Farmers across North Carolina are using their talents to grow plants and flowers for the nursery industry instead of food crops.

Floriculture is the fastest growing segment of the agricultural economy fueled by homeowner and commercial property demand for showy landscaping. Gov. Mike Easley recently recognized the strength of the industry, and declared May as Floriculture Month.

“Our farmers will earn $165 million this year on bedding plants, garden plants, potted flowers and more to be used as landscaping improvements for homes and businesses,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “The value of potted plants exceeds $43 million to growers, while bedding and garden plants generate $74 million in wholesale value alone.”

Floriculture farms range from small family operations to large multi-county corporate operations. More than 20 million square feet of greenhouse space is dedicated to floral production, with more than 500 acres of cropland dedicated to plants and flowers. The farms can be found in all 100 counties.

North Carolina ranks eighth nationally in production, with more than 40 different floriculture crops being grown. The state is second in terms of poinsettias grown, and in the top 10 in production of chrysanthemums, azaleas, orchids, hosta, and bedding and garden plants.

More information on the floriculture industry is available on the North Carolina Commercial Flower Growers Web site, www.nccfga.org . Find farms, nurseries and roadside stands selling direct to the public online at www.ncfarmfresh.com .