News & Politics

Here’s Where Your Locally Grown Whole Foods Tulips Really Come From

It's not a farm.

Photograph by Lauren Bulbin

Seventy miles outside DC, tucked off Route 3 in King George, Virginia, sits a squat, high-security warehouse. It looks like some kind of government intelligence facility, but in reality it’s home to a different kind of secret: flowers. Inside, it turns out, are millions of tulips, which are cultivated and harvested there year-round, from bulb to blossom.

Welcome to Bloomia, one of the country’s largest indoor tulip production facilities. The massive operation isn’t open to the public, but if you’re a flower fan, you might well have purchased Bloomia’s petals: Its major customers include area Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Wegmans stores.

Once you’re buzzed into the building and pass through security and a series of sales offices, you suddenly come upon a breathtaking view—hundreds of rows of tulips in all shapes, colors, sizes, and stages of growth. Though Virginia’s climate isn’t especially conducive to tulip cultivation, the warehouse is completely AC-controlled.

Bloomia has been operating out of this 42-acre facility since 2012, when owner Paul Botman and general manager Werner Jansen decided to upgrade from the small farm in Culpeper where they had previously run the business. “This place used to be a tomato farm, if you can believe that,” says Jansen. “But it already had a greenhouse set up, and I knew as soon as I saw it that it would be perfect.” Apparently, he was right: Bloomia now ships more than 75 million tulips a year.

This article appears in the September 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Kalina Newman
Editorial Fellow

Kalina Newman is an editorial fellow for Washingtonian. Previously, she covered metro news for the Boston Globe. Her work has appeared in ARLnow, DCist, and the Washington City Paper. Kalina graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a degree in journalism.