Cut flowers are one of the best cash crops for small growers all across North America, with profits of up to $30,000 per acre. Most growers start part-time, growing for market at local outlets like the farmer’s market, florists and restaurants.
Cut flowers are a perfect cash crop, because they are easy to grow, produce quickly and can supply a good income throughout the growing season. Also, startup costs are low, as most gardeners already have the basic gardening tools needed, and only have to buy seeds to get started.
Local farmer’s or Saturday markets are the best place for the beginning flower grower to get started. As most are one or two days a week, you’ll have more time to devote to growing flowers. Instead of setting up your own booth, consider sharing a booth with another grower selling compatible items, such as vegetables or herbs.
It’s best to stick to proven cut flower varieties when starting out, so you have a better chance of selling out on market days. According to seasoned flower growing pros, the best flower choices to insure profits include:
1. Ageratum. Clusters of long-lasting flowers in red, white and blue add color to bouquets. With successive plantings, ageratum can produce continuous blooms from early summer to frost.
2. Scabiosa. Also called the pincushion flower, scabiosa is excellent for cutting and comes in a wide variety of colors, from white to dark. As with most cut flowers, plant every 2-3 weeks until mid-summer for extended bloom harvest.
3. Larkspur. This relative of the buttercup has complex flowers and comes in a wide range of colors. Most seed suppliers offer color assortments so you’ll have a rainbow of blooms to harvest and mix into bouquets.
4. Snapdragon. Best to start indoors and transplant. Snapdragons take 120 days to mature. Most growers plant a mix of 8-10 colors for variety.
5. Peony. With hundreds of varieties of this popular perennial, the hardest decision may be which ones to plant ! The large fragrant flowers are always a hit at the Saturday market.
6. Zinnias. Nothing fills out a bouquet quite like zinnias, with their brilliant colors, shapes and sizes. The giant varieties are bestsellers at the market.
7. Sunflowers. The early-blooming varieties – at under 60 days to harvest – are popular market sellers. Some growers prefer to sell individual stems at $4-$6 each.
8. Verbena bonariensis. This popular flower produces lilac colored flowers on long, thin stems.
9. Salvia. Produces an abundance of flowers on it’s elongated stems. Many variety choices for a wide choice of colors, from scarlet to white.
10. Yarrow. Also called Achillea millefolium, this popular annual comes in a variety of colors. It can be direct seeded or transplanted, and is ready to harvest in around 90 days.
Mixed bouquets are the best, as they allow you to blend in a variety of cut flowers so you don’t end up at the end of the day with too many unsold stems of individual varieties. Most growers use gypsophila (baby’s breath) as a bouquet filler, as it’s easy to grow and blends well with other flower varieties. Gypsophila is so widely used by florists, they’ve nicknamed it “florist’s hamburger helper.”
Be sure to time your plantings so your cut flowers are ready to harvest when prices are highest, as your customers celebrate the holidays – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Christmas. In addition to selling your cut flowers at your local Saturday market, consider these seven other selling venues for your harvest:
1. Restaurants and Hotels. Upscale restaurants and hotels use lots of cut flower arrangements to decorate tables, rooms, lobbies and for special occasions such as banquets or special events.
2. Florists. They are most likely to buy flower varieties that are hard to find through their wholesale suppliers, such as the old fashioned flower varieties.
3. Grocery Stores. Chain stores, such as Safeway or Kroger are hard to sell, as they usually have to buy through central purchasing or company approved vendors. Local independent grocers are your best bet. The easiest way to sell to grocers is to stock cut flowers or bouquets on a consignment basis. Growers report 90 percent of consigned flowers are sold within four days.
4. U-Cut Flower Patch. U-pick flowers have grown in popularity because customers can create their own flower or color blends and be assured the flowers are fresh picked. A roadside stand with already-picked flowers is another option if you prefer to keep customers out of your growing area.
5. Subscription sales. This is a great way to create a steady income from flowers. Anyone who works in an office is a prospect for regularly scheduled – typically once a week – delivery of a fresh bouquet of flowers to brighten an office, cubicle or reception area. One enterprising grower, located in an area with an abundance of office buildings, built her floral subscription business to over $500,000 yearly!
6. Weddings and Events. This can be a very profitable, but time-consuming, business. To find customers, contact local wedding planners and event planners and let them know what you offer.
7. Edible flowers. Prominent chefs have used everything from geraniums to roses to create new and exciting garnishes for a special meal. At top restaurants, it’s quite common to use specially grown flowers to enhance the taste and visual appeal of a fine meal. To explore this niche market further, read “Edible Flowers: From Garden to Palate” by Cathy Wilkinson Barash, or “The Edible Flower Garden” by Rosalind Creasy. To learn more about growing flowers for market, read Growing Flowers For Profit.