AREC Green Exchange Results: Pricing Plants Across Generations

From Gen Z to Baby Boomers, find out who is the big spender when it comes to plants

May 1, 2024

Insights from AREC's Maryland Day Experiment: 

Each April, the University of Maryland bursts into a vibrant celebration known as Maryland Day. It's a day infused with educational pop-ups, cultural exhibits, and community—over 400 activities and events all hosted on the same day. The University of Maryland showcases innovative projects that bridge academic research with real-world applications that connect with the community. 

This year, the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC) leveraged Maryland Day to conduct an experiment focused on understanding consumer behavior through the economic principle of willingness to pay. Specifically, the study aimed to gauge pricing preferences for a common yet beloved household item: succulents. AREC invited attendees to answer one simple question: "How much would you pay for this succulent?" 

Detailed Data Analysis Across Generations and Genders

The experiment collected 421 responses via a Google Form, asking participants for their age, gender, and zip code. The complete survey, with the question breakdown, can be found here

1. Generational Insights:

  • Gen Alpha (0-14 years) displayed the highest average willingness to pay, suggesting a strong appeal of succulents to the youngest attendees.

  • Millennials (28-43 years) and Gen Z (14-27 years) showed a robust interest, with average prices around $4.83 and $4.68, respectively, reflecting a mid-range consumer valuation that aligns with current market trends.

  • Baby Boomers (60-78 years) and the Greatest Generation (96+ years) valued the succulents at lower prices, indicating different valuation perspectives, possibly due to generational economic experiences or utility perceptions.

Figure 1 - participant’s willingness to pay for a succulent by generation

When considering the generational valuation of the succulents, it’s fascinating to see the enthusiasm of the youngest cohort, Gen Alpha, which is highly willing over other generations. This could be reflective of many different things, however, perhaps due to the rising popularity of environment-related topics in education or values placed on the natural world from eco-conscious parenting.

Figure 2: participant’s average willingness to pay for a succulent by gender identity 

With the data from our modest-sized dataset from the 2024 MD Day AREC table, it's intriguing to note the variability in willingness to pay for succulents across different gender identities. It appears that, within our group, transgender individuals demonstrated the highest valuation for the plant, suggesting a particular appreciation or interest in succulents that might be worth exploring further for targeted marketing strategies or product placement.

Figure 3: participant’s average willingness to pay for a succulent by gender identity and age group


Figure 4: Form submissions broken down by gender identity 

The gender composition of our participants suggests that while the majority are female, there is a substantial male representation and a smaller yet notable percentage of non-binary/non-conforming and transgender individuals. This demographic distribution must be considered when evaluating the data, as it may affect the overall insights and could reflect the specific demographics of those who engage with AREC events, like MD Day.

Our findings from the 2024 MD Day AREC participants also reveal that the intersection of gender and generational identity yields unique patterns in consumer behavior. For instance, Gen Alpha girls' higher willingness to pay suggests a targeted opportunity in the youth market. Additionally, Millennial non-binary/non-conforming individuals showed a strong interest in succulents, indicating a potential niche market.

Figure 5: Top 10 zip codes reported from the survey, with their average zip code income, alongside their willingness to pay

Linking average income to spending on succulents, the data does not provide evidence of a strong positive relationship between financial capacity and spending on these plants. This does not align with economic theories on luxury goods; as disposable income increases, so does expenditure on non-essential items (like houseplants). 

How the Experiment Ties to Our Objectives

While we set out to answer how different generations and gender identities value succulents, our main goal was to provide a hands-on learning experience about pivotal economic principles, including valuation, market dynamics, consumer preferences, resource allocation, and sustainability. 

1. Valuation: Understanding Perceived Worth

  • Our findings showed that participants' willingness to pay for succulents varied widely, underscoring how valuation is deeply personal and influenced by factors such as age and gender identity. This variability in pricing preferences among different demographic groups illustrates that perceived worth is not only a reflection of personal beliefs but also shaped by broader societal norms and trends.

2. Market Dynamics: Observing Supply, Demand, and Pricing

  • The experiment allowed participants to see firsthand how supply, demand, and pricing interact within a market. For example, the data indicated that specific demographics are willing to pay a premium for succulents, permitting sellers to implement targeted pricing strategies without sacrificing sales.

3. Resource Allocation: The Role of Individual Choice

  • Each participant's decision on how much to pay for a succulent represented their approach to allocating their finite resources. Collectively, these individual choices contribute to the market's equilibrium price—the point where the quantity of succulents demanded should equate to the quantity supplied. This aspect of the experiment highlighted the critical role of individual choices in achieving an efficient market

4. Sustainability: Valuing Natural Resources for Future Generations

  • The focus on succulents helped participants appreciate the value of connecting with nature through “adopting” a house plant. By engaging with the question of how much one is willing to pay for these plants, the experiment served as a proxy for larger discussions about environmental valuation and the necessity of adopting practices that ensure natural resource availability.

Significance of the Experiment

The insights derived from the AREC Maryland Day experiment are invaluable for several reasons:

  • Educational Applications: The data is an excellent resource for sharing and teaching key economic concepts, such as price elasticity and market segmentation, in an engaging and relatable manner.

  • Business Strategy: The findings can aid small businesses in understanding how various demographic segments perceive value, which could be instrumental in tailoring marketing strategies and product offerings.

We sincerely thank everyone who participated in this experiment. If you have any questions or would like to propose ideas for future experiments, please contact us at