A Short History Of Floral Industry
Guadalupe Campos

The floral industry is one of the most advanced industries in a number of developing and underdeveloped countries. The floriculture business first began in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century. At this time, blooms were grown on a large scale on various sizable estates. Today’s floral industry is both active and global, with significant growth recorded in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The global flower industry was worth less than $3 billion (US) in the 1950s. By 1994, this has grown to a total of $100 billion (US). The growth rate has slowed somewhat in recent years, although the geographic spread of the industry has widened. Figures from IBISWorld suggest there are just over 14,000 florists in the UK, with revenue growing at a rate of 0.8% annually between 2014 and 2019. Numerous florists have increased their offering in recent years to include more than just plants and flowers; most now offer gift services in addition to those they are traditionally known for.

The industry fundamentally involves three chief components: these include the growers, the wholesalers and the retailers. All three businesses are fairly intermixed. The latest trends lean more towards eradicating the mediators (the wholesalers between the growers and the retailers) so that the blooms are readily available at a significantly lower price.


Certain blooms are sent to various locations flat packed in boxes. This allows for large quantities of flowers to be packed in smaller spaces, such as aircraft holds. Other blooms, including gerbera (Gerber daisies), orchids and water lilies are unable to endure lengthy periods out of water. These particular plants are either sent in buckets of water (this method of transport in water is often referred to as “Procona”) or with their own sealed water container (often called picks) on each stem end. This is usually the case for more expensive or tropical flowers. The former method extends the life of blooms and decreases labour time as flowers are ready for sale. This does however also diminish the number of flowers that can be transported. This is because they are much heavier than dry-packed flowers and because of this extra weight, air transportation costs are much higher.

The flowers take a number of routes to the get to the customer. This does depend on where they grow and how they intend to be sold. Certain growers cut and pack flowers at their own nurseries, transporting them straight to the customer by mail. Some blooms are sent to packing companies, who score the flowers and assemble them in bunches to sell to supermarkets or to be delivered by mail order. Some blooms are grouped and sleeved by the growers and sold at wholesale flower markets, where the wholesalers then sell them on to florists, who arrange and condition them, ready for the consumer.

The Netherlands and the history of the flower industry

Conventionally, the core of flower production has surrounded locations with their largest consumer base. This centres around the developed world, like Japan, North America and Western Europe all boast major producers and large numbers of consumers. The major consumer markets are Germany (22%), the USA (15%), France (10%), the UK (10%), the Netherlands (9%), Japan (6%), Italy (5%) and Switzerland (5%).

The Netherlands remains the centre of the flower industry in Europe, as well as a key international provider to other continents. The largest flower market in the world is the flower auction at Aalsmeer. The production and delivery of cut blooms in the Netherlands have prospered since the mid-1970s. Dutch growers manufactured over 8 billion blooms and the flower auctions together traded more than €5.4 billion (about $6.15 billion) in cut flowers and potted plants alone in 1995.

New flower growing centres

Floral specialists believe that the production focus has moved from old-fashioned growers to countries where the climates are better and production and labour charges are lower. This has ensured a paradigm shift in floral commerce. The Netherlands, for example, are already focusing their attentions to flower trading instead of flower production, although trading still plays a significant role in the development of floricultural genetics.

The new centres of manufacture are characteristically found in developing countries, including the likes of Ecuador. Ecuador is, in fact, the largest producer and export of roses worldwide and is renowned for its high quality large-headed roses. This is down to the high altitude location of its rose farms. Production figures for Ecuador are shortly followed by Colombia, where a floral market has now existed for more than 40 years.

India, Ethiopia and Kenya are also key players in the flower industry. Others include South Africa, Israel, Thailand, Australia, Malaysia and New Zealand due to their position in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand is, in fact, a common source for seasonal blooms that are normally unavailable in Europe and North America.

In Africa, the largest exporter is Kenya. They currently supply a huge percentage of Europe’s blooms. The Kenya Flower Council represent the industry here.

Colombia is the leading exporter and flower producer in South America, with the nation accounting for 59% of all flowers imported into the United States in 2006. A free trade agreement for flowers between the two nations has had a huge impact on the market and has driven down the costs of Colombian blooms in the United States. More than four in five flowers grown in Colombia end up in the United States, while around 75% of all plants in the USA are grown outside its borders.

The flower industry continues to provide an eccentric array of plants and other blooms, with more and more species becoming readily available, regardless of where you are in the world. Many online florists are able to deliver such blooms at the click of a button, with most offering same and next day delivery. Many have also altered their delivery processes to include letterbox flowers that can be posted through the door of a recipient – enabling deliveries to take place even when individuals are not at home.