News and knowhow for farmers

Fact sheet on growing cut flowers for export

cut flower ammi

Farmers venturing into growing of flowers are sure of ready market for their produce thanks to a high demand in the international market.

According to the 2019 Economic Survey Report, export earnings from cut flowers grew by 37.7 per cent to Sh113.2bn and accounted for 73.6 per cent of total fresh horticulture exports earnings in 2018. The high export earnings from cut flowers was attributed to better prices offered by buyers in the United Kingdom, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Norway and Australia.

The Kenya Flower Council reports that Kenya is the third largest exporter of cut flowers in the world, accounting for 38 per cent of all sales in the European Union. More than 500,000 smallholder farmers in the country depend on the trade according to the Kenya Flower Council. The main production areas are around Lake Naivasha, Mt. Kenya, Nairobi, Thika, Kiambu, Athi River, Kitale, Nakuru, Kericho, Nyandarua, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Eastern Kenya.

The main cut flowers grown in Kenya are roses, carnations, and Alstromeria. Other flowers cultivated include, Gypsophilla, Lilies Eryngiums, arabicum, hypericum and ammi cut flowers.

Ammi cut flowers for instance are yellowish-white in color. It has a slight scent and is propagated by seeds. The main varieties grown in Kenya are ammi majus, which have a lacy white head and about 15cm in diameter. Ammi visanaga is a greenish white flower.

The crop adapts to soil rich in organic matter. Prepare the land to attain file tilth and incorporate well rotten manure into the soil at the rate of 10kg/m2.

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Ammi cut flowers. Photo/premierseedsdirect.com. 

Make beds one meter wide and convenient length with a pathway of 50cm. Make shallow furrows at a spacing of 15cm between the rows. Sprinkle the bed with water one day before planting to ensure the soil is moist.  Plant the seeds on the furrows at the rate of 30g/100m2. After planting, mulch the beds immediately and thin the crop after germination to 30 plants per square meter. Weed the plants as soon as the weeds appear to maintain a clear field.

One month after planting, top dress the flowers with nitrogen at a rate of 50g/m2 NPK 17:17:17 fertiliser. To improve the quality of flowers, apply foliar sprays of potassium nitrate fertilizer every two weeks two months after planting. For effective vegetative growth, apply over-head irrigation up to the flowering stage the drip or surface irrigation thereafter.

Since ammi cut flowers are weak, they are likely to bend before maturity and therefore require support. You can use net, wire or bamboo to support the plants. In case of wire for example, stretch the supporting wires in between the rows along the bed length 30cm above the ground level. Place bamboo sticks on wires across the bed between the plants. Alternate the wires above and below the bamboo sticks.

The flowers are ready for harvesting at three months. Harvest when at least a third of the flowers have started to open by cutting using a sharp knife.

Remove lower leaves of the stems and place in a plastic water bucket containing a preservative solution such as Florissant.  Keep the flowers under a shade to avoid heat buildup.

The crop can yield 120 to 180 stems per square meter and 280,000 to 320,000 stems per acre.

The gross margin per 100m2 is Sh7,100.28 and Sh712,800 per ha.

Cut flower production increased from 160,000 tonnes in 2017 to 161,200 tonnes in 2018 according to the 2019 Economic Survey report released by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in April.

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