Italy is a country with a great ornamental horticulture tradition. Few today remember that the grafting of roses was invented by the Romans while there was large-scale cultivation of roses at the time in Pompeii. In fact, importing cut roses, especially from Egypt in the winter, was too expensive for the Romans. Roman ships did not sail in the winter; there was only one ship from Egypt that reached Rome in December: “the ship of flowers”.
These days roses are imported to Italy mainly from Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador and India, very often through Holland, which is the most advanced country in terms of marketing and logistics in floriculture.
In recent years, the Italian ornamental sector has seen enormous changes. Due to the economic crisis and the occasional lack of technical and managerial preparation, many companies have folded. The cut flower sector suffered the most. The reduction of available land for cultivation and the number of companies was heavily impacted. Due to poor profits, many small companies have returned to producing vegetables. However, several companies have specialized further, especially in the cultivation of Ranunculus, Papaver, Chrysanthemums and even specialty rose production (Smeralda, in Sardinia, roses with berries, scented roses, etc.)
The leading regions for cut flowers are Liguria, Tuscany, Campania, Puglia and Sicily.
Production of ornamental potted plants has remained stable as have prices, whereas available quantities have increased slightly. The most important regions for the production of pot plants and bedding plants continue to be Liguria (with the plains of Albenga), Lombardy, Veneto, Tuscany and Puglia. The province that has grown production the most in recent years is Latina (Lazio).
The production of pot plants that the Italians call “Mediterranean plants” is increasing. In this category there are potted citrus, with Sicily being the number one region in Europe for its production. Sicily is still the leader in the production of palms (Kentia, Chamaedorea, Phoenix, Cycas, etc.). Another important region is Puglia with its high-quality Mediterranean plants which are mainly exported.
Even the garden plant sector has suffered from the economic crisis with failing large companies. However, the situation has been improving since the autumn of 2017. The most important region for garden plants continues to be Tuscany, with the city of Pistoia at the forefront of production, followed by Lombardy, Veneto, Puglia and Sicily. As for fruit nurseries, the most important region is Emilia Romagna, while for vegetables it is Campania.
Floriculture in Italy is worth more than 2.5 billion euros; of which 1.15 billion euros come from the production of flowers and pot plants. There are 27,000 companies involved in the sector, with a total 100,000 workers and almost 29,000 hectares of agricultural land overall. As for young ornamental plants, roughly 2,000 companies are involved utilizing over 1,500 hectares.
Author: Arturo Croci