TEHRAN, Iran: Despite local soil fertility, cheap oil and gas, the vicinity of large consumer markets in the Middle East, the end of economic sanctions and a society anchored within a broad floral tradition, Iran only exports about 2% of its floral production. Until now…
It hasn’t been documented by humanity, but in Iran the tradition of celebrating flowers and landscaped areas can be traced back 3000 years ago. However, the country’s first commercial flower farms and landscaping companies took root only 100 years ago. The exchange of ideas, research findings and even gardeners were already there.
During the reign of Mozaffar-ed-Din, Shah of the Qajar Dynasty (1896-1907), for example, the Austrian emperor Franz Joseph sent one of his gardeners, Leopold Protiva, to Tehran to educate workers in the city’s royal gardens.
Before the 1979 revolution, Iran and countries such as Holland had a blooming relationship based on flower trade, amongst others. Iran bought between 50 to 75% of its imported flowers and plants from Holland in the 1970’s. And one of the country’s oldest professional flower shops launched as early as the 1950’s in Tehran.
Floral trade plummeted after the 1979 revolution as imports of ornamentals became prohibited.
Years of sanctions took a serious toll on Iran’s economy and people, but there were some horticultural bright spots of the ‘resistance economy’ that boosted domestic production of cut flowers and potted plants. Young plant growers in the country, for example, were able to produce and sell their own plug plants without being hindered by imports from abroad. However, the overall situation was challenging mainly because of the trade barriers. New cut flower varieties were not available to the growers. Also there is currently no legislation in place to protect plant breeder’s rights (PBR).
Iran is in the arid zone, some 65% of its territory has an arid or hyper-arid climate. Roughly 12% of Iran’s land is cultivable with the western and northwestern portions of the country having the most fertile soil and the highest potential for production of ornamentals.
Open field growing of cut flower crops is practiced mostly in Mazandaran, Markazi, Tehran, Khuzestan, Alborz and Fars Provinces.
Recently, commercial flower growing has expanded to some of the nation’s other 31 provinces. The provinces of Tehran, Markazi, Khuzestan, Mazandaran, Alborz and Isfahan host the largest concentration of greenhouses in Iran.
Currently there are an estimated 10,000 flower and plant nurseries in Iran with approximately 3,500 hectares in outdoor production and 2,200 hectares under protection (95% plastic tunnels and 5% glasshouses).
In Iran’s ornamental horticulture, greenhouses are producing three main product groups: fresh cut flowers (1800ha), potted plants (300ha) and young plants (100ha).
Plastic or the more expensive glass is the material of choice and the quantity of greenhouse structures is likely to increase given that they protect crops from the effects of unfavourable weather, including wind, rain and extreme temperatures. And in zones with a scarcity of fertile, cultivable land soilless culture in greenhouses allows farmers to grow ornamental crops in any region, even those with poor soil conditions.
Authors: Pejman Azadi and Ron van der Ploeg.
To learn more check out FCI’s theme-issue on Iran’s floral industry, the most comprehensive overview of Iran’s ornamental horticulture by any horticultural publication.