LANSING-- While people across the state are picking out evergreens and blue spruce for Christmas, many of Michigan’s 711 commercial floral growers are worrying about how to keep their plants warm in the face of higher heating costs this winter.
“This is truly a potential crisis for the Michigan floriculture sector,” said Gale Arent, director of stakeholder relations for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University. “The fact that you have one of your costs going up 50 percent is a major problem.”
Heating consumes 70 to 80 percent of energy used in greenhouses, and with the rising cost of gas, growers will have a difficult time recouping the money they’ve invested in their crops, Arent said.
Many commercial growers signed contracts with retailers before they knew about the spike in energy costs.
As the nation’s third largest producer of flowers, many nurseries and greenhouses heat their facilities all winter to preserve poinsettias for the holiday season and start their other growing processes early to ensure enough begonias, impatiens and geraniums to go around next May and June.
Michigan typically ranks among the top states in floriculture, said Dan Ledbury, a state Agriculture Department statistician.
The latest figures show that Michigan plants had a wholesale value of $371 million, third nationally after California and Florida. Within the state, Kalamazoo and Ottawa counties rank highly, along with the southwest portion of the state.
At Twixwood Nursery in Berrien Springs, employees have been preparing their ground cover and perennials since September and are working on plans for their spring plants. The plants begin in open greenhouses and are covered with vinyl in October to protect them.
By early March, Twixwood will begin to heat its plants, bringing them out of their naturally dormant state and readying them for spring temperatures.
The nursery, one of the largest in the Midwest, supplies more than 500 customers from small landscapers to large retail chains like Home Depot and Meijer, said Dennis Schroeder, plant health manager at Twixwood.