Need To Be Nimble

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Need To Be Nimble

With dramatically shortened lead times, rising production and distribution costs, and an exponential increase in the number of varieties to grow, young plant growers are getting quite the workout producing plugs and liners to meet finished market demands.

George Skinner of cuttings and liner producer ForemostCo in Florida says to cope with the shorter required lead times from growers, who are late in receiving information from their retail customers, the company has doubled weekly unrooted cuttings imports and had to resort to more speculative growing. “Shorter lead times and big swings in ordering patterns force us to be more flexible and do more speculative production,” he says.

Speedling’s Mindy Legler adds that growing on speculation and minimizing exposure to risk is a fine balance. “To provide the best service for our customers, we have had to become much more dependent on specialized forecasting tools to have products available as our customer requests, regardless of delayed information from their customers,” she says.

Canadian young plant grower Jolly Farmer of New Brunswick’s strategy is to be a one-stop shop to hundreds of small growers along the Eastern Seaboard and as far west as Texas. Flexibility is a must when juggling a huge selection of low-minimum orders for each grower customer. “We have had to hone our skills in predicting how much of what customers will need at the last minute,” says Jolly Farmer’s Sales Manager Peter Darrow. “We have also had to allow extra space for last-minute orders and adjust our culture so we can hold product successfully while maintaining excellent quality.”

Jolly Farmer happens to be the first Canadian plug and liner grower we’ve included in our Top 25 Young Plant Growers ranking. We decided these growers are such specialists that we could combine both American and Canadian growers, so we are interested in hearing from other Canadian operations that produce at least 25 million plugs and/or liners a year for next year’s report.

Another modification we made this year was to correct the number of plugs produced to represent those that would be sold to other growers. In the past, we had reported total production, which included plugs and liners the grower would use for finished production. One operation that was affected in the rankings was Floral Plant Growers in Wisconsin, which produces 80 million young plants, but 70 percent are used to grow finished plants, leaving just 24 million to be sold to other growers. Our intent is to show the operations that are specializing in plugs and liners and serving other growers.

Top 25 Young Plant Growers


Quantity Produced* 
To Sell In 2006


Years In

Web Site w/
Real-time Inventory

1 Tagawa Greenhouses 500 million CO 39 N/A
2 Green Circle Growers 450 million* OH

3 Speedling 285 million FL

4 ForemostCo Inc. 220-240 million FL

5 Plug Connection 200 million CA

6 C. Raker & Sons, Inc. 170 million MI

7 Plainview Growers 160 million* NJ

8t Knox Nursery 150 million* FL

8t Wagner Greenhouses 150 million* MN

10 Kube-Pak Corp. 121.5 million NJ

11 Van de Wetering Ghses. 120 million* NY

12 Jolly Farmer Products 117-122 million NB

13 GroLink 110 million* CA

14 Bob’s Market & Ghses. 96.8 million WV

15 Yoder Brothers 80-90 million* OH

16 Cal Seedling Co. 60 million CA


17 EuroAmerican Propagators 53 million* CA

18t Van Wingerden Ghses. 50 million* WA


18t Glass Corner Ghses. 50 million MI

20 Pat Ford Nursery 40-45 million* FL


21 Four Star Greenhouse 41 million* MI

22 Northwest Horticulture 34.4 million WA

23 Pleasant View Gardens 28.5-33.3 million NH

24 Boven’s Quality Plants 26.3 million MI


25t Paul Ecke Ranch 25 million CA

25t Superfresh 25 million* OH


26 Twyford International 25 million* FL

    *Estimate    N/A = not 

Seeds Of Change

We’re continuing to see traditional seed plug growers diversify into cuttings, but not the other way around. Vegetative growers tend to stick with cuttings. Plug Connection in California is expanding its vegetative liner program. Bob’s Market & Greenhouses in West Virginia recently became a rooting station for Dömmen USA, but its plug business continues to grow.

C. Raker & Sons in Michigan is also expanding into liners. “Seed business is still very steady,” Susie Raker says. “It might not be growing exponentially, but it’s steady. We have taken advantage of the growth in vegetative and we continue to expand our product offering in the line.”

Jolly Farmer’s Darrow says the company has seen a decline in bedding plant plugs the past five years and has also embraced cuttings. “We have taken advantage of this growth by rapidly increasing the selection of rooted cuttings we offer — nearly 800 varieties for 2007!” he says.

Both plug and liner growers are seeing shifts in demand to larger sizes — from 512s to 288s and 128s in seed and to 50s, 24s and 18s in liners. “I believe this is primarily due to growers’ need to open their greenhouses later to reduce fueling costs,” Darrow says. “Perhaps another factor is more growers are waiting to order until it’s late, sometimes too late, so they need a larger plug to make up the time.”

When growers are ready, we expect they’ll be well taken care of by the leading young plant growers.

Delilah Onofrey directs Flower Power Marketing for the Suntory Collection. She can be reached at

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