Strong roots

LIHUE — Ground orchids have been the hot item at Kauai Nursery and Landscaping for the past three years, said Jimmy Toledo, Kauai Nursery manager.

“It’s still going strong because there’s certain people we can get it in from,” Toledo said. “And with supply and demand, if you can’t supply it the demand is really high. It’s hard to keep up with the demand for that type of plant.”

According to a recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture, the preliminary value of Hawaii’s floriculture and nursery products is estimated at $67.4 million. That’s down from the almost $68 million generated in 2014.

The 2015 mark represents a 19-year low for the state. The previously low stood under $67 million in 1997. In 2007, sales peaked at $109 million.

Alan Tada, Flowers Forever owner, said more competition is coming from the Mainland.

“Every thing that costs a dollar, costs another dollar to ship it here,” he said. “That’s the price of paradise.”

Orchids — which represent 21 percent of the industry — are down slightly at $14.4 million compared to $15 million the year before.

Cut flowers as well as lei flowers have also been steady the past two years.

Cut orchids generated $6.3 million in 2015 and about $5.4 million in 2014.

Lei flowers had a slight decline in 2015, but stood around the $2.4 million mark both years.

Giving out lei is a growing trend on the Mainland thanks to more and more local graduates, Tada said.

“We’re shipping leis all over the country, Tada said. “When their friends see that, it catches on. That’s a good time to sell leis. It getting better and better every year.”

Cut flowers such as Anthuriums, heliconias, ginger and birds of paradise also generated about $15 million but paled in comparison to sales in 2014, which generated about $18 million.

Tada said those four flowers are among his most popular sellers. One flower, the birds of paradise, which is synonymous with Hawaii, has seen a decline in sales.

“There’s different kinds of heliconias that they sell now. It kind of replaces the birds of paradise,” Tada said. “It looks similar to the birds of paradise, but a little better. The growers are concentrating on growing those.”

Tada said flowers sold in Hawaii are mainly directed to the visitor industry.

“Of course everybody I see have them in their backyard. They’re not going to buy the same thing,” he said. “That’s why they buy roses especially. Our tropical flowers are for the tourists and the hotels.”

Nursery products pegged $26.3 million in 2015, down about $2 million from the year before.

Toledo said yearly numbers also depend on the landscaping side as well.

New companies, new buildings, renovations pour more revenue into the business, he said.

“It translates into landscaping the project, providing the soil, providing the plant material,” he said.

Both Toledo and Tada said flower sales depend on demand.

“One year it might be one particular kind of plant. Somebody gets tired of it,” Toledo said. “They want to do something different. “(Demand for a plant or flower) could be as short as three months. It could be as long as three years.”

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