overview of flower industry
There are two
main areas of flower production in South Africa. The
western Cape and the Highveld (Greater Johannesburg and
Pretoria region). The average South African flower
grower cultivates 4.5ha and employs 16 full time and 3
part time workers per hectare. Nearly a third of the
growers produce roses compared to 25% growing
chrysanthemums and 13% carnations. Approximately 420ha
of protected area and 20 000 ha of natural environment
was harvested in 1998. Rose production dominated the
market, followed by chrysanthemums and carnations. Forty
five percent of production areas are unprotected, ie. In
open fields, 27% are under shade netting; 16%
greenhouses with natural ventilation and 12% greenhouses
with fan ventilation. Roses are grown on 59% of the
production area, chrysanthemums on 25% and carnations on
Low technology facilities still dominate the industry,
with South African flower growers still focusing on
production rather than on marketing. Only 42% of the
growers are engaged in some form of market research,
while less than 60% identified the need for formal
More than 50% of the flower production in South Africa
is distributed through the Johannesburg and Pretoria
auction houses (Multiflora). Sixteen percent of the
produce is exported through an agent; 6% is exported
directly; 12% is sold to local wholesalers and 11% sold
directly to the public.
Need to draw up a
Need to have a good idea of what capital you have at
your disposal and what the overall costs are.
What type of cut
flowers are to be grown? Different flowers have
different requirements and slightly different cost
The type of flower very often determines the type of
structure you will need to use (ie. Tunnel, shade or
Where to grow is also important. The lay of the land,
the water source, etc.
Remember to orientate your structures or flower beds
north-south, as best as possible.
Marketing of your
flowers is important. Too often people don't promote
their flowers enough. Part of the marketing is which
markets are you going to target?
There are 3
main "structures" used in growing flowers
- Tunnels or
- Shade structures
- Open cultivation
The type of structure
or method used depends largely on the type of cut
flowers you are wanting to grow. Generally speaking,
tunnels are the best as the environment can be
controlled the easiest this way (eg water - rain),
however, tunnels or greenhouses are also normally the
most expensive outlay of the above 3 methods.
It will work out much cheaper if you erect the
Except for large greenhouses it is relatively easy to
build and erect your own tunnels and shade structures.
Also, there are often second-hand structures available.
The first thing
you do with your soil and water is to have it tested.
This test indicates to a person exactly what minerals,
etc are in the soil and what is lacking. This gives one
a starting point to calculate what needs to be added to
get the soil to acceptable norms.
Furthermore, when it comes to fertilizing the flowers
one needs to know what minerals are already present in
Also very important is the pH of the soil and water. pH
indicates the acidity / alkalinity of the water or soil.
This is important because different flowers require a
different pH to grow properly.
The minerals needed by the plants are divided into
macro- and micro- elements. As the name implies macro
are elements needed in larger amounts and micro are
elements needed in smaller amounts.
The macro elements are the following:
- Nitrogen (N);
Phosphorus (P); Potassium (K); Calcium (Ca);
The micro elements are
- Iron (Fe); Manganese
(Mn); Zinc (Zn); Copper (Cu); Boron (B)
The pH and EC (Electric
conductivity) of the soil and water is very important to
know. The pH gives one and indication of the acidity or
alkalinity of the soil or water. The EC gives one an
indication of the total minerals dissolved in the soil
It is also important to know the P-Bray figure of the
soil. Phosphorus is the one element that moves slowly
out of the soils. The P-Bray thus gives an indication of
the reservoir of phosphorus present in the soil
Water is the
most important aspect of cut flower growing.
The irrigation water needs to be of good quality and
If the pH or hardness of the water is too high then
steps need to be taken to adjust it. To simply leave the
water as such will result in one not producing top
REMEMBER: Quality is the number one factor that needs to
be achieved in cut flower production to stay competitive
and in business.
There are two main methods of irrigating flowers,
namely, overhead and drip irrigation.
The system one chooses to use is determined by a few
factors. These factors are things such as what type of
flowers are being grown (different flowers sometimes
prefer different systems) and how much water is
available. Factors such as production method also
determine the system used.
It is necessary
to fertilize cut flowers if one wants to achieve a top
Fertigation can be done organically or with the use of
artificial fertilizers. As well as a combination of the
two. Fertigation can be divided into preplant and
ongoing fertigation. Preplant is fertilizer that is
applied before one plants and during land preparation.
While ongoing fertigation is the fertilizer that is
applied during the growing process of the flowers.
There are different systems that can be used to
administer the fertilizer. Most large concerns use what
is commonly known has an A- and B- Tank system. This is
where raw, bulk fertilizers are used and administered
through two tanks.
Smaller setups tend to use a basic one tank system where
a ready mix fertilizer is applied through the one tank.
Another method of fertigation is side- or hand-
dressing. This is simply a method by which granular
fertilizer is applied to the soil by hand and watered in
later. In the first two methods water-soluble
fertilizers need to be used, which is not the case with
side- or hand- dressing.
It is of utmost
importance to inspect one's flowers on a daily basis for
pests and diseases. Pests and diseases can be divided
into the following main groups:
Insects; fungi; bacteria; viruses.
In most cases there is very little one can do about
viruses and usually they are not of major concern in
annual crops. Bacteria are also not usually a major
cause of problems. The two main groups for concern are
insects and fungi.
Fungi infections can be soil-, water- or air-borne.
Insects can be a pest above or below ground, and can
target all parts of the plant. That is, the roots,
leaves, stems or flowers.
Most pesticides are divided into insecticides and
It is important to obtain and follow a spray programme.
Incorrect application of pesticides results in
resistance being built up against such chemicals.
handling of cut flowers is an area that is often
neglected by growers. Always remember that each aspect
of cut flower growing is important to the ultimate
quality and success of the flowers produced. That is
from the preparation of the soil to the transporting of
the flowers to the market destination.
Different cut flowers need to be harvested at different
opening or ripening stages and different markets often
have different requirements regarding opening stage.
Always try to get the flowers into water as quick after
harvesting as possible. In most cases use a preservative
to treat the flowers to help retard premature ageing.
Different flowers and markets also require different
packaging. In most cases flowers are packaged into
cellophane sleeves. Some sleeves have holes, while other
sleeves are of materials that are porous. Cost and
marketing plays big roles regarding the final packaging
that one uses.
In most cases it is important to get the heat off the
harvested flowers as soon as possible. For real quality
and success a coldroom in necessary. This is also
necessary when one needs to store flowers for a few
Transport needs to be properly thought through. Never
transport flowers in an open vehicle, unless in cartons.
Obviously, the best method is to use closed vehicles
with temperature and humidity controls.
flowers can be very profitable and rewarding. However,
it is important not to try and take short-cuts. Quality
must never be undermined and one must stick to the
fundamentals. Remember, growing cut flowers for profit
is a business and it must be run like any other
successful business to be successful.
For more advice contact:
Tel: 082 564-1211