Botanist and horticultural expert James Wong is warning that recent spikes in energy prices are putting the delicate and beautiful potted orchid, available so easily and cheaply to buy, at risk.
On a recent visit to a nursery in the Netherlands, he found growing halls empty and chilly, as plant producers simply can’t make the profit margins work against the rising costs of keeping the growing environment for orchids at subtropical levels.
'Some industry insiders are predicting as many as half of such growers may no longer be trading by the end of the winter,' he said in his column for The Guardian newspaper (opens in new tab).
'The business model of many of these producers was based on fulfilling the demands of giant retailers for ever-cheaper plants – conditions that could only be satisfied thanks to the economies of scale to be had from growing to vast scales on tiny margins. But this left very little slack in the system to cope with any change in costs.'
Wild at heart
Although it's a favorite indoor plant for many, there are actually more than 28,000 species of orchid, both cultivated and wild. What's more, this amazingly versatile plant is found on every continent on the planet, even popping up north of the Arctic Circle.
Researchers at Kew Gardens in London (opens in new tab), who are working on a huge ‘orchid family tree’ project to log as many varieties as possible, have found that there are 'nearly three times as many orchid species as there are species of birds alive in the world today.'
Overseas demand adding to the problems
However, Oberon Copeland, founder of consumer advice website Very Informed (opens in new tab), believes that the rapidly increasing global market for cultivated orchids, especially in China, is putting further pressure on the supply chain.
'A large part of this growth is coming from Asia, where demand for the flowers is soaring. In China alone, sales of cut orchids increased by 20 per cent last year,' he says. 'This rapid growth has put pressure on supplies, and the price of orchids has been rising steadily in recent years. If current trends continue, it is possible that orchids will become a luxury item that only the very wealthy can afford.'
Keep down costs by growing your own
If you're feeling disheartened by the news that orchids may soon become more of a luxury item, the good news is there is a solution to keep down costs and even get free plants. It’s surprisingly simple to propagate orchids, with the easiest methods being division or taking stem cuttings.
Learn how to do this and you won’t have to worry about any shortages at the supermarket or garden store.
Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.
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