Learn to grow flowering bulbs as cut flowers. Learn about the various pests and diseases of flowering bulbs, where do you grow these plant, and marketing.

Course Code: BHT317
Fee Code: S3
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Work on a Cut Flower Farm or Set a a Farm using Bulbs for Cut Flowers


  • Learn to identify and grow hundreds of different bulb varieties
  • Broaden your horticultural knowledge, work on a bulb farm, or start a business

Have you always wanted to know more about growing your own flowers from bulbs? And would you like to do it commercially? This course is designed to develop your ability to select and cultivate appropriate varieties of bulbs as cut flowers, in different situations. It gives you an understanding of the various types used, their cultural needs, how to prevent and treat pest and disease problems. It also provides you with the basis of all good horticultural practice: understanding of soil types, plant nutritional needs and understanding plant families.

How Long is the Course?

Take as long as you want. Most people take around 100 hours spread over around 6 months; but if you want to put more effort in, that's OK, and you can take longer.



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


  • 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.


There are over 200 species of Iris and many thousands of cultivated varieties.

• There are species which will grow well in most temperate and sub tropical climates; and some that will grow in climates even wider than that.
• Some will grow totally submerged in water, others will withstand extended periods of dry.
• Some tolerate snow and frost, some will tolerate extreme heat.
• Some like heavy shade, others grow well in full sun.

It is important to choose the appropriate type of iris for the conditions you plan to grow it in.

Dutch Iris is perhaps the most commonly grown "bulbous" type of iris.

Dutch Iris 
• Herbaceous (foliage dies down and bulb becomes dormant)

From:  These originate as hybrids between Spanish Irises with an early flowering species including I. xiphium and I. tingitana
Sometimes written as Iris X hollandica (meaning a hybrid from Holland)

Conditions:  Easy to grow if bulbs are kept clean and healthy, Plant bulbs 7 to 15cm apart. Grow in full sun or sun with light shade for part of the day.
Average water requirement. Avoid over watering.
Best in slightly acid soil, but will grow from pH 6.1 to 7.8
Leaf fungal diseases can  cause early die back of leaves and stems and bulbs shrinking. Controlling leaf fungus can therefore be critical.  Clean and sort bulbs discarding damaged or diseased bulbs when lifting
Some varieties also subject to mosaic virus causing yellow streaks in flowers. Controlling aphis is important to stop the spread of virus.

Growth Habit:  Commonly 45 to 60cm tall

Flowering:  A huge range of flower colours are available including: Gold (Yellow-Orange), Pale  to bright Yellow, all shades of blue, Blue-Violet to Lavender and Purple, Maroon (Purple-Brown) and shades of White
Flowering occurs anytime early to late autumn.

Characteristics:  Parts of the plant are poisonous and can cause skin irritation.

The number of Dutch Iris varieties is immense. The varieties that are commonly grown do vary from time to time and one country to another. Varieties with Bronze tones in the flowers are often weaker growers.  The varieties listed below are just some of many that you may encounter.
Belle Jaune –Large clear yellow flower with orange falls
Blue Champion –Large bright clear blue flower
Bronze Queen –Blue to bronze falls, bronze and orange
Golden Harvest –Deep yellow flower, one of the easiest to grow and most prolific Dutch iris varieties
Imperator –Tall flower stems, deep blue flowers, late flowering
Joan or Arc –Large cream to white flowers, delicate petals
King Mauve  -Uniform soft mauve to blue flowers
Le Mogol  -Yellow marking on deep bronze-mahogany coloured flowers
Lemon Queen  -Citron yellow flower with sulphur yellow falls
Orange King  Rich deep orange flower. Weaker growing variety.
Princess Beatrix –Rich yellow and deep orange flowers
Princess Irene –Large flower, pure white with deep orange
Professor Blauw –Very large bulbs. Ultramarine violet blue flowers
Saxe Blue –Clear bright blue flower with a yellow blotch
Van Vliet  -Older variety, Bright blue flowers with a yellow blotch
Wedgewood –an early flowering variety
White Excelsior –Snow white flowers with a small yellow blotch


How to Plant A Bulb
Most bulbs are planted when dormant (often in autumn); however because bulbs do flower at different times of the year so need to be planted at appropriate times; some may be planted at different times in different areas. For example in very cold places like Calgary in Canada, the growing season might only be 3 or 4 months of the year, hence planting might be done in late spring (for a variety which is planted late winter in some milder places).
Some bulbs may be transplanted when in growth from a container, or the ground. This is not common practice however if growing bulbs with the intention of producing a cut flower crop.
The time of planting any particular bulb should be determined by:
•Species - some species might prefer planting at one particular time of the year more than others.
•The area or locality - planting times might be restricted more in harsh environments.
•Availability of bulbs - the nursery industry produces different types of plans to become available for sale at particular times of the year. At certain times you cannot plant certain things because you cannot buy them.
•Attention to be given to the plant.
General Guidelines for planting a dormant bulb, corm, rhizome or tuber
a) Prepare the soil first, removing weeds, ensuring fertility, appropriate ph, drainage and water retention characteristics.
b) Plant with the top facing upwards.
c) In heavier soil (eg. clay loam) plant so that the top is as deep as the diameter of the bulb (or dormant part).
d) In lighter soil (eg. sandy soils) plant twice as deep (twice the diameter of the bulb or dormant root).
e) Small bulbs should have at 5cm of soil over the top of the shallowest part of the plant.
f) Spacing between bulbs should be determined according to the expected size that the plant will grow above the ground. Some small bulbs may only need 5cm between plants, but large spreading plants such as liliums may need 40cm or more between plants.
g) Make sure bulbs are planted in appropriate position for that species ie. shade, full sun, semi-shade and so on.




Opportunities from this course to gain or create employment include:

  • 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

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Yvonne Sharpe

RHS Cert.Hort, Dip.Hort, M.Hort, Cert.Ed., Dip.Mgt. Over 30 years experience in business, education, management and horticulture. Former department head at a UK government vocational college. Yvonne has traveled widely within and beyond Europe, and has

Dr. Lynette Morgan (Crops)

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.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

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 edito

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