Why You Can Buy This Flower for $5 at Lowe's
How orchids went from being pricey to, well, cheap
By Kate Seamons, Newser Staff
Posted Oct 17, 2013 9:56 AM CDT
Updated Oct 20, 2013 7:01 PM CDT
A $5 orchid?   (©)

(Newser) – An orchid used to be a rare and pricey thing. Not so these days, reports the Wall Street Journal: Orchids have now taken the crown from poinsettias as the No. 1 potted-plant moneymaker in the US, and you can buy them at Lowe's for $5.48. Why the change, and how? We have Taiwanese entrepreneurs to thank, and the Journal likens their approach to "the energy and methods applied to making consumer electronics." The industry is based around the Phalaenopsis, or moth orchid, and dates to the 1980s, when a government-owned company switched from producing sugar to growing orchids after realizing there was more money to be had.

Sugarcane fields were razed to make way for greenhouses, and "an intricate orchid-production chain" formed, with small groups of independent growers overseeing various steps, from producing seedlings to repackaging the flowers as they grow over 12 to 18 months. But it's actually the Netherlands that makes the most money off orchids, though Taiwan is the world leader in exports. One Dutch rival has greenhouses in the US, and interacts directly with retailers; most growers in Taiwan, however, care for the orchid during just one stage of its development, and play no role in the ultimate sale. And they've become so efficient at what they do that margins keep shrinking as growers continually work to drive down costs. "An orchid is no longer worth what it used to be," says one grower. "We learned how to grow them too well." Click for the Journal's full piece.

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Showing 3 of 11 comments
Oct 20, 2013 10:05 PM CDT
Orchid development is like consumer electronics development? So... the brightest physicists in the world figuring out what strange gasses, temperatures and pressures can get e-beam lithography down to 39nm feature sizes, and which rare elements can be used to make a miniature accelerometer or gyro is kind of akin to throwing seeds in dirt and adding water?
Oct 18, 2013 11:01 AM CDT
NOW .... lets have them put that much effort into some really good pot
Oct 17, 2013 12:16 PM CDT
Nothing like putting the epitome of all plant vagina out on display for that hidden message to the women you like.