Ecomonic Importance

Scheduling and Marketing of Orchids

Orchid Research Objectives

Research Justification





Economic Importance

Scheduling and Marketing of Orchids

Research Objectives

Impact of Orchid Research

Research Facilities

Plant Material and Financial Support

Benefits of Contributing

Personnel in Orchid Research

Orchid Publications from MSU

Literature Cited



In 2000, recognizing the global importance of orchids as potted flowering plants, we initiated an orchid research program here at Michigan State University.  The goal of our orchid research program is to elucidate the flowering requirements for several orchid species and use this information to develop necessary production protocols for commercial growers.  Here we provide a summary of the economic importance of orchids, justification of our research program, research objectives, and a description of available facilities.   In addition, we have outlined the opportunities for financial support and the many benefits of contributing to our research program.



Economic Importance


Orchids are currently the second most valuable potted crop in the United States with a total wholesale value of $144 million in 2005 (Figure 1).  Since 1996, when the United States Department of Agriculture began collecting data for wholesale value of potted orchids, sales have increased considerably compared to other potted floriculture crops (Figure 2).  In 2005, 18 million potted orchids were sold at wholesale, with an average unit value of $8.00 (USDA 2006b).  In the U.S., the largest state producers of potted orchids are California ($63 million), Florida ($47 million), and Hawaii ($17 million) (USDA 2006a). 


Figure 1                                                                                                                     USDA, 2006 



Figure 2                                                                                                                     USDA, 2006



The production of potted orchids for the mass market extends beyond the United States and has global economic importance.  The largest exporters of potted orchids include Taiwan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and Brazil, while the largest importer of potted orchids is the United States (Laws, 2002).  The production of finished potted orchids in Europe is often for domestic consumption.  In 2002, the total number of potted orchids produced in China and Japan were 4 million and 28 million, respectively.  At flower auctions in Holland, Phalaenopsis orchids are the most valuable potted plant sold with a wholesale value of €173.7 in 2006 (Vereniging, 2007).  



Scheduling and Marketing of Orchids


In the United States, potted plants are commonly produced and marketed for holidays, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Christmas, thus growers must be able to schedule crops to meet specific market dates.  The timing of potted flowering plants for periods of high demand allows growers to coordinate marketing and shipping schedules as well as develop and implement yearly greenhouse production plans.  In order to schedule a crop for specific market dates, knowledge of the factors affecting plant growth and development are critical.  Research has been conducted on many economically important floriculture crops such as chrysanthemums, Easter lilies, and poinsettias and production schedules have been developed. 


Similar to other potted plants, flowering orchids are much more marketable and commercially valuable than plants without flowers.    However, scientific research on orchid growth and development has been limited to a few species and commercial production information is only available for hybrids of the genus Phalaenopsis. 


In order to flower a crop for a particular date, we must first understand how the crop is induced to flower.  For many plants (e.g., chrysanthemum), researchers have identified what environmental conditions (e.g., temperature and photoperiod) must be provided to precisely time the flowering process.  Unfortunately, knowledge of the flowering process for the vast majority of orchid species is unknown.  Additionally, to complicate the matter, some of the studies that have been performed were either nonscientific or lacked adequate environmental control.  Therefore, with the exception of a few species, producing a population of flowering orchids for specific dates is not possible.



Orchid Research Objectives


The primary goal of our orchid research program is to understand how environmental parameters (e.g., temperature and light) influence growth and development of several orchid species.  From our research results we will be able to develop and disseminate production schedules to commercial growers, which will allow orchids to be produced in controlled greenhouses in a predictable and uniform manner.


A few specific objectives of our research program include:


·                    Determine the role of photoperiod during growth and development of different orchid species.

·                    Determine the optimum temperatures for both growth and flowering of different orchid species.

·                    Determine the role of cool temperatures on flower induction.  If cool temperature exposure is important, what temperatures and cooling durations are required to saturate this response?

·                    Determine the optimal light intensity for growth and flowering of different orchid species.

·                    Develop models to predict the rate of leaf unfolding and spike development based on the average daily temperature.



Effect of temperature on time to visible spike and flowering in Phalaenopsis Miva Smartissimo × Canberra ‘450’.




Potential Impact of Orchid Research


With some notable exceptions (e.g., Phalaenopsis and Cymbidium), the flowering process of orchids is poorly understood.  Although orchids are one of the most commercially valuable flowering plants in the world, limited scientific research has been performed on controlled greenhouse production.


Our orchid research program has the potential to revolutionize how orchids are grown throughout the world, and offers the possibility of producing populations of plants in flower, for either cut flowers or potted plants, on a predetermined date throughout the year.



Research Facilities and Capabilities



The floriculture group utilizes 20 glass greenhouse sections year-round on the campus of Michigan State University.  The computerized environmental control and monitoring systems are one of the best among research institutions, with constant monitoring and recording of light quantity, temperature, and other environmental parameters.  All sections are equipped with fan-and-pad evaporative cooling and high-pressure sodium lamps for supplemental photosynthetic lighting.  Black-out and lighting systems are employed to provide a range of photoperiods, from 9 to 24 hours of light per day.


Twelve 150 ft2 glass compartments are commonly utilized to provide several temperature and light intensity environments.  Common growing temperatures used in our studies range from 10 °C to 29 °C (50 to 84 °F).  These greenhouse sections also have computerized vapor pressure deficit (humidity) control systems.


Growth Chambers

Available for research at Michigan State University are a variety of state-of-the-art growth chambers, of which are primarily used for controlled temperature studies.  These chambers, which range in size from small reach in chambers to large walk-in modules, can precisely control temperature, light, and humidity. 




Plant Material and Financial Support


We are seeking research partners (companies, organizations, and individuals) to help identify orchid research priorities, donate plant material for experimentation, and provide monetary support to continue this research program on flowering of orchids.

In addition to our stated research objectives, we have the flexibility to research and focus on other aspects of orchid production, such as nutrition, postharvest handling, marketing, and pest management.



Benefits of Contributing


Financial contributions primarily support graduate students to conduct the research projects.  The funding required for a graduate student at Michigan State University is approximately $30,000 per year.


Contributors to our program will have opportunities to interact with our research team and help direct research objectives.  Information will be shared, both formally and informally with our funding partners as results are obtained.  In addition, we are willing to assist with the implementation of our research results through presentations and on-site visits.


The results from some projects in our orchid research program will ultimately be published in scientific journals, trade magazines and other publications.  However, information will be presented in a more timely and comprehensive manner to contributors of the orchid research program at Michigan State University.



Personnel in Orchid Research Program


Dr. Erik Runkle, Associate Professor

Matthew Blanchard, Post-doctoral Research Associate

Daedre Craig, Graduate Student

Mike Olrich, Greenhouse Technician

Catherine Whitman, Technician



Contact Information


Dr. Erik Runkle

     A240-C Plant & Soil Science Bldg.

     Department of Horticulture

     Michigan State University

     East Lansing, MI  48824   USA



     Phone: 517-353-5191 ext. 1350

     Fax: 517-353-0890




Orchid Research Publications from MSU


Some of these publications are available as PDF files for downloading and printing.

Note: to view these documents, you must have Adobe® Acrobat® Reader installed.


Trade Magazines


·        Runkle, E. 2008. Principles of light. Orchids 77:350−353.

·        Blanchard, M., R. Lopez, E. Runkle, and Y.-T. Wang. 2007. Growing the best phalaenopsis, part 4: A complete production schedule. Orchids 76(4):266−271.

·        Lopez, R., E. Runkle, Y.-T. Wang, M. Blanchard, and T. Hsu. 2007. Growing the best phalaenopsis, part 3: Temperature and light requirements, height, insect and disease control. Orchids 76(3):182−187.

·        Wang, Y.-T., M. Blanchard, R. Lopez, and E. Runkle. 2007. Growing the best phalaenopsis, part 2: Media, transplanting, water and nutrient problems. Orchids 76(2):106−111.

·        Runkle, E., Y.-T. Wang, M. Blanchard, and R. Lopez. 2007. Growing the best phalaenopsis, part 1: An introduction to potted phalaenopsis orchids. Orchids 76(1):24−28.

·        Runkle, E. 2005. Growing Trends: What’s up with orchids? Greenhouse Management and Production 25(4):60.

·        Blanchard, M.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2005. Effekter av dØgnlig lysmengde hos Phalaenopsis i potte. Gartneryrket 103(8):15−16. (In Norwegian).

·        Blanchard, M., R. Lopez, E. Runkle, and Y.-T. Wang. 2005. The orchid grower, Part IV. Greenhouse Grower 23(12):86−92.

·        Lopez, R., E. Runkle, Y.-T. Wang, and M. Blanchard. 2005. The orchid grower, Part III. Greenhouse Grower 23(10):96−104.

·        Wang, Y.-T., M. Blanchard, R. Lopez, and E. Runkle. 2005. The orchid grower, Part II. Greenhouse Grower 23(9):70−74.

·        Runkle, E., Y.-T. Wang, M. Blanchard, and R. Lopez. 2005. The orchid grower, Part I. Greenhouse Grower 23(8):64−70.

·        Lopez, R. and E. Runkle. 2004. The flowering of orchids: a reality check. Orchids 73(3):196−203.



Refereed Journal Articles


·        Newton, L.A. and E.S. Runkle. 2009. High-temperature inhibition of flowering of Phalaenopsis and Doritaenopsis orchids. HortScience 44:12711276.

·        Blanchard, M.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2008.  Temperature and pseudobulb size influence flowering of Odontioda orchids. HortScience 43:1404−1409.

·        Blanchard, M.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2008. Benzyladenine promotes flowering in Doritaenopsis and Phalaenopsis orchids. J. Plant Growth Regul. 27:41−50.

·        Blanchard, M.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2008. Container opacity and media components influence rooting of potted Phalaenopsis and Doritaenopsis orchids. Acta Hort. 788:115−120.

·        Lopez, R.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2008. Effect of temperature and pseudobulb maturity on flowering of the orchid Miltoniopsis Augres ‘Trinity’. Acta Hort. 766:273−278.

·        Runkle, E.S. 2007. Innovative production systems for ornamental potted plants: a case study for Phalaenopsis orchids. Acta Hort. 755:55−60.

·        Blanchard, M.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2006. Temperature during the day, but not during the night, controls flowering of Phalaenopsis orchids. J. Expt. Bot. 57(15):4043−4049.

·        Lopez, R.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2006. Temperature and photoperiod regulate flowering of potted Miltoniopsis orchids. HortScience 41:593−597.

·        Lopez, R.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2005. Environmental physiology of growth and flowering of orchids. HortScience 40:1969−1973.

·        Blanchard, M.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2005. Temperature effects on flower induction of two Phalaenopsis orchid hybrids. Proc. 18th World Orchid Conf. 121−123.

·        Lopez, R.G., E.S. Runkle, and R.D. Heins. 2005. Flowering of the orchid Miltoniopsis Augres ‘Trinity’ is influenced by photoperiod and temperature. Acta Hort. 683:175−179.

·        Lopez, R.G. and E.S. Runkle. 2004. The effect of temperature on leaf and flower development and flower longevity of Zygopetalum Redvale ‘Fire Kiss’ orchid. HortScience 39:1630−1634.

·        Lopez, R.G., E.S. Runkle, R.D. Heins, and C.M. Whitman. 2003. Temperature and photoperiodic effects on growth and flowering of Zygopetalum Redvale ‘Fire Kiss’ orchids. Acta. Hort. 624:155−162. 


Literature Cited

·        Laws, N. 2002. Orchid commerce around the world. FloraCulture Intl. 12(10):28−29.

·        U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2006a. Floriculture crops 2005 summary. Agricultural Statistics Board, Washington D.C.

·        U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2006b. Floriculture and nursery crops situation and outlook yearbook. Economic Research Service, Washington D.C.

·        Vereniging van Bloemenveilingen in Nederland. 2007. Annual Report 2006.  Association of Dutch Flower Auctions, Leiden, The Netherlands.













Page last updated on February 10th, 2010.