The North American Flower Market is bursting with roses from countries all over the world. Most of the cut roses on the North American market originate in South America, mostly Ecuador and Colombia, as well as from growers in Holland and California. Roses are grown all over the world, including Africa, California, China, India, Malaysia, South America, and Vietnam. For years, roses grown in Kenya have saturated the European market, but up until recently the cost and length of transportation have prevented them from being a viable option for North American distributors. Today, the world is more connected than ever before, and Kenyan roses may soon be a significant player on the world stage.

Kenya rose bunches

When most people think of flowers, they don’t usually think of Kenya, but specific regions of this country have ideal growing conditions for popular cut flower species, particularly roses — mainly due to the perfect balance of altitude and year-round sunny conditions, creating a high flower yield. In 2018, there were 127 flower farms in Kenya, mostly around Lake Naivasha, followed by Mt. Kenya, Nairobi, and Thika. Kenya began exporting flowers in 1970 and is now the world’s third largest flower exporter behind Holland and Colombia.

Kenya is an immense contributor to the European Union, with flowers sourced from this country accounting for about 35% of all of flowers sold in the EU. Roses grown in Kenya are very similar in quality and shape to roses grown in Holland, so they are easily mixed in with European product distributed for sale. With the extremely favorable growing conditions in Kenya, there is a smaller CO2 footprint exporting flowers from Kenya than growing them in Europe, since there is a very little CO2 expended in production in Kenya versus Holland. Even with the expenditure during transportation, there is still overall much less CO2 created. Kenyan roses are also more affordable, and therefore undoubtedly a factor in their quick rise in popularity in Europe.

For comparison: Kenya grows in total about 3,000 hectares of Roses, compared to Ecuador, which is believed to have approx 3,200 hectares of Roses in production.

Kenya group picture

Until recently, Kenyan roses were just not a viable option for the North American market because of higher cost and longer length of time in travel than other roses grown elsewhere, making them more expensive and less fresh than other options available. However, last October Kenya Airways started to operate a direct nonstop flight from Nairobi to New York, so Kenyan product can now be shipped directly to the United States for distribution. There is a strong presence expected this year from Kenyan growers at the upcoming World Floral Expo in Dallas.


As economies throughout the world develop and grow, and people have more disposable income to spend on “wants” rather than “needs,” more and more of the world’s growing population is migrating into densely populated cities and crave the connection with nature that flowers can bring. With favorable growing conditions, and affordable, sustainable production, and increasing demand on the world market, Kenyan flowers are sure to gain popularity in many markets in the coming years. Due to their smaller head sizes when compared to South American roses, this African product is said to become more marketed through the supermarket channels, but if consumers have positive experiences with roses, there is a good opportunity for an increase in Rose consumption across the board.

In HPP’s upcoming exhibition in Dallas, Texas (named “World Floral Expo”) will include an entire pavilion of African roses on display. Please come to Dallas from March 22-24, 2019 to learn more. Please visit this site for more information about this upcoming exhibition. The main mission of the show is to promote consumption of fresh cut flowers, which includes both domestic grown as well as imported flowers. About 75 exhibitors, mainly flower growers from non-US countries, will participate in this edition in Dallas, including growers from California, displaying their latest varieties available for the US market.

J Schwanke at HPP