Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Do you know where your plants come from?
No, I don't mean those you start yourself from seeds or cuttings, but those you buy. Depending on the kind of plants, they may or may not start their life at your local garden store.
As with many products such as shoes, clothing, electronic items, or produce, current economics make shipping plants from afar cheaper than producing them locally. Take foliage or house plants, for instance. If they are small (a six-inch pot or smaller), they most likely were grown at a local greenhouse if purchased there.
Larger foliage plants, however, take too long to grow in the North compared to the South with its warmer temperatures. These usually are grown in southern Florida and are shipped directly to local greenhouses or to Boston where many garden retailers shop. If you have relatives or friends in Texas, they probably get their house plants from southern Texas. People living in the West get their house plants from California.
If you buy potted flowering plants such as poinsettias, Easter lilies, geraniums, or annual bedding plants at your local greenhouse or garden center, chances are good they were produced locally or in neighboring states. Similar plants at mass merchandisers usually are produced farther away, perhaps in Canada. Even your local supplier may purchase plants "pre-finished" from growers in other states, then force them into bud and flower here.
Cut flowers travel the most from where they are grown, often more than most of us ever get to travel. Almost all carnations were produced in the Northeast a few decades ago, but now these flowers usually come from Colombia. Many roses also come from South America, excluding miniature roses that often originate in Israel. Exotic tropical flowers come from the South Pacific such as proteas from Australia, anthuriums from Hawaii, and orchids from Thailand.
These cut flowers are flown by 747 jets, usually with a whole plane devoted to boxes of flowers. They are flown by night into such cities as Miami, Boston, or New York. From there they are distributed to flower markets, then to wholesalers, then to your local florist. Many are first flown to the large flower auctions of Holland before coming to the United States. The exception are the many more common cut flowers in summer which are usually produced locally.
So, next time you buy a bouquet, flowering potted plant, or house plant, think about all the states and countries represented around you!
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