THE United States dried flower business is blossoming. Sales have expanded by 103 percent over the last five years.
"The dried-flower industry is no longer a sideline industry for people who are florists. It's a special segment of the market," says Marti Heller, president to the American Association for the Dried and Preserved Floral Industry, New York.
In the past, these natural-looking decorative arrangements were sold mainly in florists. These days dried flowers are also sold in speciality stores and better quality department store chains.
Their popularity has been stimulated by importation of vibrant-colored bouquets and varieties from European countries, particularly the Netherlands. This has encouraged domestic producers to increase their output, industry professionals say.
New preservatives and dyes make the flowers last longer and give them a more alive look.
Dried flower sales used to peak during the fall. Today's brighter colors, combined with better marketing efforts, have raised sales outside of the autumn season.
"It's becoming more and more of a year-round item and I think that's where the biggest growth is coming from," says Rene Piper, president of Piper Floral International, a Pottstown, Pa.-based dried flower importer.
Dried flowers may be eating into the market for silk flowers. In the 1950s and 1960s plastic was the rage.
"Plastic is really long gone," Mr. Piper says. "[But] designers like to combine silk and dried arrangements. They can complement each other."
Dried flowers are popular during the holidays, says Lynn Mugno, account executive for Piper Floral International. "Come January, we'll be swamped again with orders for people preparing for Valentine's Day.... Where they were purchasing fresh bouquets, the trend is weighing a little bit more toward the drieds," she says.
Cheryl Kramer, owner of Woodfield Whimsies, a dried flower manufacturer in Ashippun, Wis., says her business has grown every year since she started 10 years ago. The popularity of dried flowers reflects society's interest in the environment and in natural, simpler things, she says.
So what is the most popular dried variety?
"Unquestionably, the best sellers are the roses," Piper says. "We have very high quality dried roses that look very much like fresh ones."