Cut Flower Bulbs

Learn to grow flowering bulbs: pest and diseases of flowering bulbs, where to grow flowering bulbs, markets for flowering bulbs.

Course Code: BHT317
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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  • Use bulbs as cut flowers, landscape plants or nursery stock
  • Operate a flower farm or nursery, develop new cultivars, indulge a passion
  •  Study anytime, from anywhere, at your own pace
  • Expert tutors -professionally trained horticulturists with decades of experience

Select and cultivate appropriate varieties of bulbs, in different situations. It gives you an understanding of the plant families bulbs belong to, their cultural needs, how to prevent and treat pest and disease problems plus the basis of horticultural knowledge: soil types and plant nutritional needs.


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Cut Flower Bulb Production
    • Overview of floriculture
    • Information on flower structure
    • How plants grow
    • Specialised vegetative structure
    • Introduction to hydroponics
    • Classification of hydroponic systems
  2. Cultural Practices
    • Understanding soil composition, structure and texture
    • Ways to improve soil
    • Importance and types of soil water
    • Soil pH
    • Nutrient availability and pH
    • Soil and plant tissue analysis
    • Soil degradation and rehabilitation (erosion, salinity, acidification etc)
    • The nutrient elements (major and minor)
    • Diagnosing nutritional problems
    • Fertilisers (types, application, etc)
    • Natural fertilisers
    • Fertiliser selection
    • Weed control methods
  3. Flower Initiation & Development
    • Encouraging plants to flower out of season
    • Ways to cause controlled flowering
    • How to modify plant environment
    • Photosynthesis
    • Carbon dioxide enrichment
    • Response of plants to CO2
    • General guidelines of planting bulbs
    • Mulching
    • Soil mixes and potting media
  4. Pest & Disease Control
    • Law in relation to chemical used
    • Disease identification and management in bulb crops
    • Plant viruses detection and diagnosis
    • Pest identification and management in bulb crops
    • Environmental Problems and their treatment
  5. Managing Yield, Greenhouse Culture
    • Greenhouse growing system
    • Components of greenhouse facility
    • Types of greenhouse
    • Commonly used greenhouse designs
    • Shade houses
    • Greenhouse benches and beds
    • Environmental control in greenhouses
    • Measurements of environmental factors
    • Heating, cooling and ventilation systems
    • Lighting
    • Horticultural management in a greenhouse (pest and disease, irrigation etc)
    • Plant and water relation
    • Growing bulbs in open ground
    • Irrigating field grown bulbs
    • Types of irrigation system
  6. Management, Harvest & Post Harvest
    • Managing market gardens
    • Factors in Deciding Which Plants to Grow
    • Production and crop scheduling
    • Cost efficiency standards
    • Quality and quantity standards
    • Farm layout (design of a store)
    • Marketing bulb crops
    • The marketing process (supply and demand, market research etc)
    • Aging in cut flowers
    • Factors affecting the longevity of cut flowers
  7. Gladiolus and Liliums
    • Classification of liliums and gladiolus
    • Growing conditions
    • Soil and nutrition
    • Planting and propagation
    • Pest and diseases
    • Harvest and post-harvest
  8. Narcissus
    • Classification of narcissus
    • Growing conditions
    • Soil and nutrition
    • Planting and propagation
    • Pest and diseases
    • Harvest and post-harvest
  9. Iris
    • Classification of Iris
    • Growing conditions
    • Soil and nutrition
    • Planting and propagation
    • Pest and diseases
    • Harvest and post-harvest
  10. Other Bulbs
    • Scented bulbs
    • Alstroemeria
    • Amaryllis
    • Dahlia
    • Freesia
    • Hyacinth
    • Ranunculus
    • Orchids
    • Ways of judging flower quality

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.


  • Describe cultural practices for production of different cut flower bulbs, including the basis of all good Horticulture with understanding of soils, plant nutrition, and weed control.
  • Understand the initiation and development of flowers in plants with bulbs, rhizomes, tubers, corms or other specialized parts. A look at the factors affecting the flowering stages.
  • Learn how to manage any pests and diseases for a crop of cut flower bulbs or in the home garden.
  • Manage the quantity and quality of a crop of cut flower bulbs, both grown in the open and in a greenhouse. In this lesson we also have a good look at the various systems of growing cut flower bulbs in greenhouses and look at ways to manage the environmental conditions in them.
  • Learn about the management and the harvest/post harvest of cut flower bulbs.
  • Explain the production of Lilium and Gladioli cut flower crops.
  • Explain the production of Narcissus cut flower crops.
  • Explain the production of Iris and Gladioli cut flower crops.
  • We look at the a comparison of a variety of different cut flower bulb crops.

Learn to Cultivate Bulbs for Cut Flowers

Cut flowers enrich the lives of millions of people every year.  Flowers are in demand all year round with peak requirements at special times of the year, such as for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and so on. Particular festivals often influence the type of flowers required eg. red roses for Valentine’s Day.

Cut flower businesses produce flowers and foliage for a mixture of markets such as wholesale flower markets, florists and retail outlets, and in some cases for export. The wide range of different bulbs are grown as flowers; including lilies, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, iris and many others. One big advantage of bulbs over other types of flowers is that the grower can have a secondary source of income selling the bulbs during the dormant season; on top of selling harvested flowers.

Floriculture includes propagating, growing and marketing of all cut flowers, flower seeds and seedlings, bulb growing, nursery operation, chemical protection of plants, post-harvest storage and handling and use of preservatives.

A proportion of flower production takes place in greenhouses. In addition to the greenhouse production, floriculture encompasses outdoor production of herbaceous plants and flowers, and field production of cut flowers.

Cut flower production is an expanding industry worldwide. It has a great deal of export potential, and although most flower producing countries meet the domestic requirements of their cut flower markets, the home market potential in many countries could be further developed. Spending on cut flowers is stronger in some countries than others, the average Australian for example spends far less on cut flowers than say, the average German or Frenchman).

Germany imports most of their cut flower requirements (up to 70%) with The Netherlands being the largest exporter to Germany. Japan and the United States have the largest cut flower market almost doubling that of Germany. During the later part of the 20th century, cut flower production developed rapidly.

Colombia, Israel and to a lesser degree, Australia, developed export cut flower industries rapidly during this period with China and India having the largest areas under cultivation (but low yields per hectare).

The Netherlands has been, and continues to be a major export market that also has a large domestic demand, the local demand almost equaling exports. Countries such as India and China although having large production areas are still in the developing stage mainly due to the low quality of exports and the financial constraints limiting imports. Colombia and Kenya export most of the cut flowers produced with only a small local market.

Being in the southern hemisphere means that some countries (eg. Australia, South Africa, New Zealand) are able to produce out of season flowers for the northern hemisphere where most of the world's population resides.

How to Grow Daffodils and Jonquils

The scientific name (genus) for daffodils and jonquils is "Narcissus".  There are as many as 60 true species depending which authority you consult. In addition, there are many natural varieties and forms, and thousands of named cultivars. Most of the true species originate from Europe and North Africa although bunch-flowered types also come from Asia. 

These bulbs have long thin strap-like grey to green leaves to 35cm long with rounded tips. The flowers of almost all species have a central cup-shaped, bell-shaped, trumpet-shaped or flattened corona. The corona is surrounded by six outer petals known as the perianth which are fused together at the base to form a tube.   

Daffodils are one of the hardiest spring-flowering bulbs. They do well in most climates, with the exception of tropical areas. Soil should be well-drained and fertile and so it is as well to enrich the soil with organic matter before planting. Plant in full sun or part shade. Planting should be done in early autumn. Plant bulbs at 10 15cm depth and 10 25cm apart (depending on the effect you wish to create). Although they are most usually recognised as spring time bulbs, flowering time varies according to the variety and is also very dependent on the location   the earliest varieties appear in early winter whilst the latest varieties flower in late spring. After flowering, leave the leaves to die naturally as these will provide the food store for the next year's flowers.  

Increase bulbs by lifting and dividing offsets every 3 4 years.  The new bulbs will separate quite easily from the larger parent bulb. They may also be grown from seeds sown in the summer but may take between 3 and 7 years to produce flowers. They may also be of poorer quality and not very true to type.  

They are prone to a number of pests and diseases. Virus diseases can be particularly problematic and include cucumber mosaic virus and arabis mosaic virus. They often result in chlorotic leaves or yellow mottling of the foliage and poor flowers. Sometimes bulbs have blindness caused by dry soil early in the growing season whereby the shoots emerge but soon brown off and die back. Grey mould may attack and destroy above ground parts, often following narcissus fire - a condition in which leaves and flowers develop brown spots and rot during humid weather. Common pests include the narcissus fly whose maggots eat into the bulbs. Tarsonid mites may also burrow between the bulb's scales and hinder growth. Eelworms may also infiltrate the bulbs and cause distorted growth or death. Slugs are also partial to the bulbs.       

Daffodils, with their larger flowers, have more potential as cut flowers. Jonquils are nevertheless, still grown as cut flowers also.
Plant single varieties in massed beds for a formal appearance, intersperse with other plants in the garden bed in clumps or drifts for an informal effect, or plant under deciduous trees in random groups to create a naturalised 'wild' garden effect.

Narcissus are divided into several groups, according to the flower type. Varieties listed are available from specialist bulb growers.

Division 1. Trumpet Daffodils   the 'traditional' daffodil. The trumpet (also called corona or cup) is at least as long as the perianth (the surrounding petals). They are early to mid-season flowering.   
N. 'King Alfred' - an older trumpet daffodil variety favoured by many for its early flowering and gold blooms.
N. 'Aztec Gold' - a trumpet daffodil with golden yellow, serrated cups.
N. 'Golden Harvest' - a trumpet daffodil with extra large golden yellow flowers.
N. 'Glacier' - a trumpet daffodil with large white flowers. They are late flowering.

Division 2. Large cupped Daffodils   the corona is over one third but less than half of the petal length. They flower in early to mid-season and are generally vigorous and long lasting varieties.  
N. 'Emerald' - a large-cupped daffodil with large a ruffled lemon yellow cup and white perianth.
N. 'Salmon Trout' - a large-cupped daffodil with a salmon pink cup and white petals.
N. 'Poached Egg' - a large-cupped daffodil with an orange yellow cup and yellow petals.

Division 3. Small cupped Daffodil (Short-cupped)   the corona is less than one third of the length of the petals. They flower in mid-season.  They are good for clump or drift plantings in the garden bed, or for naturalising under trees. 
N. 'Cascade'- a short-cupped daffodil with white flowers with a frilled flat cup.
N. 'Lemonade' - a short-cupped daffodil with greenish lemon flowers maturing to creamy yellow.

Division 4. Double flowered Daffodils   the cups are "filled". They may need more protection than other varieties. These generally flower in mid to late season.
N. 'Acropolis' - a double-flowered daffodil with tall, broad white petals interspersed with small red petals.
N. 'Double Event' - a double-flowered daffodil with white and lemon yellow flowers.
N. 'Erlicheer' - a double-flowered daffodil with multi flowered stems of ivory and primrose yellow flowers.
N. 'Texas' - a tall double-flowered daffodil with large yellow and orange flowers.

Division 5. Triandrus Daffodils - these have two to three pendent flowers per stem with and trumpet-shaped cups reflexed perianth petals. 
N. 'April Tears' - a triandrus daffodil with yellow flowers having rounded cups and petals. 
N. 'Rippling Waters' - a vigorous-growing triandrus daffodil with a white cup and petals. 

Division 6. Cyclamineus Daffodils - these have one pendent flower per stem with long trumpet-shaped cups and notably reflexed perianth petals. They are small growing, and so especially suitable for rockeries, containers, or planting along border edges. They are early to mid-season flowering.
N. 'Titania' - a cyclamineus daffodil with creamy white trumpet-shaped flowers.
N. 'Beryl' - a cyclamineus daffodil with primrose yellow petals, and a deep orange trumpet-shaped cup.

Division 7. Jonquilla Daffodils (including Apodanthus Daffodil Cultivars) - these have often multi headed, fragrant flowers and broad reflexed petals and a typically shallow corona which may be funnel-shaped, trumpet-shaped or flared. They flower in mid-season.
N. 'Cragford' - a jonquilla daffodil with creamy white petals and orange red cup.  
N. 'Sweetness' - a jonquilla daffodil with golden yellow, broad petals with a long cup.

Division 8. Tazetta Daffodils (including Poetaz cultivars)   these have a sweet scent and multi flowered stems.  The small flowers have a short cup and petals are often crinkled.
N. 'Geranium' - a poetaz variety of tazetta daffodil with white petals and orange red cups.
N. 'Scarlet Gem' - a tazeta daffodil with golden yellow petals with an orange red cup.

Division 9. Poeticus Daffodils   these are fragrant, late-flowering narcissi. They have white petals with a small, flat, red edged cup.  They are excellent for 'wild' or natural gardens.
N. 'Actaea' - a poeticus daffodil with large flowers with uneven white petals and a yellow flattened cup with red edge. 
N. 'Sea Green' - a poeticus daffodil with white petals and a large, pale green eye with a red band. They tend to flower in very late spring.

Division 10. Bulbocodium Daffodils - these usually have just one flower per stem. They are often short with dominant coronas and insignificant perianths. They flower early in the season and can become naturalised in grass.
N. 'Little Soldier' - a bulbocodium daffodil with dark yellow shortened cup-shaped corona and petals which are slightly pointed.   

Division 11. Split-corona Daffodils - these have a corona which is split for at least one third but often more than one half of its length. Included here are the Collar varieties which have the corona segments opposite the perianth segments and often in whorls of three. Another group are the Papillon varieties which have the corona segments alternate to the perianth segments and often in a whorl of six and having a much flatter surface. 
N. 'Colorama' - a split-corona daffodil with orange cups and yellow petals.
N. 'Canasta' - a split-corona daffodil with yellow cups and white petals.

Division 12. Miscellaneous daffodils - a mixed group including those which do not fit well into any of the other groups. There are not many in this group and few which are widely used for garden use. 

Division 13. Species Daffodils - these include wild Narcissus species, forms and hybrids.   


Work can be varied according to what is grown, how it is grown and how it is harvested and marketed.

Growing bulbs in open paddocks can be relatively low tech. Routine tasks may include cultivating paddocks, planting, weeding, watering, spraying pests, harvesting flowers, lifting and dividing bulbs, post-harvest handling (e.g. packing, applying chemicals to lengthen the flowers lifespan), and shipping.

Growing in a greenhouse may be more or less high-tech operation, requiring a high level of scientific knowledge and hands on technical skills. Some growers use sophisticated equipment to control the environment and manipulate flowering times. Others may do much the same as growing in an open field, except having the crop covered with a greenhouse.l


Flowers are always in demand, especially if you can produce something that transports well, has a good shelf life, and is different to what is widely available to florists at the moment. Flowers can command the best price when demand is high and supply is low. Demand for flowers exists all year round, but an extra demand occurs at certain occasions (e.g. Christmas, Mothers Day, Weddings, Funerals).

In many places around the world, certain flowers are seasonal; many cut flower growers have built a successful business based upon providing flowers outside of the normal season. Other growers have achieved success by finding and introducing a type of flower that is not readily available in a market.  

Some flowers are always in high demand and low supply; and these are often the ones that are not only easier to sell, but reap the greatest profit. Getting to know what to grow though, takes a knowledge of flower growing first, then connections with the industry so as to heighten your awareness. You won't connect with the industry though unless you first learn to grow the flowers. This is why studying a course like this is a good starting point.
  • Farming of cut flower bulb production
  • Greenhouse management of cut flower bulb production
  • Managing the production of cut flower bulbs for the commercial market
  • Maintenance of flowering bulbs in garden displays


Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
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Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
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ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
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Since 1999 ACS has been a recognised member of IARC (International Approval and Registration Centre). A non-profit quality management organisation servicing education.

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