How to Start a Business Growing and Selling Tulips

Learn how to plant, grow and sell tulip bulbs and flowers for profit.

| September/October 1972

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    Raising flowers is an ideal business for homesteaders.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    Beautiful tulips are easy to grow for profit.
    PHOTO: FOTOLIA/IWEIDE
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    All tulips which have not been used as cut flowers, regardless of variety, are removed as soon as they begin to fade. This prevents the spread of possible disease and gives us larger (and more) bulbs.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    Every fall we plant thousands of bulblets five to seven across in trenches. Although this phase of tulip growing is the most tedious and hardest on back and leg muscles, it's very important . . . for most of the bulbs we sell develop from such sets.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    Tulips should be lifted carefully (so that the brittle stems do not snap off the bulb clusters) with a garden fork in June and stored through the summer. This produces vigorous bulbs for autumn sale.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    Once the bulblets are in bloom, Jay inspects them for possible new hybrids. We've produced several entirely new Rembrandts of our own and two sports.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    There is no better fertilizer for tulips than well-made compost. These firm bulb clusters owe their health to the richly composted soil clinging to their roots.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    The leather-like cover of this bulb cluster has been removed to show how tulips multiply in just one year. The one bulb planted last fall has produced two large bulbs ready for sale, one medium-sized bulb that will be ready for sale next spring and three bulblets.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    After lifting, all tulip plants should be heeled-in a shallow trench for a few days so that the nutrients in their stems can move down to the bulbs where they're stored for future growth. Bulbs so treated keep better and flower well the following spring.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK
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    A fraction of the bulblets grown in our garden trenches are shown graded according to size as they dry in trays.
    J.F. MICHAJLUK

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Green thumbers who want to start a small business on a shoestring might be well advised to try growing tulips for profit. The market for bulbs is far from saturated and—contrary to popular belief—the colorful, hardy plants grow as well in this country as in Holland when planted in an organically enriched soil.

There are more ways to make money growing tulips than you might have imagined, too. You can sell bulblets and flowering-sized bulbs in the fall and potted, "forced" flowering tulips find a ready market around Easter. The rest of spring and summer (especially around Mother's Day) you can supply fresh-cut flowers to florists, greenhouses and individuals. I even pick up welcome extra dollars by selling articles about and photographs of my tulips . . . and find that garden clubs and schools will often pay for lectures and slide shows about raising the flowers.

My husband, Jay, and I fell into the part-time tulip business here in West Hatfield, Massachusetts by accident nearly 20 years ago when a magazine editor asked me to do an arficle on the flowers. At that time I intended to grow tulip bulbs for just one year as research for the piece . . . little realizing that I'd wind up with a delightful spare-time enterprise that still nets me almost $1,000 a year, and which could produce a cash flow at least three times that any time we choose! I'm sure, with just a little help, you can do as well.

How to Start a Flower Business on a Shoestring

If you intend to grow tulips on a commercial basis, I recommend you start with at least 100 bulbs each of three different colors (the most popular hues are white, pink, bright red, brilliant yellow and the soft pastel shades) of the Cottage, Darwin, Breeder, Single Early and Lily-Flowered varieties. These are sure sellers and will return your investment quickly. Later, as your new business begins to roll, you can add a wider selection for your customers to choose from.



The only trouble with this "minimum" start, of course, is that—small as it may eventually seem to you—it can be expensive in the beginning. One hundred bulbs each of three colors of five different varieties adds up to 125 dozen bulbs. At even a bargain $1.75 a dozen, that can run into money . . . unless you find a way around the problem, as Jay and I did.

We waited until late fall and approached the manager of our local garden shop. When we stated we'd be happy to take any unsold bulbs off his hands for a flat $5.00, he gladly agreed and loaded us down with 30 dozen assorted colors and varieties. We then cut costs further by passing up high-priced bulb food in favor of our own freshly made, 14-day compost.






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