Henry F. Michell Company

125 years and four generations as the complete plant, seed and nursery source
Written by: 
Ivy Carter
Produced by: 
Elizabeth Towne

Now in its 125th year, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based Henry F. Michell Company (Michell’s) is running strong on four generations of family ownership. Following his passion for horticulture, Henry F. Michell, a first-generation Swiss immigrant, founded the company in 1890.

Upon arriving in the United States, Henry took a job with the Henry A. Dreer Company, a large horticulture establishment in the area. “He decided to leave and start his own seed company in 1890 at the age of 30,” tells Henry F. Michell the 4th (Rick), now President and CEO of Michell’s. “Michell’s began in a modest two-story building at 1018 Market Street in Philadelphia. After two years, Henry’s older brother, Frederick, joined him in the business.”

Planting the seed for generational success

Henry’s first sale, totaling just $1.50, was an order for 2 ounces of flower seeds. From that humble beginning, the company’s sales grew as word spread quickly and expansion followed. “Sales began to spread beyond Pennsylvania when Henry and Frederick launched an 11-person sales team to cover states east of the Mississippi,” tells Rick. “At this time, the company was mainly selling to gardeners of large estates. The company began to provide products and services to independent retail garden centers in the 1950s.”

Frederick J. Michell and Frank B. Michell, Frederick’s two sons, took over as the second generation of ownership and eventually bought out their father around the time of his passing. “The third generation started in the early 1940s with Frank B. Michell Jr. and my father, Henry F. Michell the 3rd,” tells Rick.

In the early 1940s, Michell’s consisted of a retail store and office building in Philadelphia and a 40-acre growing facility in Andalusia, along the Pennsylvania-New York rail line. “Folks going to and from work could see our display of flowers on the route,” says Rick. “The farm supplied Michells’ retail outfit in Philadelphia and sold to local landscapers.”

A shift in Michell’s business model

The store filled orders for flower bulbs and seeds – for flowers, vegetables and grass – from all over the world. In 1960, the owners relocated the company from its original headquarters in Philadelphia to King of Prussia, where it is still located today.  In the late 1960s, the company expanded into the wholesale market, supplying production greenhouses in addition to landscapers and retail garden centers. In the1970s, Michell’s became the first company to sell west coast nursery stock to east coast garden centers and wholesale nurseries on a brokerage basis, a practice later adopted by other horticultural brokers.

The phenomenal success of the wholesale business led Frank B. Michell Jr. and Henry F. Michell the 3rd to leave retail sales entirely. “It was then that Frank and Henry transitioned Michell’s into what we are today: a national horticultural brokerage firm,” adds Rick.

Input products for greenhouses and nurseries

Today, Michell’s business is on a full, nationwide scale, even expanding to serve customers in parts of Europe, Central America, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The company sources a vast array of input products – flowering annuals, geraniums, mums, perennials, poinsettias, seed, plugs, flowering foliage, nursery stock and more –  from more than 650 vendors. They also service the needs of more than 3,500 customers including wholesale greenhouses, retail garden centers, wholesale nurseries and landscapers from coast to coast.

Spear-heading innovations

Michell’s has always been on the forefront of innovations and hand-selecting vendors who supply the highest quality items for the horticulture industry. Chief among those innovations is the company’s exclusive alliance with Green Fuse Botanicals Inc.; Green Fuse collaborates with independent plant breeders from around the world to provide cutting-edge genetic varieties to the horticultural market. Green Fuse targets cultivars that exhibit improved and unique characteristics compared with existing varieties, always with an eye for maintaining superior garden and landscape performance.

Other exclusive partnerships Michell’s has spear-headed include:

  • Alexander Hay, a family-owned greenhouse that produces a variety of products including dish gardens, foliage, cut flowers, geraniums, mums, succulents and azaleas, as well as many seasonal products.
  • Burchell Nursery a leading source for citrus, olives, lavender, berries, and a wide assortment of fruit trees.
  • C.L.I. Colors which produces tropical foliage including hibiscus, mandevilla and dipladenia, among many others, with unmatched quality at a competitive price
  • Fairy Gardening and Fairy Flowers provide small whimsical plants and hard goods, perfect for miniature and fairy gardens, specifically designed to flourish in small spaces.
  • KOBA Corporation, a U.S. based company that has been producing a wide array of plastic containers and accessory products for the horticultural industry since 1966.

For more than 125 years, Henry F. Michell Company has continued a proud tradition of innovation, pushing for best-in-class products and a streamlined purchasing process with an emphasis on affordability and top-notch customer service.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Citizens Bank