The State Of The 2015 Young Plant Market

Feature image Top20YPGrowersAs the economy continues to rebound, today’s young plant growers are adapting in new ways in order to stay both competitive and successful for the long term. In fact, this year’s Greenhouse Grower Young Plant Grower survey shows a wide range of investments in anything from energy savings to more efficiencies in labor and production systems.

This year there were 92 participants in the survey, which was conducted earlier this summer. Young plant growers were asked about how many units they’ve produced to sell in 2015, with the chart on this page highlighting the 20 largest producers.

In addition, growers answered questions about topics ranging from plug and liner production to transitions from seeds to cuttings (and vice versa) to the types of crops produced.

Newcomers To The List

There are three companies on the list of 2015’s largest producers that were not on the list in 2014: Greenheart Farms in Arizona, Aris Horticulture in Ohio and Hanor Farms in Missouri. Vegetables are the key crop at Greenheart, where about 90 percent of the young plants are sold direct.

At Aris Horticulture, most of the production comes from cuttings used for flowering potted plants that are sold through brokers. According to Christine Kelleher at Aris, the company has made the switch from propane to natural gas and is constantly reviewing order bookings and stock yields to improve efficiency.

2015 Rank Young Plant Growers 2014 Rank Units Prepared To Sell In 2015 Units
vs. 2014
1 Tagawa Greenhouses 1  450 million Same CO
2 Van de Wetering 3  275 million Up NY
3 Green Circle Growers 2  260 million Same OH
4 Greenheart Farms n/a  250 million n/a AZ
5 C. Raker & Sons 4  150 to 160 million Up MI
6  Knox Nursery 4  150 million Same FL
6  Wagner Greenhouses 4  150 million Same MN
8  Floral Plant Growers 4  147 million Down WI
9  Bob’s Market & Greenhouses 8  143 million Same WV
10  Plug Connection 9  135-140 million Same CA
11  Aris Horticulture n/a  120-130 million n/a OH
12  Foremost Co. 10  120 million Same FL
13  Speedling 11  110 million Same FL
14  Hanor Farms n/a  100-101 million na MO
15  Kube-Pak 12  100 million Same NJ
16  Jolly Farmer 14  90-100 million Same Canada
16  Plainview Growers 13  90-100 million Same NJ
18  Cal Seedling Co. 15  70 million Same CA
19  Grolink Plant Co. 16  60-70 million Down CA
20  Pacific Plug & Liner 17  50-55 million Down CA

Securing Highly Skilled Labor Remains A Challenge

Labor remains the biggest challenge faced by young plant growers, especially as the economy continues to rebound and the demand for a highly skilled labor force becomes more demanding.

One survey respondent said that, “The demand for shipping at the end of February is huge, and to gear up for that time frame is a challenge. It is not the growing of the products; it is the systems and personnel needed to run the order fulfillment properly. Labor is starting to be a challenge with the uptick in the economy.”

One respondent is constantly training and promoting from within. “Growing plugs requires fine attention to detail, and it takes well-trained employees to do it well.”

Here’s what some other young plant growers say are their biggest challenges:
• “Weather, both in order fulfillment and in shipping. We meet the challenge by carefully planning the route the plants will take, zone skipping to FedEx hubs as far away as Tennessee, which also keeps the plants in our temperature-controlled trucks longer, insulating the boxes and finally holding back shipments if it’s too risky.”
• “Getting the rights to propagate new restricted plants due to the quantity of plants we sell.”
• “Our biggest challenge is to have all numbers per variety ready on time for each customer every month, at the correct size. We are now implementing a fully integrated planning software.”

New Varieties, Natural Gas Helps Cut Energy Costs

In many ways, young plant growers absorb winter energy costs for finished grower customers. So what are young plant producers doing to conserve energy and cope with heating costs?

Many are making the switch from propane to natural gas, and one just installed a new gas boiler that has a condensing unit on it. “By doing this, we can grab an additional 5 percent or more of unused BTUs. Our boilers and overall heating system are controlled by our Priva computer for better efficiency.”

Other growers are choosing to breed varieties that need lower temperatures, and many are updating their greenhouses with improved insulation.

“We winterize the greenhouse with styrofoam on the bottom 4 feet of the walls and use a layer of bubble wrap on the roof,” said one respondent.

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

More From Plant Culture...

May 23, 2018

How Low Substrate pH Can Cause Lower Leaf Chlorosis

Geraniums grown in substrates below an optimal pH range will exhibit chlorotic leaf spotting between veins, interveinal chlorosis, and marginal and leaf necrosis of the lower foliage.

Read More

May 23, 2018

Why Your Irrigation Water Affects Your Media pH

Irrigation water that is alkaline contains bicarbonates, and as crops are irrigated over time, these bicarbonates will increase media pH.

Read More

May 22, 2018

Little Leaf Farms Expands Its Indoor Baby Greens Production

The Massachusetts-based company has increased the size of its greenhouses to 5 acres, more than doubling its annual production of baby greens.

Read More
Latest Stories

January 10, 2018

Growing Tips for Bidens From a Plant Expert

Even with the ramp up in breeding, producing bidens still takes attention to detail and a focus on quality.

Read More

July 19, 2016

Do You Grow Young Plants? Only 4 Days Left To Take Our …

If your operation produces plugs or liners for wholesale growers, please take a few minutes to participate in Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Young Plant Grower Survey. We know you are very busy and we value your time and input. This survey should only take a few minutes. Greenhouse Grower’s Young Plant Grower Survey has played a key role in building our Top 20 Young Plant Growers list over the years. The information helps us zero in on trends taking shape and the challenges you’re facing as young plant growers. If you have any questions about this survey or you are not the right contact for this at your operation, please email me at ldr[email protected], or please forward the survey link to the appropriate person. We would like to wrap up this survey by July 25, so please take it soon! Thank you in advance for your participation. We value your opinion! » […]

Read More
GG June Cover image

June 6, 2016

The State Of Plant Breeding In 2016

Breeding companies look to strengthen their competitive advantage, easing the way for growers to procure new plant varieties and for consumers to grow with confidence.

Read More
Stained poinsettia foliage from high iron

May 19, 2016

Minimize Build-up In Your Water Pipes

This article is the third in a series of case studies designed to help growers reduce, remediate, and recycle irrigation water as part of a multi-state research grant (

Read More

September 20, 2015

Technology Improves Orchid Production At Green Circle G…

Green Circle Growers in Oberlin, Ohio, has a commitment to using production practices that are efficient and sustainable. The operation has been growing Orchids for nine years, and is entering its second full year with its current system, which entails three camera grades. “The camera grading — first at production into a 5-inch pot, then 12 weeks later and a final grade after the stem and buds have developed — is raising our overall quality,” says Wesley Van Wingerden, director of growing for Green Circle Growers. Greenhouse Grower visited the operation to take a tour of its facilities and learn more about its Orchid production. Read on for more details about the process. The first of the camera grades is incorporated into the transplant process, which involves placing the Orchids from a community tray into 5-inch pots. The plants are separated into three sizes with the smallest returning to the […]

Read More

September 15, 2015

Young Plant Growers Weigh In On Crop Gains, Sales Trend…

Almost 100 young plant producers participated in Greenhouse Grower’s 2015 Young Plant Grower Survey, which asked growers questions abot crop categories, sales, order fulfillment and more.

Read More
Top20YPGrowers feature image

September 15, 2015

The State Of The 2015 Young Plant Market

Young plant growers in North America are changing their strategies to stay competitive in today’s market. Here is how 2015 shapes up in trends and statistics.

Read More
Vivero International_Endisch

September 8, 2015

Vivero Internacional Continues To Expand Unrooted Cutti…

The tenth largest cuttings farm in the world, Vivero Internacional was founded in 1991 and began exporting unrooted cuttings in 1993. Based in Tepoztlan, Morelos, just outside of Mexico City, Mexico, the operation opened with 2 hectares or 5 acres. With time and new customers, the farm has experienced rapid growth, now spanning 40 hectares or 99 acres, says Vivero’s Dennis Hitzigrath. “The first 10 years, production was doubling every season,” Hitzigrath says. “In the last three years, it’s been about 20%.”     The independent operation grows 100 million cuttings annually for several breeders, serving the North American market. Hitzigrath says consolidation among breeders has brought more of a focus on Vivero Internacional from third-party breeders in recent years. This growing interest is spurring even more growth. “We are planning for a minimum growth of 20%,” Hitzigrath says. “We are adding more production space and hope to be needing more […]

Read More

August 19, 2015

Greenhouse Growing Recommendations For Lobularia

Modern-day Lobularias are garden classics with good vigor and long bloom times. These growing recommendations will help keep your crop in prime condition.

Read More
Mike McGroarty, owner of Mike’s Backyard Nursery

July 29, 2015

Backyard Success: Mike McGroarty Educates Aspiring Grow…

Mike’s Backyard Nursery sits on a long, narrow, 5-acre property located in Perry, Ohio. There, customers can find a variety of flowering shrubs available, all in 2-quart pots, and all for sale for $5.97 each. Owner Mike McGroarty, a lifelong resident of Perry, says the town has a lot of plant nurseries, including 100 wholesale growers within a 10-mile radius of his house. That doesn’t discourage McGroarty, because he knows that while there are a lot of nurseries in his area, no one else is doing what he is doing. McGroarty has learned about plants — and marketing them to his audience — through decades of experience. He has never hesitated to pass along his knowledge to other growers looking to start their own backyard operations, and has created an entire program to educate aspiring growers. McGroarty Likes To Practice What He Preaches McGroarty’s operation serves as the laboratory for […]

Read More
cannabis, marijuana plant

June 27, 2015

Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabi…

As most growers know well, the federal government regulates all insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and other commercial chemicals used on agricultural crops. Therein lies the problem with use of chemicals on cannabis crops – so far, the feds want nothing to do with legalized marijuana. According to “Concern Grows Over Unregulated Pesticide Use On Cannabis,” a June 17 article on the National Public Radio (NPR) network by Agribusiness Reporter Luke Runyon, the lack of regulated chemicals for cannabis has left growers to experiment on their own. “In the absence of any direction the subject of pesticide use on the crop has just devolved to whatever people think is working or they think is appropriate,” said Colorado State University Entomologist Whitney Cranshaw in the NPR report. “Sometimes they’ve used some things that are appropriate, sometimes unsafe.” Denver officials held tens of thousands of marijuana plants earlier this year due to safety concerns, but […]

Read More

June 16, 2015

The Butterfly Effect: Insect’s Wings Key To Azalea Poll…

A researcher from North Carolina State University (NC State) has found that in the case of the flame azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum), all pollinators are not created equal. In fact, due to the flower’s unique reproductive structure, butterflies — and specifically, their wings — are the key to pollination. The flame azalea is commonly found in the Appalachian Mountains, ranging from as far north as New York to Georgia in the south. Like most azaleas, the flowers are large, and have an unusual structure: both the anther (male) and stigma (female) parts are very elongated and separated from one another. NC State biologist Mary Jane Epps was interested in how the azalea’s flower structure affected its pollination. “In order for a plant to reproduce, a pollinator — usually an insect — has to spread the pollen from the anther to the stigma,” Epps says. “In the case of the flame azalea, […]

Read More
Bee on a Sedum

March 17, 2015

4 Key Pollinator Research Projects To Be Funded By Hort…

The Horticultural Research Institute will grant $125,000 in financial support for four key projects as part of the Horticultural Industry Bee & Pollinator Stewardship Initiative. The Initiative has three primary goals. First, to convene a task force to develop a bee and pollinator stewardship program, including creation of best management practices for plant production. Second, to identify and fund research that will help answer key science questions and fill gaps needed to design and refine the stewardship program. Third, to seek to positively position the horticultural community and its customers by collaborating with other compatible groups interested in augmenting pollinator habitat and protection.

Read More

March 11, 2015

Pollinator Initiative Promotes Bee-Friendly Talking Poi…

AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists are working tirelessly with the ornamental industry's Pollinator Stewardship Initiative on a number of new projects.

Read More

February 11, 2015

Infusion Technology Boosts Seed Performance, Study Sugg…

Seven-year-old wheat seed germination can increase by as much as 83 percent, according to a Vital Force Technology Study that looks at the effects of energy infusion technology on plant vitality.

Read More

February 3, 2015

American Floral Endowment Accepting Research Pre-Propos…

If you are pursuing a floriculture research project, now is the time to apply for funding through the American Floral Endowment. Research pre-proposal applications for 2015-2016 funding are due to AFE by June 1, 2015.

Read More

January 27, 2015

Marijuana’s Trajectory And Ascent To Horticultural Cr…

Marijuana growing is poised for change as growers and researchers focus on improving production practices.

Read More

December 9, 2014

Greenhouse Production: Two Years Of Basics & Beyond…

Greenhouse Grower's Basics & Beyond articles cover some of the latest news and research going on in greenhouse production. Here are article links for the last two years.

Read More