What are the best cut flowers to grow in a Greenhouse?

February 1, 2006

I am new to all of this. My husband and I are about to embark a cut flower business growing from a green house. What are the best/easiest flowers that I could start out with? I am open to any and all suggestions.

I just happened on to this websight and think it's great!

Comments (16)

  • taty

    also to add, is it better to grow a large variety of flowers, or a large number of just few varieties?

  • Fundybayfarm

    Welcome. What you are growing depends on your market. You need to give us more information as to how you'll be selling your flowers.

  • Jeanne_in_Idaho

    Welcome, Taty!

    I can share my experiences growing flowers in a greenhouse in northern Idaho. I haven't grown a whole lot of different flowers in my hoophouse or in the previous greenhouse, but some experience is better than none! Growing here is quite unlike growing in the Midwest or South, due to our cold nights and shorter growing season. I have quite a few questions, though.

    Is your greenhouse covered with rigid plastic, or glass, or soft plastic? If soft plastic, is it a single or double layer, and do you keep the cover on over the winter? Will you be heating it, and if so, for what part of the year, and how warm? Will you be selling wholesale, at a store or farmer's market nearby, or at a farm stand? How big is the greenhouse?

    The biggest drawback here is the cold, cold nights. Yes, the greenhouse gets around that problem somewhat, but if you intend to use it in the winter, your heating costs can get VERY high. I also don't know where in Idaho you are. I'm in the mountains, where the nights get very cold. If you're in a warmer area, the nights won't be quite as cold as mine, but they'll still be cold. Can you grow tomatoes where you are, and if so, which varieties reach maturity? That can help me figure out what flowers might do well for you.

    Which flowers to grow is somewhat dependent on what your greenhouse covering is. Some tolerate one layer of plastic well, some don't. Some tolerate two layers of plastic, some don't. Some are very prone to disease in a greenhouse setting. Do you plan to use conventional sprays for disease and/or bugs, or will you be using organic methods?

    My best greenhouse flowers, in order of my preference, are Oriental lilies, some specific sunflowers, some specific dianthus, and greenhouse snaps (mostly NOT the same varieties that grow outdoors). There are a few other minor things that do fairly well, but aren't worth the heating expense to me. I've found that zinnias and most celosia won't produce well here, not even in a greenhouse. They prefer warmer nights than I want to pay for, in my single-plastic hoophouse. They were even worse in a double-plastic greenhouse - the nights were warmer, but I think they didn't get enough sun.

    Have you read Lynn Byczynski's book, "The Flower Farmer"? If not, I recommend it, BEFORE you plant anything. A copy of "Specialty Cut Flowers", by Alan Armitage and (Judy?) Laushman, has been indispensable for me. It's not a how-to or beginner's book, but rather a reference book, with germination and cultural requirements for practically anything you might want to grow. A subscription to Growing For Market can be useful, for general market-oriented information and for the cut-flower articles the Arnoskys write.

    Once again, welcome, and good luck!


  • taty

    Thank you all for your responses.

    We are purchasing a 15,000 sq ft glass greenhouse. My intention was to grow cut flowers wholesale for florists. I have been reading anything I can find on cut flowers, I have found most of to relate to inground acreage however. My husband has talked to a few florists in the area who have been very receptive to a local grower. That was encouraging to me. I have been looking up florist websights to see what the majority of the bouquets are made up of. Yesterday my hopes of this venture were dampened by a greenhouse seller out of colorado my husband talked to. He told my husband that there weren't any cut flower growers here in the U.S. anymore because of the competion from the southern countries. So, now I'm not sure. Trish, your comments were again encouraging abut there being successful growers here in Idaho. I will look up the Association of Specialty Cut FlowerS Growers, I assume they have a websight?

    I was wanting to be able to grow through out the year. Not sure if heating cost will affect this. I may end up just being seasonal. I live in the Boise area if Idaho. Not to cold most of the time. Pretty hot in the summer though.

    We still in the research of everything that has to do with this. I don't want to make any huge or expensive mistaks.

    Thanks so much for all imput, adivse, and encouragement.


  • flowers4u

    Taty -
    You might also want to check out the USDA site mentioned in an earlier post. It has reports under ornamentals that show pricing in the major markets and where the flowers are coming from. This doesn't necessarily mean you can charge those prices - you may be able to charge more! Somewhere on the site, I can't find it again, it does reference the large percentage of imported flowers from South America. But, please remember, that many of these imported flowers are flowers that ship well! I'm sure you can grow flowers in your greenhouse that 'don't ship well' and deliver locally. Also, I just received a copy of a rural roots conference in Boise that started today! (just not quite the conference I needed to attend and drive from central Oregon!) It is geared to farmer's markets, but looks like it will be a great conference and a good site to keep handy for resources.

    You may want to order back copies of growing for market and explore solar heating options for your greenhouse - they have quite a few articles on alternative heating methods.
    Good luck and welcome!
    Wendy z6ish - OR

    Here is a link that might be useful: Rural Roots

  • flowerfarmer

    If you remember only one thing from this discussion, this is important: Experience is the best teacher, and mistakes as frustrating as they may be, will ultimately teach you more than successes.

    The greenhouse seller with whom your husband spoke is partly correct. The type of greenhouse you are looking to purchase is bought mostly by the bedding plant industry. Anyway, the three big flower crops that are imported into this country; (and, most likely what he was basing his comment on) are: roses, carnations and mums. You will not want to compete with these; and, probably don't plan on doing so.

    Funny that you should mention you cannot find information on greenhouse growing. It was just ten years ago that there wasn't much information available about growing flowers in the open field, rather than under glass. A grower in California wrote a wonderful book about field production for the small grower. We refer to this book more often than any other in our collection.

    Seventy five or so years ago, florists grew their own flower crops. What a florist didn't produce himself, he would purchase from another florist. In the 50s refrigerated trucking shifted flower production to large growers on the west coast. Florists discontinued their own production, and focused on the retail end of the business. Their business centered on weddings, funerals, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Mother's Day. Their focus was mainly elaborate arrangements. Most recently, this has opened the door for us market growers to provide simple bouquets to the consumer.

    Because you plan to grow under glass, the book you may want to locate is, Greenhouse Operation and Management, by Paul V. Nelson. The book referred to by Jeanne, Specialty Cut Flowers was written by Alan Armitage, the founder of ASCFG and Judy Marriott Laushman, the director of the organization.

    We have growers in our organization who specialize in certain crops: calla lilies, hydrangeas, and lilies to give an example. We have a grower who has eight greenhouses, two coldframes, and a 15,000 sf gutter connected greenhouse. They grow year round, and supply bouquets to Whole Food. They also specialize in lilies.

    Don't grow Casa Blanca or Stargazer. These are imported en masse. There are newer cultivars that finishes sooner. If you grow lilies, you will want those that take 12-15 weeks to finish. In a greenhouse environment, you won't want lilies that take longer to bloom. They take up too much valuable growing space. Many of our crops are grown in crates. For this reason, they can be easily moved out of the greenhouse when finished, and replaced with a new crop.

    As members of ASCFG, we are availed cutting edge information regarding plant material before it hits the general populace. As a greenhouse grower, cutting edge is where you will find that you have to be. We are given information regarding upcoming grants. You definitely will want to avail yourself of these. There is a large grower 300 miles due west of you who currently has received another grant. And, as members we have access to pricing information from others growers -- many who supply flowers to florists. Many of these florists are event florists. They create the large arrangements for convention centers.

    USDA pricing isn't always helpful. We're not competing with imported flowers. The flowers grown by our members are those that don't ship well, or are grown better locally -- sunflowers, snapdragons, dianthus, etc. Not mentioned in my previous post, we also grow lisianthus, dahlias, campanula and foxglove under cover. I just finished reading an article that reports zinnias can be grown under cover with very little incidence of disease or powdery mildew. This is one crop you may want to grow. There is a new zinnia with a 23-25 day vase life.

    ASCFG is the best source for educational, cultural and marketing information for specialty cutflowers. There is ongoing research. Many of the plant breeders and bulb suppliers belong to the organization as well. If you should have concerns about your crop, they are there to answer your questions; and, rather swiftly I might add.

    As much as I like the monthly publication, Growing for Market, only about 5% of it deals with flower crops -- and mainly field production.

    Sooner or later a person has to decide what is important to them in this life. The rewards of flower growing are mostly
    not financial ones. However, one can achieve sufficient compensation for their labor to live comfortable. Wealth beyond that is superfluous.


  • taty

    Wendy & Trish

    Thank you so much for your posts. You are a wealth of imformation, and I truly appreciate it! I don't have time to write right now, but I just wanted to thank you for your inputs, I am feeling much better about this venue we have chosen. I will look into what you have suggested, and will get back when I have a bit more time. Thank you again!


  • rita2004

    Your information is always so good. Where might this article be on the zinnia that you can grow without much powdery mildew and what about the long life zinnia? I am a member of the ASCFG and always get my quaterly so much later than everybody else here in Texas. If this information is in the quarterly I can't hardly wait. I love that magazine. When I finally get mine I read it from cover to cover. I love growing zinnias in the greenhouse and out. My customers love them but the florist would like them even longer if they had a long vase life. This new zinnia, is it big like the Benary's? What colors?
    Would appreciate info. I am also off to find the book you mentioned from the CA grower.


  • bryan_ut

    First welcome. The grower flowerfarmer refers to is Ralph at bindweedfarm.com. He is in Blackfoot and has a nice place. He will be your biggest competitor. A book you might also want to read "A hoophouse handbook" by Lynn Byczynski's has a article written by Ralph. Another farm you might want to check out is Happy Trowels owned by Tom Wilkstrom in Ogden, UT. I think he is the VP for ASCFG or was. I sell twigs wreaths to most of the wholesalers and some retail shops up your way. There are a few good wholesalers in Boise and some good shops in Twin and Pocatello.

    If I were you I would look at FMs in Boise and sell retail in Twin and Sun valley areas.

    Good luck. Bryan

  • flowerfarmer

    Does one actually consider another grower 300 miles away, their competition? That's the distance between Detroit and Chicago. If I considered the growers who post on this forum my competition, I most likely wouldn't post. We're not that insecure; and don't believe we should look at the world through that prism. As growers, we're all pretty open with information. We can all grow pretty much the same flowers; however, where we differentiate ourselves is through marketing. This is the area where a grower will either be a success or failure.

    Tom Wilkstrom was Vice-President of ASCFG. If you were actually a member, you'd know the current Vice-President was voted into office November 30. The new Vice-President, Howard Lubbers, resides in Michigan just a stones throw from our farm. He's another knowleable grower willing to share his wealth of information.

    The following information may be of real benefit to you, Taty. Our National Conference for ASCFG is going to be held in San Jose, October 25-29. We're going to be touring Santa Cruz, and the Pajaro Valley. And, travelling into Monterey County where alot of flowers are grown. The great thing is that we visit large and small operations generally not open to the public. Another good thing about the conference besides the field trips is the brainstorming that takes place with other growers. They always have training sessions at the conferences for new and old members. Plant breeders, researchers and plant/seed company brokers are always in attendance. And, best of all, we are made aware of the latest market trends. As growers in an ever evolving marketplace, all of the information gathered helps our farm remain cutting edge.

    The ASCFG Regional Director for the Northwest is Pat Zweifel of Oregon Coastal Flowers/Z Callas. He willingly shares his successes and failures with just a tremendous sense of humor. Regional conferences are also held each year. I'm not sure where it is going to be held for the Northwest. As members, we're invited to attend any Regional Conferences that are of interest to us. We don't need to reside within that region. This is Pat Zweifel's motto: "If this is what you love to do, then never give up due to frustration."


  • bryan_ut

    Trish, If a grower sells to the very same retail flower shops (as per Taty's post) that I intend to sell to, YES they are my competitor, unless they or I am growing/selling different items. In fact when I was selling curly willow poles for artifical silk trees, to plantworks and DDL life botanicals in Las Vegas, willow growers in Oregon became my competitor because they were selling the same items to the same customers as myself. Maybe ask Gateway, Dell and other computer makers how far away their competion is. Or any big US flower grower who used to sell roses, where their competion came from (more than 300 miles).

    I am not, nor have I been a member of ASCFG. If I was I would be posting on their member site. I also did not state Tom was currently VP for sure.

    After reading your above post and other posts you have written to other GW members it saddens me to know, that you think someone has died and made you Queen.


  • Jeanne_in_Idaho

    There are many different experiences and opinions that are valid and useful. One person's large experience and expertise does not make another person's smaller experience and expertise invalid. Someone who grows in Michigan has knowledge to share with a Westerner, but Westerners have some also (our climates really are different).

    How about some sharing and kindness? The tone of Trish's postings has discouraged from posting much of anything on this thread, and in fact on this forum altogether.

    Taty, if you want any input at all from another Idaho grower, albeit small and in a maybe-colder area (I'm zone 5, where are you?) just e-mail me through my member page.


  • taty

    Thank you all for your posts... I always want to say that because I honestly do. All comments welcomed.

    I am going to join the ASCFG right after I get off of here. I am egar to hear and find and receive any info, help that I can acuire.

    Yes, I very much want to go to the conference in Ca in October. So far I am going to plan on doing that, so hope to meet any and all of you who will be able to go as well!

    I dought if I will be able to get my greenhouse going this year. We are getting ready to have it shipped soon, but it will take some time to get it up and get it equiped. How late could I get by with planting? I don't think I want to do much heating this year, so only cooler speices, I would imagine.


  • flowerfarmer

    If you join the ASCFG (ascfg.org), the members of the organization over your way will better be able to help you with your question regarding how late you can plan on planting in your greenhouse. Be sure to contact your Regional Director, Pat Zweifel. His email address is: info@flowersbulbs.com. He'll be a great deal of help for you -- maybe even regarding the neighbor and greenhouse issue (I read your other post).

    We're also very excited about the conference in California in October. We might also attend the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in June which is in Pennsylvania, to be held at Melanie and George DeVault's farm, Pheasant Hill Farm. Melanie has previously contributed articles for the Newfarm website, and also to the Growing for Market publication.

    Good luck getting your greenhouse erected and equipped. That is a big step. You're excited. I'm happy for you in this new venture. And, I'm also looking forward to a prosperous growing season............


  • taty


    The attorney I talked to today didn't seem to think I have anything to worry about. I live in an aggricultural area, and am ag exempt, soooo..onward I go!

  • CFC40

    Well this information is very helpful, but I am not looking to grow cut flowers to sell, just for my own use. I was wondering if anyone could give me tips on how to utilize my green house to its fullest capacity and obtain a good crop. It has yet to be build but I do have glass windows to build it. should be approx. 8 or 10 feet by 12 feet long. I would like to grow as much as I can and utilize the height as well, since it will be a 9foot ceiling. Thanks

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