Iconic and relevant: how the orchid keeps reinventing itself

Few flowers come in as many shapes and colours as orchids. Their versatility is an asset for plant lovers who are seeking a floral eye-catcher to add the perfect finishing touch to their interior. But the broader the range, the more trend-sensitive it is. Do today's consumers like the orchids you are growing? Or is it time for something new? To find out the answer, Microflor spoke to Manuel Rucar (Chlorosphère) and Antoine Alvarez (Sévéa). 

“The orchid is and remains the queen of flowering houseplants,” says Antoine Alvarez, who has been working as the product manager at Sévéa (the purchasing body for French garden centres Villaverde and Baobab) since 2015. “Not only do they flower for a very long time compared to other houseplants, they also need little water and are resistant to diseases. If you neglect an orchid for a while, it doesn’t tend to do much harm. What’s more, you can get the plant to flower every year: a do-it-yourself challenge that many plant lovers like to tackle. Orchids therefore make a popular gift. Sales figures shoot up around Christmas and Mother's Day in particular.”

Flourishing market

“The market has exploded over the past 10 years,” confirms Manuel Rucar, Managing Director at Chlorosphère, a French trend agency that focuses on the world of plants, gardens and landscapes. “The fact that orchids still manage to capture the hearts of the general public is something that we notice every day at trade fairs and in showrooms. This popularity also has a downside, however. Prices have fallen considerably in recent years, making the orchid a commodity in the minds of consumers. For growers and distributors, it is more important than ever to stand out from the basic range.”

‘Wild hair’

This can be achieved by responding to new niches and trends. Manuel: “The trends in the plant world are largely related to sectors such as interior design, architecture and even the fashion industry. Green retro houseplants, for example, are making a global comeback. In the beginning, this involved simple varieties such as arum lilies. But these days, people are also buying more sophisticated plants, such as those with colourful leaves.”

“Orchids are the ideal flower to pick up on this trend. Even though we should show them more in their raw beauty. After all, ‘pure nature’ is the mot du jour on social media such as Instagram and Pinterest. Take an orchid that doesn’t lose its ‘wild hair’ and is displayed with hanging roots rather than in a flowerpot, for example. These kinds of specimens will allow contemporary consumers to add a flourishing accent to their green interior.”

Tastes and colours

In addition to shape, colour is also an asset for those who want to stand out. “Colour preferences vary enormously from region to region,” says Antoine. “Take France, for example: on the Mediterranean coast, consumers always choose the most colourful orchids. White and classic varieties perform very well in the west of the country. And in cities, wild colour patterns such as green violet are preferred. In general, there is still a strong demand for bright, distinctive colours, with or without colourful speckles, spots and stripes. Examples include pink or purple flowers with a yellow or dark red heart.”

“In addition, people are really seeking out original colours,” Manuel adds. “Artificial colouring is playing an increasingly important role, allowing growers to add their own unique stamp. The innovative result can sometimes become a fashion trend in no time at all, as is currently the case with flowers with applied spots.”

The orchid of the future

It's not the size that counts, as they say, but that rule doesn't seem to apply to orchids. Antoine: “On the French market, it’s a case of the bigger the flower, the better. Until recently, you could really only find orchids with two stems. In recent years, however, specimens with three or four stems have become more and more common. As far as flowerpots are concerned, another shift is occurring. Flowerpots with a diameter of 12 cm remain the top sellers, but smaller ones with a diameter of 9 cm are steadily gaining popularity.”

“To summarise, creating as much variety as possible is what it's all about. And orchids are perfectly suited to this. In the future, this diversity will only increase. This is the only way that growers and distributors will be able to satisfy the increasing demand for innovative colours, larger flowers and a longer shelf life.” 

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