Locally grown exotic plant opens new markets, creates jobs

An exotic houseplant with pink flowers is turning heads across North America and creating jobs in the Niagara region.

The plant, named Medinilla Magnifica, is helping to expand operations and open up new markets for Ted Oorsprong’s Northend Gardens.

Thanks to some support from Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, Oorsprong is selling the plant in chain stores and garden centres across Ontario, the Northeastern United States, British Columbia, Alberta, Washington and Texas. 

“We are always looking for different flowers that we can bring to market and Medinilla Magnifica really is magnificent,” says Oorsprong, who first noticed it while in the Netherlands four years ago. “It’s easy to care for and the large cascading blooms last for a long time. It’s been a hit everywhere we’ve taken it.”

Click here for a brief video featuring Ted and Medinilla.

The plant, native to the Philippines, takes a year to grow from a cutting, which Oorsprong imports from the Netherlands. He’s now working on developing his own cuttings, as well as adapting the plant to North American growing conditions.

“New customers are often hesitant, especially with a high end product like Medinilla, so the best way is to show it to people,” explains Oorsprong. “This is a very competitive market, so a phone call alone will not do it.”

OAFT support helped Oorsprong attend the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition (TPIE) in Florida last winter, where Medinilla won “Best new plant in show” and he was able to connect directly with many of the one thousand buyers present. He’s also travelled to the west coast to visit prospective customers and set up distribution arrangements.

“This support has really helped us get Medinilla out there to the market,” says Oorsprong. “We’re a medium-size family business and without it, much of this would have been beyond our means.”

In addition to a direct boost to sales, Northend Gardens’ new markets also have positive spinoff effects for their potting, peat and transportation suppliers. The greatest benefit has been through job creation: their greenhouse was traditionally empty after the spring bedding plant season, and now it’s a year-round facility with year-round jobs.

Medinilla has had extensive media coverage, having been featured on Breakfast Television, the Marilyn Dennis Show and the Toronto International Film Festival. Oorsprong has plans for continued promotion so he can reach his ultimate goal – to make Medinilla Magnifica a commonly recognized name within five years.

If you’re looking to buy your own Medinilla Magnifica, click here for a list of Canadian retailers. This site will also give you hints and tips on how to care for your Medinilla once you decide to take one home.

Note: this post is adapted from a piece originally released by the Agricultural Adaptation Council.
Photo source: www.medinilla.ca

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