Are you interested in growing cut flowers for profit? Lindsey from 605 Flowers takes us through the considerations you need to have as you expand a passion for flowers into a farming flower business.
In this article, we will cover what flower farming is, what tools and supplies are needed to get started, and marketing strategies to get your cut flower business up and running. Read more to learn from Lindsey’s experience and to decide what flower farming avenue will work best for your situation.
Who can start flower farming?
Anyone who has a passion for flowers can start flower farming. Flower Farming, by definition, is someone who grows flowers at a scale to be sold and marketed to a wholesaler, retailer, or the general public.
While many start flower farming for various reasons, first and foremost, they see a need or desire for local flowers. If you are looking for a career change, adding to your market garden, or looking for a side hustle while you manage being a stay-at-home parent, here are some words of wisdom so you can easily begin your flower farming journey! Many find that flowers are a lucrative product to sell, an exciting product to grow, and an end product that appeals to many generations.
What are the benefits of local flower farms?
Local flower farming is environmentally and economically beneficial. It can diversify the environment, reduce climate-impacting travel, and add quality, chemical-free flowers for honey bees and native pollinators. Mainstream farming has eliminated the diversity of floriculture. Focusing on shelf life and ship ability instead of beauty and fragrance.
In contrast, by planting an array of flowers, we can reintroduce rare varieties, provideshelter for pollinators, and educate our consumers on the benefits of shopping for local flowers. Economically it impacts the community by keeping the dollars spent on flowers local, providing jobs, and diversifying small businesses.
Social Benefits of Local Flowers
Flower farming goes beyond the physical and environmental benefits. It is a sensual, mental, and relational experience. U-picks, evening in the flower events, or picnics among the flowers create this fulfilling euphoria many have never experienced before.
It becomes an opportunity; while trying to impact our communities environmentally and economically, we create an intimate experience that boosts mental health and builds relationships. If having a U-Cut farm calls to you, read more about starting a U-Pick Flower Farm here.
What factors should you consider when starting a flower farm?
Budgeting is a hot topic in flower farming. Set a budget based on what you feel comfortable investing in and go from there. You can start with a low budget and low or no debt. Consider each year a stepping stone. Everyone’s flower farming journey is different, so do not compare yourself to someone else’s.
Set your goal, prioritize your needs and wants, and work back from that.
Starting with the highest priority to the least important.
Take inventory of what you have available
Equipment available. Can you rent or borrow vs. buy
Can you find a seed supplier that sells wholesale vs. retail? What discounts do they offer?
Focus on one season at a time to start. Consider only planting annuals in the first few years.
Bulbs, perennials, and woodies can be an investment of money, space, and time. Put off those investments if you’re working with limited resources.
What are your presentation intentions? Will a roll of paper vs. an individual sheet be more feasible? Logo stamp vs. stickers? Incentives for returned vases?
If you already have a process for starting seeds, is adding cut flowers a simple solution?
Can you start in your yard or community garden vs. renting/leasing/buying a larger area?
Available Resources for Budding Flower Farmers
Everyone learns differently and at their own pace. I have learned from various outlets; from YouTube vlogs to podcasts (we love the Slow Flowersone) to books as well as online and in-person workshops. These are all tremendous resources, and so many are available anytime to fit your schedule, time commitment, and financial goals.
Check out Bootstrap Farmer's bookshop.org list.
Dedicate a notebook or binder only to flower farming and make sure you document as much as possible, no matter the resource. Make many notes, diagrams, or references to reevaluate later. Sign up for other farmer's newsletters, study them, and use their free resource guides. They, too, have had time to think outside the box to solve particular problems within a tight budget, time, and resource constraints. They may have a great alternative you can use on your farm.
Other flower growing resources to consider
Network with other seasoned gardeners, flower farmers, and master gardeners in your area or zone.
Purchase books on Flower Farming, Flower Specific Care, Organic Pest Management, etc.
Follow Flower Farmers on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook
When planning, keep the recommendation of 50 percent flowers and 50 percent foliage or filler. Focus on a few in your first few years as you gain confidence in your skills and establish your market. Do not overcomplicate your fields.
Queen Anne's Lace
I cannot emphasize this enough. Build your experience in planning and planting before diving into more high-maintenance varieties and multiple blooming seasons, i.e., spring and fall. While you may look back and wish you had planted perennials in year one or a thousand more tulips. Hindsight is 20/20, and you work with what you have available and can manage right now. Start simple.
Seeds or Plants to Purchase:
Sit down and determine the best flower seed starting route for you. Price out supplies needed to start seeds, price out trays of plugs plus shipping, or estimate the cost to purchase starts at a local nursery. It may take research and time on the front end. However, it will give you the best understanding of your finances and where you want to spend your resources. Each farmer is different.
Seed Starting: Starting my seeds not only allows me to control the variables of variety, number of different colors, and how many of each I need for the season. I know what soil my plants were planted in, what fertilizer they were nourished with, and the environment in which they were maintained.
Plugs: If you have limited time or indoor space to manage seedlings and want to schedule ahead of time, plugs may be the best option for you. You can order a 72+ tray of a variety and have it delivered when you are past your frost date and ready to plant. It does limit you to one color per tray, so keep that in mind as you start processing the costs. You may need multiple trays of one variety to get more than one color.
Plants from the nursery: a more extensive selection of flowers and foliage can be found in the nursery setting. However, not all varieties are great for cut flower production. Keep in mind that many nursery plants are treated with growth inhibitors which can limit their size and viability in the field.
I did utilize this option for baby blue eucalyptus. My 40 eucalyptus seedlings were destroyed by multiple days of extra dry, high heat, and high wind shortly after being planted in the field. Since the time to grow from seed is 12 weeks, it was too late to replace with another round of seedlings, and eucalyptus plugs are sold out months in advance.
Land size for growing flowers
How much space do you need for a flower farm?
You can start a flower farm at any scale, whether you own acreage or have a small suburban lot. Decide on a flower plot, whether in raised beds or rows. Make sure it is accessible and manageable. Grow bagsare also available for a smaller scale and limited grow space location.
Consider a few extra inputs if you decide to go the container gardening route.
The soil and nutrients required to fill containers.
Containers and grow bags are likely to dry out faster. While mobile, consider adding a shade cloth vs. spending your afternoon shifting bags between sun and shade.
They will require additional watering during high heat, so you may want to consider container irrigation.
I focused most of my cut flower journey on a 20 ft by 60 ft plot. Planning for 2 ft walk rows between each 4 ft planted row. I went based on a workshop recommendation. With that, I planted ten 20 ft rows and had plenty of flowers during the season. Due to my climate and high humidity, I am adding more distance between planted rows next year. Increasing airflow and creating more accessible rows to navigate during harvest and weeding.
Harvesting Flowers and the Post-Harvesting Process
Step 1: Determine if flowers are in the correct stage of harvest. Setting a schedule will help keep more significant amounts of flowers at the correct harvest stage.
Step 2: Use sharp, clean snips to cut your flower stems. I clean mine before every harvest and sometimes between harvest and arranging. Harvest in the cool hours of the day, early morning after the dew has dried, or late evening. Harvesting in the heat of the day is not ideal and will leave your flowers wilted and/or needing more time to recover.
Step 3: Remove leaves from the stems and deposit them into a clean, sanitized container with clean water.
Bonus Step: Adding a hydrating solution is a beneficial option. If you are cutting costs, you can still have a successful harvest without it.
Tip: Do not overstuff the harvest buckets. It can cause bruising or crush delicate flowers as you move from the field to their next location.
If you invest in a flower farming course, they too, will have great insight and recommendations. Having a few different perspectives regarding harvest/post-harvest is excellent awareness. You never know when you may need to troubleshoot and try another approach.
Finding Your Flower Market
Before you can officially sell your flowers, you must consider the sales avenues that you want to pursue. Each one will have its advantages and disadvantages for you to consider. Check out Finding Your Flower Market, where we further explore the different ways to sell flowers from CSAs to wholesale.
The biggest lesson I've learned so far as a flower farmer is to give myself grace.
Adding flower farming to my current life season has been, on occasion, like drinking from a firehose. Some days, it flows easily; others, all I can do is manage the flowers, mother nature, the bees, my family, and keep my sanity.
I am passionate about growing things. Seeing my visions come to fruition from seed to plant is such an accomplishment and joy. I love standing among the flowers, watching the pollinators, and seeing the peoples’ reactions to my arrangements. I have to remember that with each day and season, there is an ebb and flow, and I need to stop and breathe and keep doing the next best thing.
Running a cut flower business can be both challenging and rewarding. Although it requires planning, labor, and financial investment upfront. If starting a flower farming business seems daunting, remember that success is often measured throughout multiple seasons; each learning opportunity challenges us as we grow and develop our craft.
What tips must you know before starting a flower garden?
Each year allows you to replant successes and rip out things that didn’t work.
Be flexible and willing to make changes.
Mother Nature is in control.
ENJOY the beauty of nature. Every day, look for the beauty in the flowers.
Document everything, in writing and/or pictures.
You cannot do it all!
What are the most essential tools and supplies for flower farming?