Potted Lily Potential In The U.S.

Potted Lily Potential In The U.S.

Potted Lily Potential In The U.S.

Lily bulb supplier Zabo Plants was the first scheduled stop of my visit to The Netherlands. I sat down with Zabo’s Frits Kneppers, who discussed lily bulb production, challenges bulb growers are facing today and a recent shift in European growers wanting to exhibit at the FloraHolland Trade Fair in Aalsmeer as opposed to the Horti Fair in Amsterdam. Those were all interesting conversations and I’ll get to some of them in later blog posts, but the conversation with Kneppers that struck me most was our conversation about the state of potted lilies in the United States.

Zabo’s lily supply, of course, isn’t limited to Dutch or other European growers. Zabo has a presence at U.S. box stores like Walmart and Home Depot with its Lily Looks potted lily program that includes about 17 lilies. When Zabo approached Walmart about a potted lily program five years ago, Kneppers says Walmart was on the verge of venturing out of the potted lily business altogether. The quality, Kneppers says, simply wasn’t being provided, and potted lily growers weren’t providing enough lilies when they were needed most.


But right around the time Walmart was considering dropping potted lilies, Kneppers says Zabo convinced growers to try its potted lilies after three university trials proved successful. The quality of potted lilies being produced then slowly improved at the box stores, and the U.S. growers growing potted lilies are now providing enough for the box stores’ targeted sales window.

Still, Kneppers sees room for improvements in the U.S. potted lily market.

“The quality of pot lilies is still much more developed in other countries,” he says. “When I drive along the West Coast (of the U.S.), I see the size of the houses and wonder what is being done. Growers are providing a cheap lily, and there is a market right there for higher-priced lilies if quality is improved.”

And until consumers realize potted lily quality has more room for improvement, Kneppers says they’ll continue to buy whatever growers provide at lower prices. The obvious way to improve quality is to decrease production. Right now, he believes U.S. growers put too much emphasis on producing as much as possible. If growers focused on growing less but better quality products, they would have more success.

At least that’s Kneppers belief and recommendation.

“Give your lilies a little more space to grow, and you’ll produce more quality,” Kneppers says. “When you charge 2 or 3 cents more per lily, that’s a 10 to 15 percent improvement per lily. Growers must not consider that in their calculations. Twenty or 30 percent less production should result in savings. A very fast calculation is not a good thing for the U.S. Growers should be much more quality conscious.”

The responsibility of quality isn’t only on growers, though. It’s more important than ever that suppliers like Zabo make color selections consumers want. It’s also the supplier’s job to create programs consumers can get excited about, but it’s even more important for suppliers to update programs with new introductions so consumers come back for more.

Zabo will be keeping its Lily Looks program fresh in the coming years with the introduction of double lilies Kneppers hopes to introduce to the industry next year. Oriental lilies are on the way, as well.

Ideally, Kneppers says U.S. potted lily growers would better be served if their sales window was wider. Potted lilies are typically sold in the U.S. between April and June, but they’re available in The Netherlands well into summer. Perhaps improved or enhanced programs that emphasize potted lilies throughout summer could extend that sales window? Kneppers says programs need to improve at supermarket chains. There’s too much potential with potted lilies not to improve them, he says.

“Even if you have poor quality in the U.S., you can survive because of your marketing strategy,” Kneppers says. “The U.S. is more marketing driven. I like the American market because companies can make easy changes. Here, everything is quality.”