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Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing

Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing

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nvironmentally sound production tech-niques, increased farm diversi
and increased farm income are basic
parts of sustainable farming systems. Spe-cialty cut
ower production and marketing
offers both small- and large-scale growers a way to increase the level of sustainability on
their farms. The tremendous variety of plantsthat can be grown as cut
owers allows grow-
ers to choose those which are well-adaptedto the farm site and grown without large off-
site inputs. This variety also makes diversity
in both production and marketing possible.And the high value of specialty cut
owerscan increase farm income.
The phrase “specialty cut
ower” originally
referred to all species other than carnations,
chrysanthemums, and roses. As recently as
1986, these three cut
ower species, plusgladiolus, accounted for more than 80 per-
cent of total cut
ower production. (Dole andGreer, 2004) Since then, specialty cut
ers have become the most important part of 
the U.S. cut
ower industry. The combined
production of carnations, chrysanthemums,
and roses was $78 million in 2002, repre-senting only 15 percent of total cut
owerand foliage production. In contrast, spe-cialty cut production totaled $443 million.Cut lilies, once a relatively minor green-
house cut
ower, have replaced roses as the
most important domestically produced cut
ower. Leatherleaf fern, gerbera, gladiolus,
and tulips are the remainder of the top
specialty cuts. (Dole and Greer, 2004)
As specialty cut flowers become moreimportant to the
oral industry, growers
nding that these
owers make it easier
to compete with imported products. Flow-ers that don’t ship well or can’t handle longintervals in a box can be picked by a local
grower in the morning and be in a shopper’s
house that afternoon. Specialty cuts canbe grown as annuals or perennials, from
©2005 clipart.com
Introduction .....................1What Should I Grow? ....2Markets ..............................3Production Basics.........10Harvest andPostharvest .....................16Summary .........................21References ......................22Further Resources ........22
A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service 1-800-346-9140 www.attra.ncat.org
ATTRA—National Sustainable
Agriculture Information Service
is managed by the National Cen-
ter for Appropriate Technology
(NCAT) and is funded under agrant from the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture’s
Rural Business-Cooperative Ser-
vice. Visit the NCAT Web site
html) for more informa-
tion on our sustainable
agriculture projects.
ByJanet BachmannNCAT AgricultureSpecialist© NCAT 2006
Special thanks to the many cut flower growers around thecountry for their contributionsto this publication, and to Judy M. Laushman, Executive Direc-tor of the Association of Spe-cialty Cut Flower Growers, Inc.,for reviewing it.
Specialty cut flower production has the potential to increase income for both small and large farms.
 This publication discusses several marketing channels and lists flowers suitable for various markets. It
covers production basics, harvest and postharvest handling, business planning and record keeping,
and resources for further information.
Specialty Cut Flower Productionand Marketing
Page 2
Specialty Cut Flower Production and Marketing
seeds, plugs, or bulbs. They include woody
plants from which
owers, stems, fruits, orfoliage are harvested. They can be grown
in the
eld, in unheated hoophouses, and inheated greenhouses. By producing unusual,
high quality
owers, using proper posthar-
vest handling techniques, and by providing
excellent service, growers can continue to
expand markets for specialty cuts.
If you are considering specialty cut
ow-ers as a farm enterprise, you should do asmuch research as possible before puttingone plant in the ground. The most valu-
able information comes from other growers.
Other sources that you can rely on includethe Association of Specialty Cut FlowerGrowers, Cooperative Extension, suppliers,
and ATTRA.
What Should I Grow?
A tremendous number of choices are avail-
able. How can you choose, given such a vast
array? Consider the following.
Ease of cultivation.
This may beespecially important if you are a beginner. Sun
owers and zinniasare examples of easy-to-cultivate
owers. They can be direct seeded,and they emerge and grow quickly.
Ease of handling.
owers canagain be used as an example. They
have strong stems and are easy tocut and transport without bruising
or shattering the
What is popular at your mar-
ket? Does it combine well with othercolors you have chosen? Whites and
pinks are popular spring wedding
colors; oranges and coppers may be
more popular in the fall.
Fragrance sells—to most
people. Customers at the Fayette-ville, Arkansas, Farmers’ Marketbegin asking for extremely fragranttuberoses two months before theyare available—but some growerscannot stand to bring even a buck-
etful to market in a closed van.
Old favorites.
Think of custom-ers who see a bunch of sweet peasand buy them because they arereminded of their grandmother’s
ower garden. Zinnias can again be
used as an example.
New introductions.
New cultivarshelp you stay competitive in a com-petitive market. Membership inthe Association of Specialty CutFlower Growers (ASCFG) is oneway to keep up to date on newones. The ASCFG in cooperationwith seed companies sponsors tri-als of new varieties every year.Results of the trials are reported inthe winter issue of 
The Cut Flower Quarterly. Rudbeckia
Prairie Sun,
Neon Duo, and count-less new sun
owers are among theexciting introductions trialed by
ASCFG volunteers.
Vase life.
Will the cuts last a week?
Or longer?
Stem length
. Florists love longstems. But there are exceptions,such as lily-of-the-valley and grapehyacinth, that are naturally short-
Local growing conditions.
Accept the
fact that some plants are not welladapted to your climate. Ask local
Extension agents, garden clubs, and
Photo by Janet Bachmann
Mark Cain (left) of Dripping Springs Garden presents bouquets to Carol Eichel-berger and Jean Mills of Coker, Alabama, at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.
Related ATTRAPublications
Agricultural BusinessPlanning Templates andResourcesCommunity SupportedAgriculture (CSA)Direct MarketingEntertainment Farmingand Agri-TourismFarmers’ MarketsFarmscaping to EnhanceBiological ControlFlame Weeding forVegetable CropsMarket Gardening: AStart-Up GuideOverview of Cover Cropsand Green ManuresPrinciples of SustainableWeed ManagementRoot Zone Heating forGreenhouse CropsSeason Extension Tech-niques for Market Gar-denersSelling to RestaurantsWoody Ornamentals forCut Flower Growers
Page 3
nurseries which specialty cut
ers grow well in your area, and start
with these. Diversify slowly, and
test some new choices each growingseason.
Flowering season. Do you wantyear-round or seasonal blooms?For flowers throughout the grow-ing season, identify an earlybloomer to start blooming in syncwith opening day of your market,and dependable flowers to keepcustomers coming back to your
market stand or farm until you want
to close for the season.
Flowers for building mixed bou-
quets. If you plan to sell mixed bou-quets and plan to grow zinnias, whatother
owers or foliage will mix well
with them?
Demand. What are wholesale andretail
orists asking for? (Within
Think especially about the marketwhere you want to sell cut
owers.What do the customers want? What
are their favorite
Marketing possibilities include farmers’markets, contract growing and CSA-typesubscriptions, cut-your-own, restaurants,supermarkets, retail
orists, wholesale
o-rists, special events such as weddings,and the Internet. The following discussionof markets includes
owers that growersaround the country recommend for each,
followed by information on related products
and added value.
Farmers’ Markets
Farmers’ markets are considered by manyto be entry-level markets, a place for newgrowers to sharpen their skills and cultivatehigher-level markets. Other growers havefound farmers’ markets to be a pro
and rewarding way to sell
Specialty cut
owers sell well at the Fayette-ville, Arkansas, Farmers’ Market (FFM).
Vendors—and customers—believe theirmarket is one of the most attractive in thenation. It is situated on the square in down-town Fayetteville around an old post of 
that has been converted to a restaurant. The
area is professionally landscaped and is alive
with blooming and edible plants. On Satur-day mornings it is the place to be, with live
music, coffee and pastries, and vendors sell-
ing fruits, vegetables, plants, crafts, and of 
course specialty cut
Of the more than 50 vendors at a Satur-day market in mid-summer, almost 50 per-cent bring cut
owers for sale. “In the early
days,” say folks who organized the market in
1974, “vendors brought
owers cut from the
roadsides.” Today the FFM has become well-
known as a source of high-quality, reason-ably priced cut
owers. For some vendors,fresh vegetables or fruit are the main prod-ucts, but many of these have added
owersas secondary products. For other vendors,
owers are the primary focus of the displayand a major source of income in a college
town with a relatively af 
uent population.
Photos by Janet Bachmann
 pecialty cut flower pro-duction and marketing offersboth small- and large-scale growersa way to increase thelevel of sustainability on their farms.

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