Exotic U.S. blooms flourish amid roses in Cupid's bouquet

Fri Feb 13, 2015 7:12pm EST
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By P.J. Huffstutter

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Forget spray roses and baby's breath this Valentine's Day. As consumers' tastes in bouquets turn to seasonal, delicate blooms, some of the U.S. floral industry's imports of classic fare have wilted.

Nearly 80 percent of all cut flowers used in bouquets and to make floral arrangements in the United States are imported, with South America dominating the sector, according to federal Agriculture Department data.

While the volume of fresh cut roses - a Valentine's Day favorite - flown in from Colombia crept up 2 percent last year, spray roses fell l6 percent and lilies were down 17 percent.

The reason, floral industry experts say, is that Americans are reaching for more delicate blooms found in a well-tended garden or those with more of a seasonal, exotic feel to them.

"If it's available year round, it's kind of lost its luster," said Phil Mueller, manager of Wisconsin-based Star Valley Flowers, the largest Midwest field-grown flower producer.

"Spray roses? That's boring," he said. "Cut orchids? That's really, really big right now."

On the West Coast, farmers have steadily been switching from growing roses and carnations to acres of dahlias and sweet peas, said Kasey Cronquist, chief executive of the California Cut Flower Commission.

Growers are moving into cut-flower crops "that are difficult to import, because they can't handle being put in boxes and being shipped on planes," Cronquist said.   Continued...

Bouquets of roses are seen at Elite Flowers, one of the largest floral distributors in the United States as it prepares for one of their biggest holidays by moving more than 700 million flowers in the 2 weeks leading up to Valentine's Day, in Miami Florida, February 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Andrew Innerarity