the inner petals. Its high
petal count and appealing color
combination made it a standout.”
“We don’t see a lot of sales
of artificial plants,” she said.
“When customers build a pond,
they really are creating an eco-
system, and live plants are a big
part of that.”
By combining real and artificial greenery,
pond plant displays add drama and interest
to retailers’ water garden sections.
POND PLANTS: SUCCESS
Chris Troll, manager at Bridges Pets, Gifts & Water Gardens in Snohomish, Wash.,
said his store offers a range of live and artificial pond and aquarium plants—and a
stunning 175-gallon bow-front tank filled with plants and angelfish draws curious
customers to the shop’s aquatics section.
“We sell Elodea, Anubias, banana plants, Cryptocorynes and various sword
plants, and in the spring we offer water lettuce and hyacinth for outdoor plants,” he
said, adding that selection is important to hobbyists.
“Our customers tend to buy more of the easy-to-grow plants like Elodea or
sword plants,” he said.
Display tanks decked out in full décor sell plants, Troll added.
“We tried prepackaged live plants for a while, but they were not very well
received,” he said. “It seems best to display live plants in the same manner in which
they would be displayed in the customer’s own pond or aquarium.”
Bridges stocks a range of artificial aquatic plants, too, and they’re displayed in
tanks as well as on pegboard and spin racks, Troll said.
“Our selection includes both natural-looking, green-colored plants, as well as
some hot pink, purple and fluorescent varieties,” he said. “One relatively new product
for us is GloFish plastic plants. We have a display tank of these items that really
stand out under blue LED lighting. Packaged GloFish plastic plants are also available
on an endcap display.”
The main differences between Bridges’ live and artificial plant displays are the
substrate and lighting, Troll said.
“Most of our live plant displays contain substrate, whereas our artificial plant
displays contain gravel,” he said. “Another difference is the lighting used. Some
artificial plants may look best under one light spectrum, but live plants may require
another light spectrum, which may be slightly dimmer in appearance. If require-
ments such as these are considered first, then live and artificial plant displays should
be able to be successfully combined.”
The greatest challenge in merchandising live plants in display tanks is managing
the mess, Troll said, adding that staying on top of housecleaning chores keeps the
displays looking their best.
“During the course of the day as live plants in display tanks get uprooted and
sold, the soil may become stirred and the water may become cloudy and filled with
floating plant fragments,” he said. “The timely removal of debris and replanting is a
big part of keeping these aquatic plant displays looking good for our customers.”
MUST-HAVE POND PLANTS
Kathie Dienes, marketing
manager at The Pond Guy in
Armada, Mich., said retailers should keep these pond
plants in their regular inventory, along with a selection of
hardy waterlilies and lotus:
Silk stockings arrowhead
Underwater, aquarium plants and pond plants differ in many
ways, but in the retail world, they have many similarities—and
they offer opportunities for promotional overlap, said Michael
Acerra, marketing representative for Penn-
Plax Inc. in Hauppauge, N. Y.
“Some artificial aquarium
plants are modeled after brightly
colored tropical varieties that don’t have much of an
application in ponds, but it’s not at all uncommon for the pond
hobbyist to check out the local aquarium store in search of
some plants that better fit the aesthetic of their pond,” he said.
Though many hobbyists prefer larger plants that fit an
outdoor pond, smaller aquarium-size plants can make a splash
in water gardens, Acerra said.
“Some of our retailers who specialize in the pond hobby buy
some of our artificial aquarium plants for customers who have
smaller ponds, or for customers who are looking to establish a
greater feeling of depth in a larger pond by varying the size of
the plants in their pond,” he said.
CAPITALIzE ON CROSSOVER