Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Do Plants Get From There To Here?

As I was strolling through one of the big box stores one day last winter, a day when it was snowing and blowing and frigidly cold, I wondered to myself, "How do these tropical plants make it into the store if they arrive on a day like this?" It's one thing to have a transport vehicle have a controlled environment inside its cargo hold, but how do they get from the truck to the inside of the store?

I was fairly certain the trucks don't always have the advantage of driving into a building for unloading, and when a single cold, snowy blast of winter can do irreparable damage to so many kinds of plants we see on display, I wondered what the procedure was for getting them safely inside.

Costa Farms is the number one distributor of houseplants in North America and based in Miami, Florida.  I contacted them to get some answers to my questions.  Mike Rimland, "The Plant Collector" and director of business development at Costa Farms, says this:

"We transport all our plants in climatized trucks at 65 degrees.  We package some plants with paper sleeves wrapped around the top of the pot to lift the leaves upright as this is good for plants. If not with sleeves, we ship on specialized rolling carts called CC carts which were designed for moving plants in Europe. 

99% of all plants in Europe move CC carts; CC stands for Container Centralen’s which invented a worldwide cart distribution and pickup service.

The trucks we use when arriving at your local large retailer all have doors that the trucks back up to, which are protected by heavy plastic drapes. The plants, as with food products, never see the outside world in summer or winter."

It takes a plant anywhere from 3-5 days to get to Ohio, where I live, and 5-7 days to get to someplace like Seattle. They ship to Canada, Central America, and Europe, and on occasion, the Middle East.

I also asked Mike if they do anything special to prepare them for the journey to their destination:

"Most of the plants you see in Ohio from us started anywhere from 9 months to 2 years earlier as a baby plant. We start plants from seeds, cuttings and more and more from tissue culture. 

All of our indoor plants are grown in lower light conditions so that they are partially ready for the indoor lower light levels that they will be hanging out in people’s homes across America. We do this so that they are happy, and if they are happy they will sit there, look pretty, and become friends of the people who buy them. 

By the way it is okay to talk to your plants; we just hope that if one day one talks back, someone will let us have it back so we can make more of them."

What? Your plants don't talk back to you, Mike?

Thank you, Mike, for taking the time to answer my questions and satisfying my curiosity! And thank you, Costa Farms, for providing such a wide array of lovely plants for all of us to enjoy!


Garden Lily said...

Kaylee - I hadn't thought about shipping plants, but that is interesting. You got me excited about the idea of plants which talk back - although I'd be afraid of what my houseplants would tell me. Although I love my abundant garden of plants, I'm notorious for NOT keeping indoor plants.

Diane said...

Interesting! I'm glad to know that the transporters care about the babies as much as we do :) Speaking of which...I need to go water!

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

Thanks for this post. I never gave much thought to the care given in delivery. Just assumed a truck pulled up and minimum-wage teenage laborers dragged 'em to the sales floor.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It is amazing that the plants can be transported this time of year.

Commonweeder said...

I visited a large local nursery once and was amazed when the owner explained to me how tiny starts were shipped to him from Mexico!

Dar said...

Thanks for such an informative read...and thanks Mike, for sharing.
It is something not thought of, by my average-shopper-self. It was cool to learn that plants are started and grown in lower light to acclimate to our home temps and light. Very interesting entry.

Kylee Baumle said...

Garden Lily ~ Well, I'm not 100% successful with houseplants, but then I'm not 100% successful with my outside plants either!

Diane ~ The only sad thing is that sometimes the seller doesn't care for them once they get them. :-(

Jim ~ I wouldn't have thought about it either, except that one day it was just plain nasty outside and I had trouble getting the plant I purchased to the car without being blasted by the cold air! That got me thinking.

Lisa ~ My thoughts, too!

Commonweeder ~ It's fun to know the back story, isn't it, Pat?

Dar ~ I thought that part was really interesting, too! I had never even given that a thought.

Unknown said...

Very interesting Kylee. I think he must not have a very creative mind if he thinks plants don't tell us things. I can even tell with one look what my pets are thinking. Occassionally I'll even provide voices for them when one of the other family members don't hear what they're saying. I'm not so good with indoor plants though since I'm flighty and my cats like to eat my plants. Hopefully one day I'll have a cat free greenhouse or sunroom though so I can try again.

Lona said...

That is so interesting Kylee. I did wonder how the plants looked so healthy in stores where there is not good lighting. Now I know.

Diana said...

Kylee - That is just fascinating. I've seen them roll plants out on those carts here, with plants bundled up - but that was in the summer. Never thought about your icy cold winters. Great that you tracked that down to get us such interesting info. Thanks!

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