by Brad Mee

When we go to our local nursery and select a favorite succulent, because well, succulents are everyone’s faves these days, we don’t consider where the plant came from.
In St. George and the desert Southwest (Arizona, Nevada, Texas, New Mexico and Southern California), chances are it came from V&P Nurseries, an Arizona-based grower/wholesale nursery specializing in sub-tropical and drought-tolerant varieties. And that succulent, a Blue Glow agave perhaps, may have began life in a jar as a V&P plant tissue culture.
Then, as it grew, it was moved from multiple containers, then into a small pot placed among countless others inside an expansive, sunlight-filled greenhouse, before being presented in a decorative pot on the shelf of an independent nursery, Home Depot, Lowe’s or Costco. Yup, that agave has a interesting history.
And so does V&P.
To hear Niko Vlachos, the company’s V.P, tell it, his father Demetrios Vlachos began by selling Mexican Bird of Paradise plants from his backyard in the 1970’s. The showy red-flowered plants were a hit and the family business took flight. Decades later, V&P now boasts more than 280 acres in Queens Creek, southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.

Niko Vlachos, V.P. of V&P Nurseries.

About 200 of those acres are currently used to grow varieties from the world’s desert and sub-tropical regions, as well as to develop new and distinctive cultivars created to thrive in residential and commercial gardens. Today, V&P grows more than 200 plant varieties. As a self-professed garden geek, seeing them as I visited the nursery was pure heaven.

Succulent and cacti lovers would surely swoon over the large variety and beautiful specimens of these sculptural plants that V&P grows and sells.
Countless barrel cacti resemble a sea of pincushions as they fill a huge greenhouse.

While touring the grounds with Niko, I couldn’t help but be captivated by his knowledge of and passion for plants, as well as his enthusiasm and ideas for improving and growing the business. And when it comes to growing, that’s the name-of-the-game inside the nursery’s many greenhouses.

With hundreds of species available, hibiscuses are the best selling plants at V&P and fill many greenhouses with their large showy flowers and intoxicating colors.

In these sun-filled structures, acres of potted plants sit side by side on knee-high tables. Amazingly, each individual plant is constantly trimmed, primped and primed by individual workers to ensure that it is at its flowering peak and ideal shape when it hits the retail shelf.

These young succulents began life as tissue cultures in jars before being moved to planting trays and then, one day, to individual pots.

For those of us who struggle with growing individual plants in our gardens, the carefully orchestrated timing of perfection seems improbable, if not impossible. Multiply the effort by thousands and you’ll get an idea of just how impressive this operation is.
Thanks to this experience, when I select a new plant at my local nursery, I now have a much better appreciation for it and all it took to get there.

V&P Nurseries owns more that 280 acres in Queens Creek, located southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.

Featured image: One day these V&P potted bougainvilleas will grow to smother sun-warmed walls with their brilliantly colored bracts and bright green foliage. This is the second best selling plant for the grower.

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Brad Mee is the Editor-in-Chief of Utah Style & Design Magazine.