Prairie producer gains following with 1,700 succulent types
November 2, 2021 By Treena Hein
For Roger Valliere, owner of Solar Gardens in Saskatoon, Sask., their class offerings, succulent specialization, and huge varietal inventory have been key to their outstanding success.
Valliere has always focused on succulents. He started growing them 35 years ago from specimens collected under import licences from all over the world. At his 50-acre site with six greenhouses, Valliere grows over 1,700 succulent types which usually reach saleable size in three or four years. Nowadays, he also buys some rare succulents that are grown in large volumes from seed by U.S. companies. He notes that “when we first started taking succulents to trade shows in 1996, people didn’t even think they were real, but now they are very popular.”
Valliere says the success that they’ve had would not be possible if his huge array of succulents didn’t possess a certain characteristic. “Here, we get lots of Prairie sun and that makes for colourful plants and it’s the colourful plants that are in demand,” he explains. “And in terms of growing, you don’t want to give them very much nitrogen or phosphorus. We have orange, pinks, vibrant greens and yellows, and there is no comparison with imports. Imported plants are mostly a dark blue hue and also lose colour during transport.”
While Valliere sells wholesale to 170 gardening businesses in Canada (mostly in Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba and he’s looking for more), he also sells large amounts to consumers – pre-made pots full of succulents, small ‘wedding favour’ pots and as mentioned, through classes.
Prior to COVID, he had 1,800 students a week of all ages come to classes at his greenhouse site, selecting from about 400 varieties to fill their selected pots with approximately 30 plants each. Classes were not possible during the pandemic, but wholesale purchases went up 300 per cent, Valliere reports.
Starting this fall, Valliere will hold classes at a new store location in one of Saskatoon’s malls. He already has a sales outlet at another strip mall in the city. These plants are displayed under LED grow lights, under which he says they do very well.
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