5 Things Beginners Should Know About Cut Flower Farming

Cut flower farming is hot right now, but if you're considering growing flowers for sale, brush up on these five key things to know before diving in.

by Austin Graf
PHOTO: styxclick/Adobe Stock

Flower farming. That’s right. Flower farming is an actual thing, and while it might not be as mainstream as row cropping, cattle ranching or even market gardening, small-scale flower farmers are making it big! 

If you love flowers, few endeavors are likely to be as rewarding as starting your own flower farm.

But speaking as someone who has owned and operated a flower farm for several years, flower farming isn’t all sunshine and daisies. I’ve made more mistakes than I have grown flowers, so I thought I’d share five pitfalls potential flower farmers should seek to avoid.

1. Everything Isn’t Beautiful

People often want to begin a flower farm for the aesthetic. Flowers are beautiful, and we associate them with vibrant and bright colors in showy landscaped gardens.

Who wouldn’t want a yard filled with rows of beautiful flowers?

But flower farmers do not grow flowers in this way. Flower farms rarely have fields filled with rows of color, as flowers are often harvested before they reach their peak performance. Growing cut flowers is a business, and the flowers are cut out of your field in order to sell and distribute them.

If you are seeing fields with rows of color, you’re likely not selling as many flowers as you should be!

2. Don’t Grow Too Many Flowers

Every year I think about doubling the size of my flower farm, and every year I have to have a difficult conversation with myself. Expanding your growing space, I’ve learned, doesn’t always mean increasing production and profitability.

When you first begin your flower farming journey, it is so easy to think, “I will plant 7 acres and grow all the flowers.” This is a recipe for disaster.

Cut flower farming on a small scale is labor intensive and requires a huge amount of work and dedication. It seems like planting two acres of cut flowers would be more profitable than planting one, right? Twice the profit.

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But that isn’t always the case. Scaling your flower farming business also needs to correlate directly with scaling your available labor hours, your sales channels and sometimes equipment.

Growing more intensively with better growing and management practices at a smaller scale will typically give you healthier and more productive plants than growing twice the amount without good management practices in place. Not to mention, cut flowers are a perishable product. It’s critical to have your sales channels in place before scaling, otherwise you’ll end up with a field full of dying flowers without a cause.

Start off small, then grow from there.

3. Understand Your Growing Zone

I think this one is often overlooked by flower farmers. You see someone growing tulips in early spring and think, “Hey, I will do that!”

But the fact is, flowers—much like vegetables—have growing zones, and some flowers do better in cooler climates. Some do better in warmer weather. Some will survive anywhere. Some need to only be grown in fall or spring. Some varieties might require season extension like a greenhouse. Some varieties might require chilling in a cooler.

Also like vegetables, flowers are very seasonal. It’s important to have a firm grasp on your growing zone and what varieties thrive best in your zones, as well as what varieties just won’t work in your area.

Having a firm grasp on this prior to even beginning your growing journey will save you from crop and profit loss. Just a little research can save a lot of money!

4. Know Your Market

This is the most important one on this list. Everyone, and I mean everyone, goes into a flower farm thinking, “If I grow it, people will buy it.” But guess what? That’s simply not true.

Flower farming is a small business enterprise. You must identify your target market and sales channels before you start planning out what you are growing. 

Variety matters in flower farming, and every variety isn’t for every buyer. A direct-to-consumer, market-style bouquet might have all sorts of varieties like celosias, sunflowers and zinnias. They are bright and filled with colors and textures. But wedding florists often prefer large volumes of greenery and neutral color palettes, with lots of white and cream flowers.

Know where your flowers will go before you grow. This way you can select varieties in color palettes that will appeal most to your target sales audience.

5. Understand Biennials, Perennials & Annuals

Most everyone knows there are perennial flowers and annual flowers. Annual flowers are planted every year and last just one season. Perennials are planted once and come back year after year.

Most of us understand that, but there are also biennial flowers. These you plant in year one, overwinter, then harvest the blooms in year two.

As a beginning flower farmer, I never realized how critical those varieties were in order to extend my season and have continuous blooms from early spring to late fall. It is important to delevop a firm understanding of the different types of flowering plants, their bloom times and when best to plant.

By investing in a blend of perennials, annuals and biennials, you’ll have a wonderful and consistent supply of saleable flowers and foliages.

But no matter what combination of perennials, annuals and biennials you choose, we hope this list of some of a few of our mistakes helps you get growing in the right direction!

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