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(cSf3'1 Agricultural Research & Education Center
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Bradenton AREC Research Report BRA1983-18 August 1983
A DESCRIPTION OF THE SCOPE, MAGNITUDE AND CHALLENGES
FACING THE FLORIDA FLORICULTURAL INDUSTRY IN THE 1980'S
W. E. Waters and J. W. Prevatt1
The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) of the University
of Florida in conjunction with industry leaders recently completed a
very comprehensive and extensive 1 effort for all the
agricultural commodities produced n 1. l crops
were among the commodities evaluate d. The floral s udy assessed
the (a) present types, acreage and valuenA h various fl wer crops;
(b) production potentials in the 80's; )tei~jor pri rity areas
and challenges facing the Florida rfoer industry; and (d research,
extension and education needs in WO JP.e e the Florida
floriculture industry to progress in a a_ ida
This publication presents the highlights of the floricultural committee
report. Similar information was also developed by the Institute of
Food and Agricultural Sciences for other ornamental crops and agricultural
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
Florida ranks second among the 50 states in value of floriculture
products with $100 million in 1981. Floral products cover a wide range
of genera and marketing forms because of Florida's climate and nearness
to market. The physical size of the industry involves 36.3 million sq
ft of shade and greenhouse production and 5,486 acres of field
production (Tables 1 and 2).
Although flowers and flowering plants are not among the basic necessities
of life, the market for Florida's floricultural produce has been more
stable than many facets of our national economy, in poor as well as in
prosperous economic times.
Flowering plants produced one of the highest cash returns per acre for
all agricultural crops, generating millions of dollars for local and
national economies. These highly labor intensive crops also furnish
employment to thousands of people. In addition, it is difficult to
establish a dollar value for the aesthetic benefits or personal satis-
faction obtained from the use of flowers and living plants.
Center Director and Professor of Horticulture, and Assistant Professor,
(Extension Economist), respectively.
Florida's flower industry can generally be classified by one of three
distinct production systems: 1) semi-structures such as saran and
sawtooth houses; 2) permanent greenhouses with environmental controls;
and 3) open field crops. Many plant species may be grown undergone, two
or even all three production systems. Floral products under cultivation
include cut flowers, potted flowers, bulbs, tubers, potted plants,
cuttings, transplants, seeds and tissue culture explants.
The predominant crops grown under semi-structures include out and potted
chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, gerberas, carnations, poinsettias,
bedding plants, floral cuttings and other miscellaneous cut and potted
flowers (Table 1). Greenhouse crops include chrysanthemums, geraniums,
poinsettias, annuals, violets, gloxinias, Easter lilies, enchantment
lilies, orchids, bedding plants, hydrangeas, exacum, floral cuttings
and other miscellaneous florist crops (Table 1).
The predominant floricultural field crops include gladiolus flowers and
corms, gypsophila, statice, caladiums and miscellaneous cut flower crops
and bulb crops (Table 2).
The array of floricultural. crops produced commercially in Florida,
estimated production space and wholesale value for 1981, are outlined
in Tables 1 and 2. It should be emphasized that these data are estimates
based on USDA Statistical Reporting Service, personal communications
with knowledgeable commercial producers, County Extension agents, State
Department of Agriculture records and research personnel in all phases of
the ornamental horticulture industry, and other cited references (1, 2, 3,
4 and 5). These estimates, with the exception of the miscellaneous pot
florist crops, do not include several hundred small producers that market
less than $10,000 worth of products. In addition to these estimates, many
of the 8,020 nurserymen registered with the State Department of Agriculture
produce small quantities of floral products and they are grouped with
the woody nursery products.' No dollar values for these can be established.
SCOPE, DESCRIPTION AND CHANGES OF INDUSTRY BY
COMMODITY SINCE 1975
Caladiums Over 100 cultivars of this colorful tropical American
plant are grown on muck soils of central Florida, primarily around
Sebring and Lake Placid. The Florida industry produces over 90 percent
of the caladium tubers used in the world and 100 percent of those used
in the United States. Caladiums were grown on approximately 900 acres of
land by 48 producers in 1981 with an estimated value of $7.2 million.
This industry is composed primarily of small growers with less than 10
acres in production; however, a few large growers produce 100 acres or more.
Chrysanthemums The industry produces cut pompons and standard chrysan-
themums, pot mums, garden mums and cuttings. Chrysanthemum cut flowers
were grown in 10.4 million sq ft of area in Florida during 1981 with a
wholesale value of $6.4 million. Pot chrysanthemums were produced on 1.9
million sq ft of space and had a wholesale value of $4.8 million. In
addition, approximately 3.8 million sq ft of structural space were
devoted to production of cuttings with an estimated value of $18.0 million.
These data represent approximately a 52.6 percent decline in chrysanthemum
cut flower production, a slight increase in pot mum production and a 58.9
percent increase in cutting production during the past seven years. These
shifts in flower production have been attributed primarily to foreign
competition and increased production costs.
Main areas for chrysanthemum production are from Tampa, south along the
Gulf coast to Naples, and from Vero Beach, south along the Atlantic coast
to Delray Beach. Major production centers are in areas around Bradenton,
Ft. Myers, Stuart and Delray Beach. The industry is comprised of
approximately 18 cut-flower growers, 24 large pot mum growers, 3
commercial cutting propagators and many small greenhouse operators
who produce a few thousand pot mums each.
Chrysanthemums are produced in Florida throughout the year; however,
the peak flower market periods are primarily from late October through
early June. Largest shipments are between November 15 and May 15,
with the eastern seaboard accepting 80 percent of the volume sold on a
contract and daily basis. Chrysanthemum farms historically have been
located in the warmer coastal areas more suitable for winter production
with minimal structures.
Gladiolus The gladiolus industry began its development in Florida during the
1930's and 1940's as the main source for gladiolus flowers produced
in the United States during the winter months. During the 1981 season
there were eight gladiolus flower growers with an average of 444 acres
production per farm. In addition to flowers, approximately 120 acres
of corm stocks were produced.
Florida gladiolus production comprised two-thirds of the total U. S.
production in 1981. This represented an estimated 90.7 million flower
flower spikes with a wholesale value of $13.2 million. These were
produced on 3,550 acres of land. These data represent a 52.7 percent
decline in production area during the past seven years. The decline has
been attributed to a number of factors including lack of disease-
resistant cultivars, increased production costs, declining demand for
large flowers, adverse weather, decreasing water quality and competition
from other flower and.foliage crops.
The main winter (November through May) production areas are located in
the warmer coastal areas around Bradenton, Ft. Myers, Naples and Delray
Beach. A limited.amount of early fall (September through November)
and late spring (April through June) flowers are produced near Palatka,
Marianna and Blountstown.
Gladiolus flowers are marketed from September through June with 95,
percent of the U. S. supplies generally available from Florida between
late November and mid-May. Holiday seasons are the most active market
periods. In 1981, approximately 82 percent of the gladiolus crop was
shipped by truck and 17 percent by air. Approximately 10 percent of
the gladiolus crop is sold on consignment, 25 percent is sold on a daily
or weekly basis as the crop matures and 65 percent is sold on contract
or as standing orders.
Gypsophila (Baby's Breath) This is one of the newest cut flowers
produced commercially in Florida. During the past 10-years, acreage
has expanded from just a few acres to an estimated 350 acres produced
by 12 growers with an estimated value of $6.3 million for the 1981
season. Periodic plantings of gypsophila are made from September through
February and a single planting can be harvested usually three to four
times. The stems are harvested when approximately half of the flowers
are open and are bunched into 10- to 12-ounce bunches. Stem ends are
placed in water or flower preservative and shipped. The flowers are
shipped by truck along with gladiolus and chrysanthemums. Gypsophila
is a widely used commodity by the retail floral industry because there
are few other flowers that provide the delicate appearance of gypsophila.
Also, the flowers do not have to be sold fresh since they can be dried
by the grower and sold as dried flowers.
Statice This crop has been produced in Florida for many years on
a limited scale and in recent years, the acreage has expanded significantly.
There are presently 10 growers producing annual statice (Limonium sinuatum)
on about 300 acres with an estimated wholesale value of $4.5 million.
Since flowering is stimulated by cool temperatures and/or long day
length, the main harvest period is between January and May. Stems are cut
when the flowers are fully open and packaged in 12- to 16-ounce bunches for
dry shipment in cardboard boxes. Statice is used both as a fresh cut
flower and dried specimen.
Florist Azaleas The acreage has been estimated at 2.0 million sq ft, with
an annual value of $4.0 million. Most of these are pot plant cultivars
which are grown in Florida for up to one year, usually under saran
structures, and then shipped to northern greenhouse operators for growing
or forcing. However, limited forcing is done in Florida for local and
northern markets. In addition to the large florist azalea producers,
there are many growers in central and north Florida producing small
quantities of the crop for both the florist and landscape trade.
Orchids Production of orchids has been estimated at 5.2 million sq ft
of structural space with an annual estimated sales value of $3.0 million.
In addition, there are approximately 3,000 orchid hobbyists in the state
that grow and sell limited quantities of all types of orchids. Orchids
are marketed primarily as small potted plants to the hobbyists; however,
some large flowering potted plants, seedlings in flasks, tissue culture
explants, asexual divisions and cut flowers are sold commercially.
Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) These plants are produced in Florida primarily
as pot plants; however, limited quantities of bulbs are produced in the
winter season on organic soils of central Florida. Production has declined
in recent years, mainly because of disease problems, high labor costs,
and competition from Japan and western states. Pot plants and cut lilies
are programmed to bloom for Easter and specific market periods by
refrigeration of the bulb. During 1981, 17 Florida growers produced
378,000 pots of lilies, valued at $1.1 million in 384,000 sq ft of space.
Additionally, 200,000 sq ft of cut flowers were produced.
Hydrangeas During 1981, 319,000 pots of hydrangeas were produced
in 508,000 sq ft of greenhouse space and were valued at $0.8 million.
Hydrangea is a traditional florist crop that appears to have gained
in popularity as a holiday flower for Florida.
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima)- Production of the Christmas
flower in Florida accounts for 4.8 million sq ft of greenhouse space
devoted to growing 2.3 million potted plants valued at $5.8 million.
These are sold at Christmas, mainly in Florida and other southern
states. During the past seven years, the poinsettia production has
increased severalfold in number of pots sold. The adoption of more
accurate'programming and production techniques to fit the sub-tropical
climate of Florida has greatly increased the potential for this crop.
Also, introduction of several new cultivars with short internodes,
early bract development and excellent shipping and keeping qualities
has increased the market for large scale poinsettia production in
Other miscellaneous cut.flowers These crops, produced commercially
in Florida, have been estimated collectively at 150 acres with a
value of $3.0 million. This includes such crop as anemones, asters,
birds of paradise, Dutch iris, gerbera daisies, delphiniums, heliconias,
roses, snapdragons, tuberoses, hybrid lilies and miscellaneous cut
annuals. In most instances these are grown as companion crops with
Miscellaneous pot-florist crops This group includes an array of plant
materials produced predominantly in greenhouses and, to a limited extent,
in semi-structures. This includes such crops as African violets,
gloxinias, other gesneriads, hyacinths, tulips, gardenias, dianthus,
impatiens, gernaiums, other bedding plants, exacum, crossandra, kalanchoe,
fuchsia, etc. The production area for these crops has been estimated at
4.9 million sq ft, valued at $10.0 million and are produced by at least
550 growers. The production of these pot-florist crops has been increasing
over the past seven years and offers the Florida grower opportunity
for expansion, diversification and growth in these specialty products.
Miscellaneous bulb crops Other bulbs produced in Florida have been
estimated at 106 acres with a product value of $2.0 million. This
includes such items as amaryllis, Dutch iris, Easter lily, hybrid
lilies, narcissi, etc. These crops offer opportunities in Florida
for growers willing to utilize high technology for production of quality
Bedding transplants Bedding plants are produced throughout the
state, mainly in greenhouses and semi-structures, and production in
Florida has expanded greatly during the last seven years. Production
is concentrated around metropolitan areas and in areas where vegetable
transplants are grown for field crop production. The main species sold
include tomato, pepper, ageratum, alyssum, begonia, calendula, celosia,
coleus, dianthus, geranium, impatiens, marigold, pansy, petunia,
portulaca, salvia, snapdragon and zinnia. In 1981, Florida produced
$8.3 million in bedding transplants, utilizing 2.0 million sq ft of
space with flowering species representing 90 percent of the production.
This represents a 50 percent increase in value in the last seven years.
In addition, use of 4-inch bedding plants as potted flower crops and
instant garden materials has gained in popularity in Florida. There are
several hundred growers that produce a few thousand dollars each of
these specialty bedding plants. The production outlook for the bedding
plant industry as a whole in Florida appears to be excellent.
FLORICULTURAL PRODUCTION POTENTIAL IN THE 80'S
Since the 1970's, Florida's floricultural production has made positive
gains and presently represents a major component of the ornamental
industry. Currently, a multitude of cut and potted floricultural crops
are produced in Florida which will contribute significantly to the future
growth and value of the floriculture industry.
Production factors associated with floricultural crops have historically
implied that this enterprise is an intensive user of many production
inputs, particularly labor, pest management, energy and water. Future adoption
of cost saving technological systems and practices for these production
inputs that are more efficient and effective will allow for increased
production. Examples of some of these technological improvements include
more protective production systems (structures) that reduce weather and
cultural'production losses, improved cultivars that are more resistant
to pests and require a shorter growing period, the implementation
of strategic pest management programs, and the adoption of more efficient
energy and water systems.
The use of present and future production-related technological improvements
will play an important role in the potential expansion of the floricultural
industry. Those producers who understand and effectively implement the
technological improvements, as economic conditions warrant their inclusion,
should remain a viable and competitive part of the Florida flower industry
and contribute to its production potential in the 1980's.
MAJOR PRIORITY AREAS AND CHALLENGES FACING THE FLORAL INDUSTRY
The floricultural industry is one of the most highly technical industries
in agriculture today and Florida's moderate climate offers certain
production advantages over northern locations for flower production. Yet,
if the Florida floricultural industry is to survive and prosper through
the 1980's, a number of significant needs must be recognized and resolved,
Foreign competition During the past 10 years foreign cut-flower imports
have increased from less than 10 percent of the U. S. market to over 50
percent today. In view of this competition, flower growers must emphasize
production efficiency, quality, crop selection and diversification,
new marketing strategies and active participation in trade groups.
Federal, state, county and city regulatory agencies The flower grower
is faced with an array of agencies regulating his operations in all areas
including, but not limited to, labor, management, wage hour laws, health
and safety, pesticide usage, environmental, inspection and quarantine,
interstate commerce, taxation, fuel, water, zoning, building and land
use. Growers can deal more effectively with these agencies through strong
statewide trade groups which have liaison with national organizations.-
Mass marketing Development of mass marketing systems will increase
consumer demand for quality floral products severalfold. Special attention
is needed to determine unit sizes preferred by the customers and the develop-
ment of local market outlets for the high population areas which could
increase floral consumption substantially.
Availability of capital Both the availability of capital and interest
rates will influence the rate of growth of the floral industry. In
addition, the level of capital expenditures for land, buildings,
machinery and equipment, and soil and water improvements that provide
a suitable production environment will continue to play a major role in
the profitability of floricultural production.
Marketing strategies The development of marketing techniques which will
maximize producer returns is essential. An awareness of floral products and
their use should be created through innovative advertising, merchandising
techniques, marketing systems and educational programs.
Personnel educational training Continued employee educational programs
in the areas of plant science, personnel, sales and management are
FUTURE AREAS OF EMPHASIS IN RESEARCH, EXTENSION
AND TEACHING PROGRAMS
In order to assist the industry in reaching its potential in the
1980's, educational efforts including research, teaching and extension
programs will need to specifically address production constraints in the
Crop improvement Plant breeding, genetic development and evaluation of
both new cultivars and new crops with desirable horticultural characteristics,
disease and insect resistance, and adaptation to Florida's subtropical
climate are absolutely essential.
Plant Production The development and use of starter plants, ex-
plants, modern propagation techniques and clean seed are required for
the production of disease-free propagation units that will produce
uniformly consistent yield and quality.
Pest control The continued development and application of integrated
pest management systems utilizing biological, chemical and cultural
techniques in the best combination to control insects, diseases,
nematodes and weeds are required. By understanding the biology of the
pest, and with the development and prudent use of new chemicals, more
efficient and safe uses of pesticides can be obtained.
Water management Determination of crop water requirements and develop-
ment of conservative water management practices are required to insure
sufficient water allocations to flower producers by the water management
Crop management Development and utilization of refined cultural and
production practices are essential to the future of the industry.
Areas include use of field mulches, weed control, cover crops, crop
rotations, light and temperature requirements, clean media, chemical
growth regulators and continuous production systems.
Structural designs It is essential to develop improved greenhouse and
structural designs which are energy efficient for both heating and
cooling in the subtropics and which will permit year-round production.
Labor and engineering Since floral crops are very labor intensive,
development and utilization of labor-saving concepts in production, equipment,
packaging and marketing systems will be required.
Computer applications The utilization of computer technology in all
phases of production, greenhouse operations and marketing will conserve
resources (labor, water, energy, etc.) and provide detailed information
for management decision-making.
Postharvest Development of postproduction and postharvest handling
and marketing techniques for producing quality floral commodities will
Personnel and educational.support The availability of well trained
students with firsthand greenhouse and farm experience and a well
trained, innovative extension staff will be vital to industry success
in the 1980's.
In conclusion, in order for the Florida floriculture industry to survive
and develop at full potential by 1990, several essential activities
must be addressed by the industry and the research and education community
as a team in the decade ahead. Activities should include: 1) establishment
of strong trade groups to effectively deal with issues affecting the industry,
both locally and nationally; 2) strong technical research and development
programs, especially in areas of plant breeding, production and pest
management; 3) new market and advertising concepts; 4) creation of an
awareness of the use of floral products in the average American home;
5) diversification of products produced by the grower; 6) the development
of efficient structures, labor and energy-saving techniques; and
7) effective student training programs, personnel development programs
and improved informational delivery systems in all phases of the floral
1. Anonymous. 1975. The Ornamentals Industry, Agricultural Growth in
an Urban Age. IFAS, University of Florida, Gainesville.
2. Conner, Doyle, H. L. Jones, and R. L. King. 1981. Florida's
Certified Nursery Directory, 1981. Florida Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services, Tallahassee.
3. Gause, Sherry. 1982. Imports make U. S. Flower Industry Suffer.
Florida Agriculture, Vol. 41, No. 10. A Farm Bureau Publication.
4. Waters, Will E. 1975. Production of Flowers and Foliage Plants
in Florida and the Tropics. IFAS, University of Florida, Bradenton
AREC Research Report GC1975-8. 20 pp.
5. Waters, W. E., et al. 1983. Floriculture Committee Report. p. 13-34.
In Florida Agriculture in the 80's, Ornamental Horticulture Committee
Reports. IFAS, Univ. of Fla., Gainesville, FL. 93 pp.
The authors wish to express their deepest appreciation to the other
members of the 1983 Floricultural Committee of "Florida Agriculture in
the 80's, Ornamental Horticulture Report" for their valuable assistance
in developing the information presented here. These Committee.members
were: Dr. A. W. Engelhard, Dr. B. K. Harbaugh,'Mrs. A..J. Overman,
Dr. J. F. Price, Dr. G. J. Wilfret and Dr. S. S. Woltz of the Agricultural
Research and Education Center, IFAS, Univ. of Fla., Bradenton, FL;
Dr. W. J. Carpenter and Dr. B. J. Tjia of the Department of Ornamental
Horticulture, IFAS, Univ. of Fla., Gainesville, FL; Dr. R. P. Beilock
of the Food and Resource Economics Department, IFAS, Univ. of Fla.,
Gainesville, FE; Mr. R. B. Whitty, Martin County Extension Director,
Stuart, FL:-Mr. R. Elsberry, Elsberry Greenhouses, Ruskin FL; Mr.'M Hackman,
Yoder Brothers, Ft. Myers, FL; Mr. J. Nanney, Fulwood Enterprises, Inc.,
Sun City, FL; Mr. 0. B. Nissen, Sunshine State Carnations, Hobe Sound, FL;
Mr. W. Preston, Manatee Fruit Co., Palmetto, FL; Mr. G. Richardson, Bear
Hollow, Inc., Lake Placid, FL; and Dr. B. Thomas, Speedling, Inc.,
Sun City, FL.
Table 1. Estimated square feet of commercial production and wholesale value of floricultural crops for
Florida in 1981 semipermanent and permanent structures.
Production area 1982 % Units sold $1,000's
Crop No. Producers 1,000 sq ft intended 1982 of 1981 x 1,000 Unit price value
Carnation 4 391 408 104 488 1.71 834
Cut-flowers 18 10,439 9,886 95 5,995 1.07 6,350
Potted mums 24 1,889 1,878 99 2,026 2.37 4,802
Cuttings 3 3,800 3,800 100 300,000 18,003
Florist Azalea 4 2,000 2,000 100 4,000
Hydrangea 17 508 502 99 319 2.60 829
Lilies 17 384 430 112 378 2.93 1,103
Orchids a 40 5,228 5,228 100 -- 3,003
Poinsettias 50 4,830 5,000 102 2,300 2.51 5,773
Flowers 35 1,490 1,701 112 1,388 4.71 6,537
Vegetables 13 482 487 101 717 2.46 1,764
Crops 550 4,880 4,928 101 10,000
Estimate does not include approximately 3,000 small orchid growers and hobbyists who sell some blooms and
NOTE: All estimates other than the miscellaneous pot-florist crops do not include several hundred small
producers that market less than $10,000 of products or the 8,020 registered nurserymen that produce small
quantities of floral crops and list as nursery items.
Table 2. Estimated acreage of commercial production and wholesale value
of field grown floricultural crops for Florida in 1981.
Production Production. 1981
area area 1982 Units
No. 1981 intended % of sold Unit $1000's
Crop producers acres 1982 1981 x 1000 price value
Amaryllis 4 10 10 100 150
Caladiums 78 900 900 100 54,000 7,200
Gladiolus flowers 8 3,550 3,550 100 90,691 14.5 13,150
Gladiolus corms 10 120 120 100 720
Gypsophila 12 350 350 117 6,300
Statice 10 300. 300 100 4,500
Misc. cut.flowers 35 150 150 100 3,000
Misc. bulb crops 40 106 100 100 2,429 2,000
NOTE: Estimates do not include several hundred small growers with less than
$10,000 annual flower sales or the 8,020 registered nurserymen that grow
limited quantities of selected floral crops and report as nursery items.