A survey of the Florida foliage plant industry

Material Information

A survey of the Florida foliage plant industry
Series Title:
Bulletin University of Florida. Agricultural Experiment Station
Nicholls, Charles A
Smith, Cecil Nuckols, 1920-
Brooke, Donald Lloyd, 1915-
Place of Publication:
Gainesville Fla
University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
30 p. : ill., maps ; 23 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
Foliage plants -- Marketing -- Florida ( lcsh )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


General Note:
Cover title.
General Note:
"In cooperation with Marketing Research Division, Agricultural Marketing Service, United States Department of Agriculture"--T.p.
Bulletin (University of Florida. Agricultural Experiment Station)
Statement of Responsibility:
Charles A. Nicholls, Cecil N. Smith and Donald L. Brooke.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Holding Location:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
027104231 ( ALEPH )
18302055 ( OCLC )
AEN7746 ( NOTIS )


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*ilr ll I,'l

J. R. BECKENBACH, Director

In cooperation with
Marketing Research Division
Agricultural Marketing Service
United States Department of

Single copies free to Florida
residents on request

A Survey of the

Florida Foliage

Plant Industry

Department of Agricultural

Bulletin 615
December 1959


This study was made cooperatively by the Department of
Agricultural Economics of the University of Florida Agricul-
tural Experiment Station and the Market Organization and Costs
Branch, Agricultural Marketing Service, United States Depart-
ment of Agriculture, as a phase of the research conducted by
agencies participating in the Southern Regional Project on
Marketing Horticultural Specialties (SM-12). The work was
supported in part by Bankhead-Jones Act Funds (A. M. A.,
Title II).
This bulletin reports more completely and is a more thorough
analysis of the findings of the research on marketing foliage
plants than a preliminary release, The Florida Foliage Plant
Industry. This earlier publication, issued in April 1958 as
Agricultural Economics Mimeo. Report 58-10, was for the purpose
of making available immediately a portion of the findings of
the study which could be released at that time.
The material in this report is based on master's thesis sub-
mitted by Charles A. Nicholls to the graduate faculty of the
University of Florida in January 1958.
Appreciation is expressed to foliage plant growers for sup-
plying information on their marketing practices. Special thanks
are due Dr. Charles F. Sarle, professor of agricultural economics
and consultant to the Statistical Laboratory, University of Flor-
ida, for his advice in designing the statistical sample utilized
in this study. In addition, acknowledgment is made to the many
organizations and individuals who have contributed to the com-
pletion of this study.

S U M M A RY ..... ........ ....... .. ..... .................... 5

INTRODUCTION .. ... .. .. ........ ........ .. ........... 7
Plant Classification ..................... ..................... .. 7
Objectives of Study ..... ............. .. 7
P rocedu re ........ .............. 8..................... 8

DEVELOPMENT OF THE FOLIAGE PLANT INDUSTRY ............................. 9

INDUSTRY CHARACTERISTICS .. .............. .. ....... .......... 10
G row th ....-------- -. .. ... .............................. ....... 15
Em ploym ent .................. ........ ......... 15

ESTIMATED VALUE OF SALES ........... ... 17
Importance of Various Plants ...... .................... 20

M ARKET OUTLETS .................... ........... 20

M ARKET DISTRIBUTION ................... ........... 23
Scope of Distribution ................ ......... 23
Type of Transportation ....... ..................................... 23

PACKING PLANTS FOR SHIPMENT ................. 24
Forms in W which Sold .......... ....... 24
Packing Methods Used .... ... ........... ........... 27

Market Demand ............. ....... 30
M market Inform ation .. ......... ................ 30
Sales Prom otion ........... ........... 30


p. --,--L / WLL -- ,

11. AN Central
o -,Florida

Areas and Number of Number of -s
Counties Growers Acresa N.. _

South Florida AC I
Broward 6 10.5 o OSCEOLA
Dade 28 284.3 VsM'SOA -.
Palm Beach 12 13.0 W "
--- -- -- -- -- -- --- -- 0
Central Florida MANATEE NAE / -7r.
Lake 6 19.0 / '- -
Orange 69 199.7
Seminole 5 12.8 AsOsrA r A'

Other Florida "
Duval 9 1.6 0 -Doi V
Highlands 1 b -
Hillsborough 13 2.8 Jjm
Manatee 8 27.2 c i..- usoiO
Osceola 1 1.5
Pasco 1 b
Pinellas 8 5.5 ---
Polk 4 b
Okeechobee 1 b South Florida
Sarasota 3 5.2
Volusia 5 1.6

All Areas 180 584.7 "oOE

aIncludes greenhouse area.

bLess than 0.5 acre.

Fig. 1.-Distribution of Florida foliage plant growers and acreage, 1957.

A Survey of the Florida Foliage

Plant Industry


Foliage plants have been grown commercially in Florida
since 1925. Their production has increased very rapidly during
the past decade. The first greenhouses for their propagation
were constructed in Central Florida during 1939.
In 1957 the foliage plant industry in Florida was composed
of 180 growers. Although most producers had small operations
of less than 1 acre, 37 large growers accounted for 85 percent of
the industry's production area and total sales. The South Flor-
ida area had 55 percent, Central Florida 38 percent and the
"Other Florida" area 7 percent of the 585 acres 3 devoted to
foliage plant culture in 1957. The average acreage per grower
was highest in South Florida and lowest in the "Other Florida"
Nearly 1,300 persons were employed full time in the Florida
foliage plant industry during 1957. Operators in Central Florida
hired 53 percent of this total. Growers in the South Florida
and "Other Florida" areas employed 39 percent and 8 percent.
respectively, of these workers.
Estimated sales of foliage plants by growers, excluding the
resale of plants purchased from other operators, amounted to
$10,046,000 in 1956 and $12,000,000 in 1957. Sales of plants
made to out-of-state greenhouse operators for "growing-on"
purposes and to variety stores for resale to consumers totaled
over 50 percent of the industry's cash receipts. Sales made
through brokers accounted for slightly over 14 percent of the

SFormerly Research Assistant, Florida Agricultural Experiment Sta-
tion and Cooperative Agent, Market Organization and Costs Branch, Agri-
cultural Marketing Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture. Mr. Nicholls
is now employed as an Agricultural Economist by the Bureau of the Census,
U. S. Department of Commerce.
2Associate Agricultural Economist, Florida Agricultural Experiment
Includes almost 36 acres of greenhouse area in addition to the area in
open fields and that under saran or laths.

Florida Agriculttural Experiment Stations

total. No other outlet handled as much as 10 percent of total
The Northeastern area of the United States was the largest
market for foliage plants. An estimated 47 percent of all plants
sold were shipped to this area. Sales to the Midwestern area
ranked second and those to the Southeastern area third. Move-
ment to the Southwest, West and areas outside the United
States (exports) each accounted for less than 6 percent of total
Railway express, air freight and truck were the primary
methods used for shipping foliage plants to distant markets.
Shipments made by railway express accounted for 49 percent,
while those made by air freight and truck represented 28 and
21 percent, respectively, of the total movement to distant mar-
kets. Limited shipments were made by bus and parcel post.
Half the sales value of foliage plants marketed by growers
in Florida during 1956 was contributed by all species and vari-
eties of philodendrons. Philodendron cordatum accounted for
a third of the total value of foliage plants sold. All species of
sansevieria made up 16 percent of the total sales.
Growers packed most of their foliage plants in corrugated
cardboard boxes. Foliage plants in plastic pots returned to grow-
ers more than a third of the total marketing receipts of the
industry. Rooted and unrooted cuttings wrapped in wax paper
and cellophane accounted for another fourth. Plants were also
packaged in paper pots, newspaper, cans, clay and aluminum
pots, foil wrap and plant bands.
Glutted markets offered no serious problem for most foliage
plant growers during 1956. Demand could be estimated only
from orders placed in advance and from growers' experience
in preceding years. Most growers priced their plants in accor-
dance with advertised prices in trade journals and price lists
of other growers.

A Surrey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

The production of horticultural specialty crops in Florida
has increased very rapidly since World War II. Approximately
$2,000,000 in sales of foliage plants by growers in the state were
reported by the 1949 Census of Agriculture.
Relatively high temperatures and humidity are 2 of the cli-
matic factors which favor the production of foliage plants in
Florida. Light intensity is reduced for most foliage plants by
growing them under lath or saran. However, some plants, as
sansevieria and ficus, are grown largely in open fields.
An increasing number of greenhouses are utilized in Florida's
foliage plant industry for propagating and growing potted and
specimen plants. The extent to which greenhouses are used
depends upon the kind and location of the foliage plant operation,
species of plants grown and form in which they are sold; i.e.,
rooted cuttings, potted plants and specimen plants.
Plant Classification.-The large variety of foliage plants pro-
duced commercially in Florida are used in planters and dish gar-
dens and as specimens by homemakers, business offices and other
establishments. Although many of these plants have variegated
leaves, they are commonly called green or foliage plants.
Philodendron, sansevieria, pothos, dieffenbachia, nephthytis
and chinese evergreens are the major foliage crops grown. Some
growers also produce other plants not classified as foliage plants.
The following definitions were used for delineating the plants on
which data were collected:
1. Plants commonly grown indoors in dish gardens, planters
and pots.
2. Plants not commonly used for outside landscaping pur-
poses except in tropical areas.
3. Plants which may produce flowers but can be kept grow-
ing as an ornamental green plant indoors the year around.
4. Orchids, gardenias and azaleas were excluded.
Objectives of Study.-Prior to this study, very little infor-
mation has been published on the economic aspects of the foliage
plant industry in Florida. This project was undertaken in re-
sponse to requests by growers and others for information on the
foliage plant industry.
The primary objectives of this study were (1) to estimate
outdoor and shaded acreage, greenhouse area, sales receipts and
other characteristics of the foliage plant industry in Florida;

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

(2) to determine the type and extent of use of various selling
practices; and (3) to determine the scope of market distribution.
Procedure.-A list of commercial producers of foliage plants
was compiled from several sources-the State Plant Board of
Florida, county agricultural agents and the Florida Nurserymen
and Growers Association.
A stratified probability sample of growers was selected for
personal interviewing. As shown in Figure 1, the population of
180 foliage plant growers was first stratified into three geo-
graphic areas:
1. South Florida comprising Broward, Dade and Palm Beach
counties (46 growers).
2. Central Florida comprising Lake, Orange and Seminole
counties (80 growers).
3. "Other Florida" comprising the remaining counties in
the Florida peninsula (54 growers).
Each of the 3 geographic areas was further stratified into 3
size groups in terms of total acreage, including open fields,
shaded field area and greenhouse space, as follows:
1. Large growers-3 acres and over.
2. Medium growers-1.0 to 2.99 acres.
3. Small growers-Under 1.0 acre.
All 37 large growers were included in the sample. Sys-
tematic sampling with a random start was used in selecting a
sample in each of the other strata. The original sampling rate
was 50 percent for the medium grower strata and 20 percent for
the small grower strata in all 3 geographic areas.
In conducting the field survey, a few growers were located
whose names did not appear on the original population list.
Some listed persons were no longer growers and others had
shifted from 1 stratum to another. Changes due to the location
of unlisted growers, the shifting of growers from 1 stratum to
another and the discontinuation of operations by some growers
resulted in a final sampling of 53 percent for medium growers
and 22 percent for small growers (Table 1). Growers not inter-
viewed were asked to return postcards mailed them on which
they recorded their current area in foliage plant production.
The 80 operators interviewed constituted 44 percent of all
growers and utilized over 90 percent of the field area and some
70 percent of the greenhouse area devoted to foliage plant pro-
duction during 1957.

A Surrey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

The data obtained were used in making estimates by grower
size groups of various characteristics in each of the 3 geographic
areas. Later the data were combined to provide estimates for
the total industry. Data on the value of sales and most other
industry characteristics relate to 1956. However, the acreage
data shown in several instances are those reported for 1957.


Growers Field Area* Greenhouse Area
Size Groups In In In In In In
State Sample State Sample State Sample
Num- Percent Acres Percent 1,000 Percent
ber Sq. Ft.
Large growers ........ 37 100 468 100 842 100
(3 acres and over)
Medium growers .... 36 53 55 56 329 46
(1.0-2.99 acres)
Small growers** ... 107 22 26 34 394 28
(.01-.99 acre)

All growers ........ 180 44 549 91 1,565 69
Includes outdoor and shaded acreage.
** Also includes growers having greenhouses only.


Foliage plant production in the state was begun about 1925
by growers in the central and southern areas who at that time
were producing Asparagus plumoslus and Boston ferns. The
demand for ferns was declining and growers turned to pro-
ducing foliage plants, thereby taking advantage of existing pro-
duction and shipping facilities. Philodendron cordatimi, San-
sevieria laurentii and Nephtliytis liberica, among the first plants
grown, have maintained their popularity and still account for
a large proportion of the plants grown and marketed.
The production of foliage plants is a highly specialized oper-
ation which requires a large capital investment and a high de-
gree of technical skill by growers. The degree of skill and ex-
perience required in this industry is exceeded by that in few
other phases of agriculture.

Although a member of the asparagus family and not a true fern,
Asparagus plu1nosus nanis is commonly referred to as a fern in the florists'

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

The average foliage plant grower in Florida had been in the
industry since 1945 (12 years as of 1957). More than half of
the present growers were engaged in the flower or nursery busi-
ness or some other horticultural enterprise before they entered
the foliage plant industry. Over 60 percent of the growers in
the large and medium size groups had this type of background.
Others were teachers, salesmen and persons who worked in a
varied number of occupations.

The foliage plant industry in 1957 was composed of 180 com-
mercial growers. Field and greenhouse areas devoted to pro-
ducing foliage plants in 1957 totaled nearly 585 acres. Grow-
ers utilized 549 acres for growing plants in open fields, under
saran or lath and 1,565,000 square feet (nearly 36 acres) of
greenhouse area for propagation and "growing-on" of foliage
plants. Most greenhouses are of glass. However, some growers
have built structures of plastic and fiberglass.

Fig. 2.-Stock plants of Philodendron dubium in a South Florida lath house.
Note convergence of saran and laths at top of picture.

A Survey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

Grower operations vary in size from a fraction of an acre to
several hundred acres. Growers propagate a variety of plants
and grow them until they are of marketable size. In some in-
stances the plants are sold as rooted cuttings and in others as
potted plants or in various other forms. Much of the propaga-
tion of plants is done in greenhouses, especially in Central Flor-
ida. Stock plants are usually grown in lath houses or outside
in open fields; the cuttings which are propagated are made from
these plants. Several phases of growing operations are pictured
in Figures 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Most foliage plant operators have facilities for packing and
shipping plants. Plants needed to fill orders are assembled,
packaged, placed in containers and moved by express, truck or
air to their destinations.
Most foliage plant growers sell at wholesale to outlets out-
side the state. However, some small producers retail plants at

Fig. 3.-Stock plants of Philodendron cordatum growing under lath,
with P. friedrichsthali growing on support posts.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

their places of business. Most small operators in Central Florida
sell to nearby larger growers who either market the plants im-
mediately or else grow them to larger sizes before doing so.
Although the majority of foliage plant growers are small,
more greenhouse and field area was utilized by large growers
than by small and medium growers combined. Large growers
comprised only 21 percent of the total, but had 85 percent of
the field acreage and 54 percent of the total greenhouse area in
1957. Small growers comprised 59 percent of total growers, but
utilized only 5 percent of the field acreage and 25 percent of the
greenhouse area. Medium growers made up 20 percent of the
total growers and had 10 percent of the field acreage and 21
percent of the greenhouse area.
Central Florida had 44 percent of total growers and 70 per-
cent of the greenhouse area, but only 38 percent of the area
under lath and under saran (Table 2). South Florida had 26
percent of the state's total producers, but had 55 percent of the
outdoor and shaded acreage and 18 percent of the greenhouse
area. Although 30 percent of the total number of growers were
scattered throughout the "Other Florida" area, they had only
7 percent of the outdoor and shaded acreage and 12 percent of
the greenhouse area. The largest operators were located in

Fig. 4.-Propagation of Philodendron cordatum in a
Central Florida greenhouse.

'* iI P


,s~ rr4C7s~

A Survey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

South Florida. As compared with growers in other areas, they
tended to specialize in relatively fewer plant items. Small grow-
ers in "Other Florida" locations were diversified in their pro-
duction practices; i.e., they grew a large number of different


Area Groups Growers Field Area* Greenhouse

Number Acres 1,000
Sq. Ft.
South Florida --.......... 46 301 274
Central Florida .......... | 80 206 1,098
"Other Florida" -............. 54 42 193

All areas ..-.................. | 180 549 1,565
Includes outdoor and shaded acreage.

Fig. i growing outdoors in South Florida.

Fig. 5.--Scnsevieria laurentii growing outdoors in South Florida.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations


Fig. 6.-Outdoor and shaded areas devoted to the culture of foliage plants
in Florida, 1952 to 1957.

Square feet








1952 1953


Fig. 7.-Greenhouse area devoted to the culture
in Florida, 1952 to 1957.

of foliage plants

-All Areas
Central Florida

South Florida
Other Florida

^ ^

^^ ^


A Surrey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

The majority of Florida foliage plant producers were con-
centrated in Dade and Orange counties. Dade and Orange
county growers had 49 and 34 percent, respectively, of the total
production area in 1957.
A number of foliage plant growers also produced various
other horticultural specialty crops. Foliage plants were grown
on 66 percent of the nearly 884 acres utilized by foliage plant
operators in producing various horticultural specialty crops in
1957. The remaining land was used for producing cut greens,
nursery stock, potted flowering plants and miscellaneous cut
flower crops.
Growth.-The field area' devoted to foliage plant production
increased from 271 acres in 1952 to 549 acres in 1957, an ex-
pansion of over 100 percent (Figure 6). This expansion was
larger in the South Florida area than in the other 2 regions. A
relatively small increase occurred in the "Other Florida" area.
The first greenhouse in Florida reportedly used for propagat-
ing foliage plants was constructed in 1939. Greenhouse area
increased from 643,000 square feet in 1952 to 1,565,000 square
feet in 1957, a rise of 143 percent (Figure 7). The ratio of green-
house area to field acreage was proportionately higher for small
growers than for either of the other size groups. Glass area rep-
resented 83 percent of the total greenhouse space. The remain-
ing 17 percent consisted of plastic and fiberglass.


Persons Employed
Area Group
SFull Time Part Time Seasonal
1956 1957 1956 1956

Number Number Number Number
South Florida .._.... 426 506 35 112
Central Florida ..... 666 682 92 84
"Other Florida" ...... 103 111 32 7

All areas ......... .. 1,195 1,299 159 203

Employment.-Some 1,300 persons were employed full time
in the industry during 1957 (Table 3). This figure includes own-

Open field and under lath or saran.

Florida Agricultutral Experiment Stations

ers, managers and all employees who received salaries or wages
for full-time work in connection with foliage plant operations.
Full-time employment increased 9 percent from 1956 to 1957.
Much of the increase was occasioned by the additional acreage
and greenhouse area placed into production.
The Central Florida area ranked first in number of employees
with 682 full-time workers during 1957. These employees rep-
resented 53 percent of the total industry employment in the
state. South Florida was second with 39 percent; "Other Flor-
ida" growers employed 8 percent of the full-time workers. Al-
though South Florida growers had more outdoor and shaded pro-
duction than operators in the other 2 area groups, Central Florida
growers employed more workers. The major reason for this is
the large amount of labor needed for operating the greenhouse
ranges of Central Florida growers.
The average number of full-time employees per acre in the
various area and size groups is noted in Table 4. Small growers,
with more of their production area in greenhouses than that of
growers in other size groups, reported more workers per acre
than larger growers.


Size Group Area
South Central Other All Areas

Large ............. .... 1.4 3.0 2.5 2.1
Medium ............. 3.6 2.0 0.9 2.3
Small -. ........ .. 4.8 4.2 3.4 4.0

Average ............. 1.6 3.0 2.4 2.2
Includes field area and greenhouse space.

Part-time employees numbered 159 during 1956. These part-
time workers were employed the year around, but for only a few
hours a day or a few days a week. Housewives who may work
half a day were included in this classification. Students who
work afternoons and on Saturdays and retired persons who work
1 or 2 days a week were included in this classification. Central
Florida area growers utilized 58 percent, South Florida area
operators hired 22 percent and "Other Florida" growers em-
ployed 20 percent of the total part-time employees.

A Survey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

Although many growing operations were characterized by
relatively stable full-time employment the year around, others
hired additional employees for short periods. Two hundred and
three seasonal employees were hired during peak work periods.
South Florida area operators hired 55 percent of the seasonal
employees, Central Florida growers hired 41 percent and the re-
maining 4 percent were employed by growers in the "Other
Florida" area.

Cash receipts to Florida growers from sales of foliage plants
totaled an estimated $10,046,000 in 1956. In order to arrive at
this estimate the value of plants purchased from other grow-
ers was deducted from the estimated value of total sales made
during that year. Such purchases from other growers amounted
to almost 8 percent of the $10,904,000 calculated as total gross
sales in 1956.
Since most sales were made f.o.b., sales data for those grow-
ers who sold plants on a delivered basis were converted to an
f.o.b. basis. This was done by excluding estimated transporta-
tion costs.
The range in value of sales per acre reported by growers was
from $3,000 to $34,000. Large growers' sales accounted for 85
percent of the industry's total marketing. The medium and
small grower groups had 8 and 7 percent, respectively, of total
sales. The average value of sales per acre (including both out-
door and greenhouse area) was $20,700 during 1956 (Table 5).
Large growers reported the highest average value per acre of
$21,800. They were followed by small growers with an average
sales figure of $20,700 and by medium growers with $13,400.
Before conclusions are drawn relative to sales values on an
acreage basis, the following factors relating to individual grow-
ers' operations should be considered:
1. Ratio of greenhouse area to the area in lath houses, under
saran and in open fields.
2. Kinds and varieties of plants grown and propagated.
3. Rate of turnover of plants from propagation to sale.
4. Whether plants were sold on a wholesale or retail basis.
5. Efficiency of the foliage plant operation with respect to
production and marketing operations.
6. Number of employees per acre.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

7. Whether or not the grower was expanding his operation.
8. Degree of diversification with respect to types of plants

I Average
Size Group I Growers Production Value of Sales per
and Area Area* ** Salestt Acret

Number Acres Dollars Dollars

Large growers
South Florida ...... 16 205 4,959,000 24,200
Central Florida .... 18 159 3,354,000 21,100
"Other Florida" .... 3 30 270,000 9,000
Total .........-..... 37 394 8,583,000 21,800
Medium growers
South Florida ...... 9 15 187,000 12,500
Central Florida ...... 22 36 531,000 14,800
"Other Florida" .... 5 7 62,000 8,900
Total ......... ...... 36 58 780,000 13,400
Small growers
South Florida ... 21 9 122,000 13,500
Central Florida ...... 40 16 323,000 20,200
"Other Florida" .... 46 8 238,000 29,700
Total ................ 107 33 683,000 20,700
All growers
South Florida .... 46 229 5,268,000 23,000
Central Florida ...... 80 211 4,208,000 19,900
"Other Florida" .... 54 45 570,000 I 12,700

GRAND TOTAL 180 485 10,046,000 20,700
Includes both greenhouse and field area.
** Rounded to the nearest tenth.
t Excludes purchases from other growers.
SRounded to the nearest thousand.
Rounded to the nearest hundred.

One reason for medium growers' lower average sales per acre
is believed to be the result of operators' utilizing much of their
stock for propagation to expand their businesses. There are
also considerable differences in efficiency among growers in the
various size groups.
South Florida growers, with estimated sales of $5,268,000,
had the highest total foliage plant sales in the 3 areas. Growers
in the Central Florida and "Other Florida" areas had sales of
$4,208,000 and $570,000, respectively. Sales for growers in
South Florida averaged approximately $23,000 per acre, whereas
Central Florida and "Other Florida" growers averaged $19,900
and $12,700, respectively.

A Surrey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

On the basis of area in foliage plants in 1957 and average
sales per acre in 1956, it is estimated that sales of foliage plants,
excluding plants purchased by growers and resold, were approxi-
mately $12,000,000 in 1957. A slight downward adjustment was
made from the 1956 average sales figures in order to allow for
damage occurring as a result of the December 1957 freeze. Fur-
ther freeze damage was suffered by foliage plant growers during
the remainder of the severe winter of 1957-58.


Plant or Plant Group Value of Sales
1,000 Dollars Percent of Total

Philodendron* ................. ... ...... 5,033 50.1
PIilodendron cordatu ............... 3,412 34.0
Philodendron-all others
plus Monstera delicioso: .... 1,621 16.1

Sansevieri ................................ .. 1,584 15.8
Sansevieria lacirentii .... ..... .......... 972 9.7
Sanserieria zeylanica ............. 517 5.2
Sansevieria hahnii .......... ............ 95 0.9

Pothos auiore s .......... ................ ... 1,036 10.3
M arble Queen ................. .......... 311 3.1
Other than Marble Queen ........ 725 7.2

Nephthytis-all species and varieties 434 4.4

Ficis- all species ............... .. 232 2.3

Agloaonnici (Chinese evergreens) .... 227 2.3
Dieffeinbachtia-all species
and varieties ........ ... 214 2.1

Neanthe bella (dwarf palm) ......... 205 2.0

Dracaena-all species and varieties 198 2.0

Peperomic--all species and varieties 185 1.8

Pilca (aluminum plant) .... 150 1.5

Sc cter. ... ......... 84 0.8

Maractn ...... ..... 38 0.4
All Others ....... 426 4.2

Total ... ......... .............. 10,046 100.0

Although of a different genus, Monistcra doliriiosa is usually grouped with philodendrons.

20 Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

Importance of Various Plants.-The relative importance of
various groups of foliage plants sold in Florida during 1956 is
shown in Table 6. Some of these plants are listed by specific
species, but others are grouped to include many species of the
same genus.6 The purpose of this analysis is to indicate the rel-
ative importance of specific plant groupings. Many factors com-
bine to make a rigid interpretation of the data in dollar terms
Three-fourths of all foliage plants marketed consisted of phil-
odendrons, sansevieria and pothos. In fact, half of the total sales
were made up of philodendrons. Although not a member of the
genus Philodendron, Monstera deliciosa was grouped with the
philodendrons because of similar growth and cultural character-
Philodendron cordatum was the most important single foliage
plant species sold. A third of all sales consisted of this item.
It was followed by Sansevieria laurentii with a tenth of the total.
Plants of this species, along with those of S. zeylanica and S.
hahnii, were largely sold bare rooted.
No plant or plant group other than philodendrons, sansevieria
and pothos accounted for as much as 5 percent of all foliage plant
Out-of-state greenhouse operators and variety stores were
the 2 major market outlets to which growers sold their output
(Figure 8). Sales were made also by growers through 8 other
outlets. The relative importance of various types of outlets for
growers in the 3 size groups is noted in Table 7.
Direct sales made to out-of-state greenhouse operators for
"growing-on" purposes was the most important outlet for Flor-
ida foliage plants. Variety stores were the second most impor-
tant outlet. Large growers supplied these outlets to a greater
extent than those in the other 2 size groups.
Brokers comprised the third major outlet through which
foliage plants were marketed. Brokers are independent agents
who serve as intermediaries between buyer and seller in effecting
foliage plant sales. Sales to buyers are negotiated by brokers
who, in turn, have the orders filled by foliage plant growers and
shippers. Shippers usually forward orders under the broker's
address label. Brokers often extend credit to the parties with
whom they deal.
The plant names herein are those in common trade usage.

A Surrey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry


Greenhouse Operators for
Growing-on (Out of State)

Variety Stores (5 and 10
cent Stores)


Local Buyers (Wholesale)

Grocery Stores


Retail Florists


0 5 10 15 0 : 30
Percent of Total
*2.0% at retail; 0.4% to department stores.

Fig. 8.-Outlets to which Florida foliage plant growers
sold their output, 1956.

A tenth of all foliage plants marketed were sold to local buy-
ers. These purchasers were mostly other foliage plant growers.
Plants marketed through this type outlet were utilized for "grow-
ing-on" purposes, for filling immediate orders and for stock.
Local buyers comprised the principal market outlet for medium
and small growers.
The remainder of the plants were sold to other outlets, none
of which purchased as much as a tenth of the value of total plants
marketed. Some growers sold foliage plants to grocery stores,
jobbers, retail florists and department stores. Others made a
portion of their sales directly to consumers. Some of the retail
sales to consumers were at the grower's place of business and
others were made in response to orders received by mail.
It is likely that wholesale florists are included in the "jobber"
classification. Jobbers differ from brokers in that the former

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

actually take title to the plants and handle and distribute them
to their buyers.


Type Outlet

Greenhouse operators for
growing-on (out-of-state) ...

Variety (5 and 10 cent) stores

B rokers .............. ...... .

Local buyers (wholesale) ........

Grocery stores ............. .......

Jobbers ..............

Retail florists .............-.....

At retail (place of business)

At retail (mail order) ....

Department stores ..............

A ll outlets ............

Large Medium
Growers Growers













Small All
Growers Growers

of Total

18.6 3.3

10.7 11.6

0.1 22.0


0.1 0.4














* Less than 0.5 percent.

Fig. 9.-Proportion of foliage plants sold to buyers in
various distribution areas, 1956.

A Surrey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry


Scope of Distribution.-The United States was divided into
5 geographic regions for delineating the areas to which plants
were shipped. The relative proportion of Florida foliage plants
sold to buyers in various distribution areas is indicated in
Figure 9.
Growers estimated that almost half of their sales were made
to buyers in the Northeast. The Midwestern area ranked second,
accounting for nearly a fourth of the total volume. The South-
eastern area was third with a seventh of total sales. Slightly
more than a tenth of all plants went to destinations in the South-
west and in the West.
The value of exports to other countries was smaller than
that of the sales to any of the areas in the United States. Never-
theless, the value of exports amounted to more than $400,000.
Sanserieria laurentii and Sansecieria zeylanica were the foliage
plants most frequently exported from the United States. Ship-
ments were largely to Canada, Europe and Latin America.
Type of Transportation.-Railway express, air freight and
truck were the primary methods of transporting foliage plants
in 1956. Shipments made by bus and parcel post were negligible.
Market area or point of destination, differences in transportation
rates and perishability of specific foliage plants were all factors
which determined the means of transportation growers used in
shipping their plants. The value of plants transported to distant
markets by various methods is noted in Table 8.


Method of Transportation Value of Sales
Dollars Percent

Railway express .............. ........... ........... 4,707,000 49
Air freight .... ............. .... ... ... .. 2,719,000 28
Truck ....... ................. ............. 2,010,000 21
Parcel post ......................... .. 149,000 2
B us ............................ ........... 16,000 **

T otal ................... ...... ......... ................ 9,601,000* 100
Plants retailed at growers' places of business and those wholesaled to other growers
in the state amounted to $1,303,000. This figure, plus sales of $9,601,000 made to distant
buyers, gives a total gross value of $10,904,000.
** Less than 0.5 percent.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

Nearly half of the foliage plants, in terms of sales value,
shipped from Florida during 1956 were moved by railway express.
Air freight, the second most important shipping method, ac-
counted for more than a fourth of the total value of plants
Foliage plants shipped by truck accounted for a fifth of the
value of delivered sales. An advantage of shipping by truck
is its flexibility; rapid delivery can be made to any point. Al-
though commercial trucking firms operated to certain areas,
many growers nevertheless found it advantageous to utilize
their own trucks for shipping foliage plants. Growers who
ran truck routes often sold directly to retail florists and variety
stores. The driver frequently served not only as the delivery
man but also as the salesman.

Forms in Which Sold.-As noted in Figure 10, foliage plants
were sold in many different forms. The type market outlet to
which they are shipped affects the form in which plants are mar-

Fig. 10.-Forms in which Florida foliage plants were sold, 1956.

--- !m

m ___


3" Pots and Smaller

Booted Cuttings

Bare Root

3 Pots and Larger

Unrooted Cuttings

Tubs and Totem

40 U5

0 10 20 30

Percent of Total

A Survey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

keted. For instance, rooted and unrooted cuttings, bare-root
plants and seedlings are generally sold to other growers for
"growing-on"; plants in pots, tubs and totem poles are usually
distributed to market outlets which move them into consumption
Growers reported that nearly half of their foliage plants
(based on value) were sold in pots 3 inches or less in diameter.

Fig. 11.-A packinghouse worker transfers plants from clay to
plastic pots in preparation for shipping them.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

More than 90 percent of the pothos and half of the Philodendron
cordatum plants were in pots of this size.
Approximately a fourth of all plants sold were rooted cut-
tings. More than $1,266,000 in sales of Philodendron cordatum
-37 percent of the total for this species-were in the form of
rooted cuttings. A high proportion of nephthytis, ficus and
chinese evergreens also were sold as rooted cuttings.

Fig. 12.-A packinghouse worker wraps individual potted plants
in newspaper.

-01 *o

A Survey of the Florida Foliage Plant Industry

Except for sansevieria, practically no plants were sold bare
rooted. More than 90 percent of Sansevieria laurentii and San-
sevieria zeylanica sales were bare rooted. On the other hand,
only a third of the sales of Sansevieria hahnii were bare rooted;
the remainder were in small pots.
Other forms in which plants were sold were in 31/4-inch and
larger pots, as unrooted cuttings, as seedlings and in tubs and
totem poles. The plants sold in other forms each constituted
less than 5 percent of the total.
Packing Methods Used.-Many methods were used by grow-
ers for packing and shipping plants. Various aspects of packing
operations are shown in Figures 11 through 14.
Most foliage plants shipped to distant points were packed in
master containers made of corrugated cardboard. In instances
where growers shipped in their own trucks, individual potted
plants were often set in wooden or cardboard trays and these in
turn were placed on shelves within trucks. Deliveries of plants
by this method were made to such market outlets as grocery
stores, retail florists' shops and variety stores. While newspa-

Fig. 13.-Packinghouse workers prepare Philodendron cordatztm
totem poles.

._ A

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

pers were generally used for supporting and insulating plants
during shipment, a few growers used an insulating sheeting
known to the trade as "jiffy pads" or "jiffy blankets."

Fig. 14.-Foliage plants are boxed and ready for the trip to market.

The type of container, wrap or pot in which plants were sold
depended on the kind of plant being shipped, size of plant, buyer
and grower preferences and the form in which plants were sold;
i.e., cuttings, pots and specimen plants. Data on packaging
media, with the value and relative importance of each, are noted
in Figure 15.
More plants, on a value basis, were sold in plastic pots than
in any other type of container. Growers favored plastic pots
because (1) they are light in weight and eliminate excessive
transportation costs; (2) they are available in many bright col-
ors, thereby offering good display possibilities for retail store

A Surrey of the Florida Foliage Plant Indutstry

merchandisers; (3) they can be obtained in either square or
round sizes; and (4) the soil within these pots does not dry out
as readily nor do fungi and bacteria collect on plastic as they do
on clay pots.

Plastic pots (37%)
Wax paper and

Paper pota (13%)

Newspapers (107)

Clay pots (9%)
(Sold locally) (4%)
Cans, tubs and
totem poles (1%)
Aluminum pots 1
and foil wrap

Plant bands
300 900 1,500 2,100 2,700 3,300 3,900
600 1,200 1,800 2,400 3,000 3,600
Thousands of Dollars
'Less than 0.5 percent

Fig. 15.--Types of packaging media utilized for shipping
foliage plants, 1956.

Plants packaged in wraps of wax paper and cellophane con-
stituted a fourth of the total sales of foliage plants during 1956.
Plants assembled in this manner were usually unrooted or rooted
cuttings. Plants wrapped directly in newspaper accounted for
a tenth of all sales in 1956. Sansevieria zeylanica and Sansevi-
eria laurentii were usually packaged in newspaper alone, since
fewer precautions to prevent damage in shipment are required
than for other foliage items.
The weight of clay pots often made it economically prohibi-
tive to ship plants so packaged to distant markets. Neverthe-
less, more than a fifth of the plants shipped by medium and
small growers were in clay pots. This compared with 7 percent
for large growers and 9 percent for the industry as a whole.
All other types of containers or wraps in which plants were
shipped each accounted for less than 5 percent of the total sales
volume of the industry in 1956. Bare root sales, although rela-

Florida Agricultural Experiment Stations

tively unimportant from the standpoint of the entire industry,
made up a fourth of the total for small growers.

Market Demand.-Florida foliage plant growers were in a
relatively favorable economic position during 1956, since a ready
market was generally available for most varieties of foliage
plants. Growers reported excess supplies and a glutted market
for Philodendron cordatum during certain months, particularly
May and June. This situation, however, was offset by more
favorable conditions during the remainder of the year.
Market Information.-Neither the trade associations to which
many growers belong nor governmental agencies provide mar-
ket information for this industry. Therefore, the demand for
foliage plants can only be estimated from orders placed in ad-
vance and from the experience of growers during preceding
Many growers reported that they priced their plants in ac-
cordance with the published prices of those growers who adver-
tised in trade journals. Whether there was a price leader in the
industry was very difficult to determine.
Sales Promotion.-Nearly all types of sales promotion used
by growers in the foliage plant industry are directed toward
wholesale buyers. Advertising the available varieties of plants
in trade journals was the major type of sales promotion utilized;
prices are usually quoted in these advertisements. Most growers
believed that a promotional program at the consumer level would
accomplish little unless it was done on a cooperative basis by the
entire industry.
Various sales promotional techniques used by growers in-
cluded direct mail price lists, trade journal advertising, telephone
selling, personal traveling and calls by salesmen. Growers re-
ported $277,000 as having been spent for sales promotion and
advertising in 1956. This sum represented less than 3 percent
of the receipts to growers from the sale of foliage plants.