Costa Farms

Garden Clippings for February 3, 2018

The surge in popularity of tropical plants is suiting the Florida growers just fine, thank you very much.  So strong is the surge that growers are increasingly unable to fill orders, prices are edging upwards and growers are scrambling to increase production.

A decade ago, when the US economy went for a tailspin, the tropical plant industry followed suit and Florida growers couldn’t sell all they grew.  Other factors played a role as well, including the notion that silk plants were still quite in vogue.

Thankfully, consumers finally ditched their dusty fake plants and their love affair with tropical plants blossomed again.  The American public is now appreciating tropical plants like never before.  Tropical plants bring life and love into a home, and are especially appreciated through the dreary months of November to March.

Those who own and care for tropical plants understand that growing plants is good for their health and wellbeing by cleaning the air and improving the environment.  And that’s in spite of the fact that the current President poo-poos anything environmental.  In commercial settings and offices, it is well understood that plants lead to a healthy and productive workplace.

Nearly all North American tropical plants are grown in Florida, with most growers located in the Homestead area, about an hour’s drive south of Miami.  I would estimate that there are at least 100 nurseries in the Homestead area.  Probably more.  Another smaller collection of growers is in Apopka, just south of Orlando.

It would be unfair if I failed to mention that tropical plants are indeed grown in Ontario.  The Niagara peninsula is home to several greenhouses growing cut flowers, tropical plants and of course vegetables.  These growers have the advantage of being able to serve the Ontario market as well as northeastern USA, without the high cost of shipping from the bottom of Florida.

Ontario tropical plant growers are at a disadvantage when it comes to heating costs, but are at an advantage when it comes to hurricanes.  Just this past summer much of Florida’s nursery crop was destroyed, adding to the problem of short supply versus higher demand.

On a recent trip with colleagues from the Garden Centre Group Co-op, we visited Railroad Nursery specialising in growing Ferns, Mandevilla and Palms.  Their 100 acre plus growing facility was busting with foliage almost as far as the eye could see.  Most of their product was already spoken for, destined for Kroger’s, Lowes, and other major USA retailers.

After Railroad Nursery, our next stop was Bernecker’s, a grower who loves to grow and send plants to independent garden centres in Canada.  Bernecker’s is a subsidiary of Costa Farms who employs 3,800 staff growing over 1500 varieties of houseplants.

The latest trends in tropical plants?  Easy-to-care-for succulents top the list while Tillandsias or air plants follow close behind.