Growing Cut Flowers & Foliage

Producing cut flowers may be one of the hardest activities in horticulture. This is because the quality of your final product has a direct bearing on the price received – even more so than other horticultural varieties such as fruit and vegetables. Although markets can be found for a range of product types (e.g. stems with more or less leaf, a different configuration/shape or flowers with variable colour), only excellent quality blooms can be sold without reducing customer satisfaction substantially.

Crop and growing options

Cut flower growers are spread across all Australian states and territories, with significant growing centers in the Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.

The cut flower and foliage industry consists of the growing of literally hundreds of types, varieties and cultivars of plant (Appendix 1). The types of flowers grown within this industry can be included into four main categories:

  1. Traditional Flowers,
  2. Wild Flowers which consists of Australian Native and south African flowers;
  3. Tropical Flowers; and
  4. Foliage.

Well over 100 different cut flower and foliage types are widely grown in Australia. These range from: annual to perennial crops; bulbs, herbaceous plants and shrubs; and foliage, feature flowers and floral fillers. Some growers specialise in only a few types, while others produce a wide variety. Fluctuations in floral fashions and decorating trends and the state of the economy affect the popularity of products.

Traditional flowers include products such as roses, carnations, chrysanthemums and gerbera and are the mainstay of the industry in terms of sales and generally retain their market share other traditional type flowers are asters, bulb crops, daisies, lavender, orchids, stocks and zinnias.

There are also filler flowers and foliage which can be unusuals and novel in their appearance and are sometimes considered niche products. Although unusual lines attract buyers, florists may be wary of something with an unknown vase life. The most easily grown crops are also easily oversupplied. Their lower prices received during peak seasonal times can barely cover picking and bunching costs.

For some varieties of flowers, the question of what to grow is closely related to the issue of when to grow. Higher prices are almost always obtained when there is less of that product available, that is, other farms are not producing that product at that time.

The choice of how production is undertaken depends on the variety of cut flower grown, the control of flowering required, location of farm, resource availability, market requirements and individual business and personal situations. Cut flower enterprises involve different combinations of the following growing methods:-

  • In-ground grown cut flowers;
  • Cut flowers grown in pots or other containers with growing media;
  • Cut flowers grown under structures –plastic tunnels, shade houses or glass houses;
  • Field grown cut flowers (not grown under any artificial shelters).

Although there are exceptions, the majority of traditional cut flower varieties are grown in containers under shelter where climate controls can be applied, whereas most Australian native, wild flowers and tropical flowers and foliage are usually grown in the field without shelter.

Guide for New Growers

Learning to grow cut flowers successfully includes a steep learning curve. We recommend that you undertake research to prepare yourself to meet the challenge. Learn the best methods to produce a crop, speak to people in the industry and undertake appropriate education and training activities.

For a detailed decision guide on growing cut flowers download the Flowers App and purchase the Thinking of Growing Cut Flowers and Business Planning Guide publications ($4.99) or free Irrigation and drainage guide for flower growers.