BLOG: Grower report Van der Arend Tropical Plantcenter

The Dutch nursery Van der Arend Tropical Plantcenter enjoys international fame in the market. The nursery is important to us, because it supplies some very special tropical green plants. It turns out that there are also lots of exciting new things on the horizon. Owner René van der Arend receives me, and gives me a taster of what’s in store.

How did Van der Arend Tropical Plantcenter come into existence?
My father and my uncle started out growing young tomato plants for tomato growers 60 years ago. I joined the company 36 years ago, and we started experimenting with potted plants. I was given the opportunity to try out my own ideas in the nursery, and soon we switched to potted plants. We were dependent on the auction for sales, and never knew how much our products would sell for. That was something I disliked intensely. I wanted to be able to determine the prices of my products, and  looked for a solution. I found the answer in very large ‘project’ plants. Selling these plants is a completely different process, and obviously it’s not dependent on the auction.

I had to travel a lot to build up a range and network. I installed the tallest greenhouse in the Netherlands to install the huge tropical plants. During my travels, I also came across lots of fascinating, smaller tropical plants. I started working with these on a small scale. Little did I know did that these small plants would become so important 30 years later.

How would you describe the nursery in 2020?
The large project plants are now just a sideline. We’ve mainly been an importer of special tropical plants in houseplant format for many years now. Basically, I go to tropical countries in the search for attractive plants often using my network of experts. We receive cuttings via air freight that we cultivate and market here in the Netherlands. Adult plants, which are sent via sea freight, are first acclimatised here and then sold. This all sounds quite straightforward, but it’s a special branch that requires a big dose of courage and experience.

What essential characteristics do plants need before you start working on them?
Plants must have character, and be clearly different from products already on the market. Just look at our range. The Epipremnum ‘Marble Planet’, Homalomena ‘Lemon Lime’, Monstera ‘Monkey Leaf’ and Xanthosoma ‘Frozen Planet’ all share one thing in common; they stand out thanks to their unusual leaf colours, leaf shapes, or leaf patterns.

Philodendron white knightHow do you see the future of your company?
The best place to explain this is in our test greenhouse, where, we can get a glimpse of the future. As you can see, there are lots of test batches of very unusual houseplants. If we’re happy with the test results, we start producing them. Another important aspect, both for us and the entire retail trade, is to legally protect the product. This allows us to balance the numbers that will be produced in the long term with the numbers that florists and garden centres can sell. In fact, you should always grow just one plant too few. That way, you maintain demand for the product, we can still make some profit, and the florist or garden centre is supplied with an attractive product that can’t be found at every supermarket. In my opinion, the future of this company lies in developing special products and marketing them in a regulated way.

I see you’ve got a small batch of beautiful Philodendron Pink Princess here. Lots of our customers ask about this. Can we expect this to be placed on the market soon?
Certainly! We’ve been conducting all kinds of tests for a while, and, as you can see, the plant now has a really beautiful structure. It will be a while before the tests are completed and we start growing them in limited numbers. The Philodendron verrucosum went through the same process. This beautiful plant is now in production, and can be ordered from you. As you can see, there are lots of other unusual products here, which we will be able to delight our customers with again and again in the coming years.

What’s your relationship with Javado?
We have a number of very desirable plants available in small numbers, which attracts the interest of all kinds of buyers. We’ve drawn up a list of exporters with which we work best, and Javado is certainly one of them. We’re happy we can supply you with specialist products, and you’re always welcome at our nursery, including if you want to bring your customers along.

Published on: 18 Agosto 2020