Garden Clippings for Jan 2024

Florida is sunshine state.   Beaches, attractions, golf, sun, relaxation and all things in between.

Florida also leads the way in citrus fruit juice production, while California comes in at a close second.

Less well known but no less significant is the role Florida plays in tropical plant production.  Aside from the few indoor plants that are grown in northern greenhouses, almost all tropical plants found in Canada originate in Florida.

The town of Homestead, about an hour drive south of Miami, is the hub of Florida plant production.  Much like Leamington’s multitude of vegetable growing businesses, and Niagara’s grape producers, Homestead is all about nurseries.

Once a year, Florida’s biggest and best nursery growers gather for the Tropical Plant International Expo, (TPIE) where growers show off their finest and buyers meet to see what’s new and exciting.  I was fortunate to attend the Expo, followed by a whirlwind driving tour of 16 nurseries in the Homestead area.

Here is a rundown of topics and trends that I gathered on my visit:

Fig trees (Ficus) are undergoing a transformation.  The old standard fig, Ficus Benjamina is falling out of favour, being replaced with the wildly popular Fiddle Leaf Fig.  The latter will easily grow up to reach the average ceiling, with leaves big enough to hide Adam and Eve’s private parts.

Also on nearly every grower’s offerings is Ficus Triangularis variegated, a milder, smaller growing Fig, easy to prune, with small olive coloured leaves edged in white.

Chinese Evergreen (Aglonema) is making its way to be the plant of choice and will soon get top rankings from Pinterest and other sites. Chinese Evergreen’s claim to fames are low light requirements, minimal water needs, near zero pest or disease issues, and modest growth rate.  Available in several varieties each with their own colouring and growth habit.

Plants with foliage colour and multi coloured leaves are a hit.  Increasingly, consumers are finding that year-round colour in the leaves makes more of an impact than plants whose flowers only bloom for a season.

Plant collectors are a thing.  Keen indoor gardeners looking for plants that are rare and unusual will pay good money for the latest hard to find specimen.  If you pay a visit to Aroid Greenhouses in Homestead you will discover plants selling for hundreds, many which are practically kept under lock and key.

Nurseries are exploring alternatives to peat moss.  While peat-based soil mediums remain the preferred option, researchers are looking seriously at coco fibre and other alternatives for their potting mixes.  The big concern with peat is that it takes centuries to naturally build peat bogs.  Interesting that most Florida nurseries use peat-based mixes coming from eastern Canada for their growing needs.

Importing plants into Canada is not as easy as declaring what you’ve bought to a customs agent when crossing the border.  All plants require a USA Phytosanitary Certificate cleared with the Canadian Food and Inspection Agency prior to being issued a Permit to Import.  The Canadian government is not concerned if a wandering iguana manages to find its way on a truck, but they need to keep an eye out for potentially damaging harmful pests.

Next week’s Garden Clippings will cover tips and tricks to keep tropical plants healthy in Canadian living rooms.