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Course CodeBHT221
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Open Learning Course -Study Cut Flower Production at Home

  • Develop your technical and management skills for cut flower production.
  • Study, learn, work with cut flowers
  • Get a job, start a business or expand your opportunities

What is Needed for Success?

To be successful in the cut flower industry, you must have an ability to:

  • Grow an appropriate quality and quantity of crop at the right time.
  • Harvest, store, transport and deliver the crop at the right time
  • Find and exploit an appropriate market appropriately

This course therefore aims to develop not only your ability to grow a crop well, but it also aims to develop your awareness of the industry, foster your networking and research skills and help you grow your capacity to find opportunities and adapt to changes within the industry as it continues to evolve.

What is the market demand for Cut Flowers?

What will the producer grow, does it have an established market or is this a new product? How will it be presented    i.e. as bunched flowers, individual stems or as bouquets?
When a grower decides to produce a certain product the decision is influenced firstly by the constraints of the production area and secondly by the market research conducted before production commences. Potential crops are not just limited to cut flowers but may also include dried flowers, native flowers, cut foliage and fillers for bouquets. Most growers increase their chance to make a profit by growing more then one variety throughout the growing season by choosing species that extend the harvest period. Successful growers will understand the limitations of the growing area through soil analysis, climate, aspect, drainage and irrigation and also the specific requirements of the varieties they choose to grow i.e. soil pH, fertiliser etc.

Where is my market?

Producers close to their markets have a competitive edge i.e. The Netherlands and Germany. Smaller growers may decide to supply the domestic market only or may find a niche market for exports of specialty products i.e. native flowers. Flowers can be sold through wholesalers at markets to small local outlets, or at the farm gate. The small beginner may find it easier to start with local retail outlets, the local farmer's market and farm gate sales and even the internet, and then gradually branch out to larger distributors as production increases. Wholesalers usually require specific grading, packaging and a consistent quality, although prices will be lower then through direct sales wholesalers will handle large quantities for the grower.
Exporters have specific problems they need to overcome in order to satisfy potential export markets. Quality is probably the most important element, an efficient transport system is vital in retaining product quality as is the production system used and the harvest techniques including handling and post harvest handling.



Different species of flowers need to be picked differently, and treated differently after picking. Some flowers can be picked well before the buds open - the buds then open later on. For other species, the flower must be at least partially opened. In some cases, flowers won't open if they are picked too early.

General Guidelines for Picking Flowers

  • Pick them as early as possible in the day, particularly on hot days.
  • Check the flowers before picking to see if they have any pests or disease problems that might infect your indoor plants, or might be a nuisance or danger to you, such as spiders, ants, aphids, thrips, etc. If the flowers are diseased, avoid them, spray the flowers or shake them gently to dislodge any pests (this can help remove pests, but will not help with diseases).
  • Use sharp cutting tools when cutting flowers. Dip the tools in disinfectant before cutting the flowers. This ensures as little damage as possible is done to the plant you are cutting flowers from, and minimises the spread of diseases.
  • Take the cut flowers inside as soon as possible to prevent them drying out.
  • Flowers cut in warm conditions will have a lot of heat in the plant tissue, and unless cooled quickly, that heat will continue to hasten deterioration. It is therefore essential to get the temperature of most flowers down to 10-15 degrees Celsius as soon as possible after harvest. The best way to do this is to stand the picked stems in deep, cold water, or place them in a fridge temporarily (2-5 degrees C). Prolonged storage in a fridge should be avoided as this can inhibit flower opening on some types of flower.


Storing Flowers

Flower species vary markedly in how long they can be stored for. Some orchid flowers can remain open for two months, but most flowers do not last so well. Flower quality deteriorates from harvest onwards. Good storage slows deterioration, but does not stop it.


Vase Life

Vase life refers to how long the flower will last when placed on display in a vase or similar container. Vase life is influenced by a number of factors including:

  • How and when the flowers were harvested. Harvesting and storing the flowers under optimum conditions (see above) will greatly extend vase life.
  • How hot the area is in which the flowers are displayed - too hot and the flowers will dry out very quickly. Too cold and some flowers may not fully open.
  • Humidity levels - the more humid the conditions in your home the less likely the flower will be to dry out. Too humid however and the flowers may brown off from fungal diseases (not as common). Hot, dry air from heaters will rapidly dry out flowers. Placement of vases/containers to avoid the worst of this will help extend flower life.
  • Using "extenders" to prolong the flowers life. These can usually be obtained from florists or some nurseries. They are often provided by florists as part of the service when you buy flowers from them. They are usually small sachets containing mixtures of sugars and other chemicals that help feed the flower (taken up with water through the cut base) and keep the water in the vase/container clean.
  • An alternative to placing flower stems in water is to insert them into florists "sponge" or "block". This is a rigid, foam-like material that holds high levels of moisture when soaked. This can usually be obtained directly from florists or from florist suppliers. You might also recycle some from floral arrangements you obtain from florists or have been given.


Requirements of Specific Species

  • Alstroemeria - Pick when there are 4-5 flowers open on a stem, and store wet at 4 degrees Celsius until ready for use. Use a preservative solution in the water.
  • Carnation - Pick when the outer petals are almost fully opened. Cool by putting straight into cold water, then placing in cool storage at 2-4 degrees Celsius, until ready for use. Stand in a solution of sugar and bacteriacide.
  • Cattleya Orchids - Pick 2 to 4 days after the flower bud opens. They can be stored in water at 8-10 degrees Celsius (never below 8) for up to two weeks.
  • Chrysanthemum - Most are picked when some flowers are fully open, though some varieties can be picked a little earlier.
  • Gerbera - Pick when the outer row of flowers begins to show pollen. Store dry at 2 degrees Celsius in wax boxes for up to 2 days.
  • Gladioli - Pick when the first flower is almost open. The flowers can be stored at 4 degrees Celsius for up to 7 days in a moisture retaining material. They can be stored for longer periods at similar temperatures if standing in water, provided they are treated prior to cooling (treat for 24hrs in a solution of sugar and bacteriacide).
  • Roses - Pick sometime between when colour appears in the bud, to when the first one or two petals are starting to burst open. If being stored, cut a day earlier and place immediately in a preservative solution, then put them into cold storage at 1 degree Celsius until you are ready to use them (you can store for 1 to 7 days).


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Cut Flower Production
    • Scope and Nature of the Flower Industry
    • International Flower Market
    • Succeeding in the Trade
    • Flower Structure
    • Development of a Flower
    • Introduction to Hydroponic Culture
    • Understanding plant growth … roots, stems, flowers, leaves
    • Types of flowers; perennials, bulbs.
    • Review of Flower Crops; Alstroemeria, Antirrhinum, Amaryllis, Anigozanthus, Aster Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Freesia, Gerbera, Gladiolus, Iris, Narcissus, Orchids, Rose, Stock and others.
  2. Soils and Nutrition
    • Soil composition
    • Soil texture
    • Soil structure
    • Colloids
    • Peds
    • Characteristics of clay, sand and loam soils
    • Naming the Soil
    • Improving Soil Structure
    • Improving fertility
    • Benefits of adding organic matter to soils
    • Soil life; earthworms, mycorrhiza, nitrogen fixing, etc.
    • Soil Water
    • Understanding dynamics of water loss
    • Improving soil water retention
    • Types of soil water (Hygroscopic, Gravitational)
    • Soil analysis
    • Plant tissue analysis for soil management
    • Measuring pH
    • Other soil testing (testing salinity, colorimetry, etc)
    • Measuring Water availability to plants
    • Soil Degradation and rehabilitation (Erosion, Salinity, Acidification, etc)
    • Soil Chemical Characteristics
    • Nutrient availability and pH
    • The nutrient elements; major, minor, total salts
    • Diagnosing nutritional problems
    • Fertilisers (types, application, etc)
    • Natural Fertilisers
    • Fertiliser Selection
    • Composting methods
    • Soil mixes and potting media
  3. Cultural Practices
    • Site selection
    • Production
    • Cultivation techniques
    • Using cover crops
    • Green manure cover crops
    • Nitrogen Fixation in legumes
    • Crop rotation
    • Planting procedure
    • Staking
    • Bare rooted plants
    • Time of planting
    • Mulching
    • Frost protection
    • Managing sun
    • Managing animal pests; birds, etc.
    • Pruning
    • Water management and Irrigation
    • When to irrigate
    • Period of watering; cyclic watering, pulse watering, etc
    • Sprinkler irrigation
    • Trickle irrigation
    • Sprinkler systems; portable, permanent, semi permanent, travelling
    • Types of sprinkler heads
    • Sprinkler spacings
    • Selecting surface irrigation methods
    • Weed control
    • Preventative weed management
    • Hand weeding
    • Mechanical weeding
    • Chemical weed control
    • Classification of weedicides
    • Natural Weed Control Methods
    • Review of common weeds
  4. Flower Initiation and Development
    • How flowers Age
    • Managing flower longevity
    • Effects of Carbon Dioxide
    • Getting plants to flower out of season
    • Types of flower response to temperature
    • Ways to cause controlled flowering
    • Narcissus flower management
    • Managing Azalea flowering
    • Seed sources
    • Hydroponics for controlled growth
  5. Pest and Disease Control
    • Integrated Pest Management
    • Chemical Methods of Pest Control
    • Chemical labels
    • Non Chemical methods of pest control
    • Pest and Disease Identification and Management on flower crops
    • Anthracnose
    • Blight
    • Canker
    • Damping off
    • Galls
    • Leaf Spot
    • Mildew
    • Rots
    • Rust
    • Smut
    • Sooty Mould
    • Virus
    • Wilt
    • Caterpillars
    • Leafhoppers
    • Mealy Bugs
    • Millipedes
    • Mites
    • Nematodes
    • Scale
    • Slugs or Snails
    • Thrip
    • Whitefly
    • Viruses,
    • Others
    • Environmental Problems
  6. Australian Natives and Related Plants
    • Proteaceae Plants (Aulax, Banksia, Dryandra, Grevillea, Hakea, Isopogon, Leucadendron, Leucospermum, Macadamia, Mimetes, Persoonia Protea, Serruria and Telopea.)
    • Culture of Proteaceae cut flowers
    • Proteaceae propagation
    • Anigozanthus
    • Other Australian Cut Flowers
  7. Greenhouse Culture
    • The greenhouse business
    • Greenhouse system
    • Components of a greenhouse
    • What can be grown in a greenhouse?
    • Siting greenhouses
    • Types of greenhouses
    • Shade houses
    • Cold frames
    • Heated propagators
    • Framing and cover materials
    • Thermal screens
    • Wind breaks
    • Benches and beds
    • Environmental control; Temperature, moisture, irrigation, shading -both natural and with blinds/curtains, light-including supplemented light if needed, ventilation, levels of CO2, mist/fogging
    • Photosynthesis
    • Plants that respond to Carbon dioxide
    • Day length manipulation
    • Lighting and heating equipment
    • Horticultural management within the greenhouse
  8. Harvest and Post Harvest
    • Harvesting
    • Flower deterioration
    • Post harvest
    • Shelf life
    • Major factors that affect shelf life
    • Post harvest treatments
    • Other treatments
    • Grading standards
    • Conditioning flowers for market
    • Harvesting and grading carnations
    • Harvest and post harvest of selected orchids; Bud opening, transport, storing flowers
    • Cost Efficiency Standards
    • Quality Standards
    • Quantity Standards
    • Judging flowers
  9. Developing a Production Plan
    • Managing a cut flower farm
    • Deciding what to grow
    • Production plans
    • Decisions that need to be made
    • Farm layout
    • Design of a store
  10. Export Marketing
    • International flower marketing system
    • Aspects of export
    • Flower Exporting case study
    • Understanding marketing your produce
    • Consider your markets
    • Market research
    • What to research
    • How to sell successfully

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the physiological processes which affect flower development in plants.
  • Identify plant varieties suitable for commercial cut flower production.
  • Evaluate the suitability of different plants as cut flower crops.
  • Determine soil and nutrition requirements for cut flower growing.
  • Determine the cultural requirements for commercial production of a cut flower crop.
  • Determine harvest and post-harvest management practices for cut flower crops.
  • Develop a production plan for a cut flower crop.
  • Determine export market opportunities for cut flowers.

What You Will Do

  • Describe the botanical mechanisms involved in the process of flower initiation
  • Explain the effect of carbon dioxide enrichment on flowering
  • Determine factors causing aging of flowers different genera.
  • Compare different treatments to preserve cut flowers after harvest, including: *Glycerine *Drying *Pressing.
  • Determine procedures to produce cut flowers out of season for different cut flower species.
  • Compile a resource file of sources of information
  • Describe a wide range of different plants suitable to cut flowers and foliage growing in a specific locality.
  • Develop criteria for the selection of plant varieties to be grown as cut flower crops a specified property.
  • Determine Australian native plants with potential as a cut flower crop in a specific locality.
  • Explain the success of specified plant varieties as cut flowers.
  • Analyse the commercial viability of different cut flower crops being produced in a specified situation.
  • Perform simple tests on different soils to determine: *Soil type *pH *Drainage *Water holding capacity.
  • Compare the performance of a specified variety of cut flower in different soil types.
  • Determine appropriate cut flower crops to grow in different types of soils.
  • Recommend soil preparation techniques for a specific site, for a specified cut flower crop.
  • Compare the suitability of six different types of fertilisers for use with different cut flowers.
  • Analyse the nutritional management being practiced by different growers.
  • Identify five nutrient disorders on different cut flowers.
  • Explain the results of a plant tissue analysis to provide fertilizing recommendations.
  • Compare plant establishment techniques for different cut flowers, including planting and staking.
  • Explain the applications for different types of irrigation system, for cut flower production.
  • Differentiate between greenhouse and open field growing of a specified cut flower crop.
  • Develop guidelines for the pruning of different flower crops.
  • Determine common pest and disease problems, on specified cut flower crops
  • Prepare pest and disease management plans, for a twelve month period (or the life of crop), for two different cut flower crops.
  • Compare commercially available propagation methods for species of cut flowers.
  • Evaluate the use of ground and tap water.
  • Develop an integrated pest management program.
  • Describe common harvesting techniques for cut flowers.
  • Compare alternative post-harvest storage facilities for cut flowers.
  • Explain the commercial grading procedures for different types of cut flowers.
  • Inspect and determine the quality of different cut flowers, using a standard judging system.
  • Describe methods to extend cut flower life during storage and transport.
  • Evaluate the market value of different specified cut flower crops.
  • Determine cut flower crops with under developed commercial potential
  • Describe appropriate post-harvest techniques
  • Determine factors which effect the marketability..
  • Describe appropriate marketing methods for a selected flower crop.
  • Prepare a management plan, including: *materials and equipment lists *schedules of crop husbandry tasks *estimates of production costs *marketing strategies *contingency plans, for three selected flower crops.
  • Describe the production requirements for exporting cut flowers.
  • Describe the market requirements for cut flower exporting.
  • Analyse the current export market for cut flowers, including; *quantities and types of flowers being exported *where cut flowers are being exported to *prices growers are obtaining *trends in the market.

A cut flower grower's work may vary according to the type of plants they are growing, the way in which they are grown and how they are
harvested and treated after harvesting.  

Types of crops include:
  •     Herbaceous Annual or Perennial flower crops (e.g. carnations, sunflowers, poppies, stock, statice).
  •     Bulbs (e.g. lilies, hyacinth, tulips, daffodils, irises) - can be sold both the bulbs and cut flowers.
  •     Woody perennial plants (e.g. roses, proteas, ericas, thryptomene, chamaelaucium).
  •     Tropical or greenhouse plants (e.g. orchids, gingers, heliconias).

    Ways of growing cut flowers include:

  •  Crops grown in rows in open paddocks; as windbreaks or as intercrops, between other crops.
  •     In greenhouses or other protective structures.
  •     As hydroponic or aquaponic crops.

This course is relevant and valuable as a foundation for any and all of these situations.

Meet some of our academics

Marie BeermanMarie has over 10 years in horticulture and education in both Australia and Germany. Marie has been a co author of several ebooks in recent years, including "Roses" and "Climbing Plants". Marie's qualifications include B. Sc., M.Hort. Dip. Bus. Cert. Ldscp. PDC
Rosemary Davies Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences. Initially she worked with the Department of Agriculture in Victoria providing advice to the public. Over the years she has taught horticulture students, worked on radio with ABC radio (clocking up over 24 years as a presenter of garden talkback programs, initially the only woman presenter on gardening in Victoria) and she simultaneously developed a career as a writer. She then studied Education and Training, teaching TAFE apprentices and developing curriculum for TAFE, before taking up an offer as a full time columnist with the Herald and Weekly Times and its magazine department after a number of years as columnist with the Age. She has worked for a number of companies in writing and publications, PR community education and management and has led several tours to Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has completed her 6th book this year and is working on concepts for several others. Rosemary has a B Ed, BSc Hort, Dip Advertising & Marketing
John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Dr. Lynette Morgan Lyn has a broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. Her first job was on a mushroom farm, and at university she undertook a major project studying tomatoes. She has studied nursery production and written books on hydroponic production of herbs. Lyn has worked on horticultural projects in countries from the middle east to the Americas and New Zealand to the Phillippines. Lyn has been a tutor with ACS since 2003 and has contributed to the development of a range of hydroponic courses.

Check out our eBooks

Growing & Knowing Flowering BulbsGet to know your flowering bulbs and the optimum growing conditions for each with the Growing and Knowing Flowering Bulbs ebook. With 187 pages of hints and tips on growing flowering bulbs, as well as stunning colour pictures, this is an essential tool for your gardening kit! This ebook is ideal for gardeners, students and professional horticulturalists and includes a colour glossary of flowering bulbs.
Growing & Knowing AnnualsIdentifying and learning more about Annuals is made easily with this ebook. 141 pages of stunning colour photography and great information and facts on Annuals. Ideal for the home gardener, gardening student, horticulturalists and nursery professionals.
RosesThere are few things as uplifting as being greeted by the sweet fragrance of roses from your own garden. If you have always wanted to grow roses, or perhaps improve an established rose garden, make sure you are armed with the right knowledge! Learn from the masters in horticulture. This wonderfully colourful ebook will teach you everything you need to know about the passion of growing roses.
Commercial HydroponicsLearn how to grow vegetables, fruit, cut flowers, herbs and other plants hydroponically. This classic is now re-published with new images, a new layout and revised text. A must have resource for anyone who wants to grow hydroponically.