by TERESA SCHIFFER
Sponsored by Farm Credit of Central Florida
Florida’s subtropical climate means the state is well-suited for the mass cultivation of ornamental and tropical plants for the rest of the country. In fact, the state is the second-largest producer of ornamental and horticultural products in the country. The environmental horticulture industry generated roughly $25.4 billion in sales in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, and employed more than 242,000 people.
The ornamental industry encompasses a wide array of ag sectors and
businesses, such as landscapers, lawn and garden suppliers, nurseries, and
greenhouses, just to name a few.
FNGLA’s Role in the Industry
Florida is a major supplier of the nation’s indoor and ornamental plants. Almost 80% of the tropical and indoor plants throughout the United States come from Florida. Nearly a third of Florida’s landscape plant sales are to builders and developers.
The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association represents Florida’s environmental horticultural industry, also called the green industry.
The FNGLA divides the entire industry into seven categories: the Allied division represents landscapers, suppliers, insurance companies, media outlets, and other allied businesses; the Citrus Nursery division is made up of citrus nurseries and suppliers; Floriculture is the designation for nurseries, growers, and suppliers of landscaping plants; the Foliage division comprises nurseries, growers, and suppliers for indoor and outdoor potted plants; the Woody division focuses on growers who work with woody plant materials; and then the Garden Center division and Landscape division cover those last two types of businesses.
FNGLA operates 14 Chapters throughout Florida, and puts on two of the nation’s largest nursery and landscape industry trade shows. These are the Tropical Plant International Expo and The Landscape Show. Buyers come from all over the world to these trade shows, on the hunt for unique horticulture plants and products.
The most recent Tropical Plant International Expo took place in January of 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic halted events around the world. The Expo was a big success, with more than 6,800 attendees from 47 states and 37 different countries converging on Fort Lauderdale.
The Expo is set to return this year on January 19 – 21 at the Tampa Convention Center.
The Impact of Ornamental Horticulture on Florida’s Economy
Ornamental horticulture is a thriving industry in Florida. When we break down the $25 billion-plus generated by sales of ornamental plants, FNGLA reports that $4.55 billion of that comes from nursery and greenhouse production, $10.11 billion is from landscaping processes (such as installation and maintenance), and $6.42 billion comes from garden centers and retail sales directly to consumers. Within the landscaping portion, about 31% of that is sales to builders and developers alone due to Florida’s continuing population growth and development.
A large share of the landscaping sector’s business is focused in South Florida, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale region specifically. That area alone produces roughly $7.5 billion in sales and supports almost 80,000 employees. With Miami-Dade County in the top spot, the counties that complete the list of top 10 in terms of jobs and sales in the nursery and landscape industry are Palm Beach, Orange, Broward, Hillsborough, Duval, Lee, Collier, Seminole, and Pinellas.
The industry continues to expand, as evidenced by the growing market of edible plants, which currently represent about 3.5 percent of the total sales in nurseries. The number of drought-tolerant and Florida-friendly plants being sold is also on the rise, making up 15.5 percent of nursery sales. More than half of all landscape firms in the state are offering Florida-friendly plants and landscaping services.