Industry Spotlight: Central Florida Ferns
From a new hops and grape-filled demonstration garden to an active social media and website, Central Florida Ferns is taking steps to understand its market and try new plant products.
Established in 1990, Ray and Kathy Roberts started Central Florida Ferns to produce varieties of ferns in Zellwood, Florida, to support this niche market. As this industry shifted over the years, so has the focus of Central Florida Ferns.
Ray Roberts identified this niche in the 90s and now his son, Matthew Roberts, has identified the need to diversify their plant products by incorporating new foliage and a line of Pixie Plants. The Roberts family is determined to keep the business family owned and operated as Central Florida Ferns will be someday taken over by its second generation.
“We are focused on two things: variety and quality,” said Matthew Roberts. “There’s no paved trail so we will build our own way.”
Matt helped push for an updated website and even credited social media for attracting new buyers.
The maiden hair fern varieties are still a top seller, as is the Boston fern, but the popularity of fairy gardens and terrariums has prompted Central Florida Ferns to supply two-inch potted plants. A variety of succulents, ferns, mosses or other colorful foliage have become available to meet these mini garden market demands.
“The ‘cuteness factor’ is what gets a lot of people curious about plants and gardening, so we want to reach this market in addition to our regular market,” said Roberts.
Roberts remains optimistic and open to changing business models in order to survive. After Hurricane Irma damaged some shade houses, Roberts viewed this as an opportunity to invest in new infrastructure for future production as opposed to seeing it as a setback.
“It makes me angry when efforts are overseen in this industry,” said Roberts. “Horticulturists and the industry work hard to think outside of the box.”
As the horticulture industry continues to evolve, Central Florida Ferns plans to progress as well.