Coarsegold business reaping benefits of popular Tillandsia air plant

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Air plants are growing in popularity in the U.S. and throughout Asia, and the largest grower of these plants in North America is actually right here in our area. (KFSN)

Air plants are growing in popularity, especially among those who don't even have a green thumb. The largest grower of these plants in North America is actually right here in our area.

Air plants, or Tillandsia, are finding themselves in households across the country and the world - many of them shipped from Tillandsia International in Coarsegold.

"We're the largest wholesale grower in North America," owner Frank Messina said.

Dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, Messina may not look like your typical grower. But for the past 40 years, he's cultivated a unique business focused on air plants which don't need soil. He started in 1977 when he was an agriculture student at Fresno State.

"I was going to school, and I probably had 100 houseplants in my house and I really liked them," he said. "It was enjoyable, so I decided to get into a business that would let me combine them both - my vocation and advocation."

Messina started selling them at Sears, Manchester Mall, and markets. Over time his craft and plants grew. Tillandsia comes in all shapes and sizes. At their Coarsegold facility, they grow 600 varieties.

The variety is what keep sales going. They sell wholesale and those, in turn, are sold to the public as plants or arrangements.

"Most of them are sold to the Bay Area and Los Angeles and San Diego area for the California market," Messina explained. "And then we ship them all over the states, plus we ship them worldwide - mainly to Asian countries."

In his 40 years with the business, the greenhouses have expanded to keep up with demand. He's also hired 10 employees to keep these beauties blooming.

It's a budding business that's making its mark in the plant world.
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businessflower showmadera countybusinessCoarsegold
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