When you book a wedding or sell a bouquet subscription you are basically selling flowers that you’ll have next week or next month or next fall. That means you need to have the flowers that your customers are wanting next week, next month, or next fall! How can you make sure that you have what you need? You do it with succession planting.
Unlike a traditional florist who can order flowers from anywhere in the world to prepare for an event, you want to use your locally grown flowers. You have to be thinking about your flower supply for the whole season.
Succession planting is planting certain varieties multiple times over the course of a growing season. It sounds simple enough, but planning it all out can get a little complicated.
There are many factors that go into planning each variety of flower that you are planting:
- How long between planting and blooming?
- How long does it stay in bloom?
- How cold hardy is it?
- Will it be direct-seeded or transplanted?
- How long is your season?
(side note: I tend to treat re-blooming flowers as a bonus and not blooms that I can depend on.)
I wrote a succession planting guide that lays this out. You can get it at the bottom of this post. But let’s do a quick example about planning out Sunflowers.
Let’s say I want to have Sunflowers all season.
- How long between planting and blooming? 60 days (for this example)
- How long does it stay in bloom? 14 days
- Is it cold and heat tolerant? Somewhat frost hardy
- Will it be direct seeded or transplanted? Transplanted
- How long is my season? Last frost date is May 4th, First frost date is October 5th
Since sunflowers can handle some frost, I can plant seedlings out under a row cover two weeks before my last frost date. That means I could plant sunflowers on April 20th. 60 days after that they will bloom. That means I will get my first sunflowers the last week of June. (You may do the math and calculate April 20th + 60 days is June 19th. But the time to bloom days are dependent on a lot of factors, so it’s good to err on the side of caution!)
And it would be great if I could keep sunflowers going all the way until my first frost date.
To calculate the latest I can plant sunflowers before they are in danger of frost, I have to subtract the days to bloom from my first frost date. 60 days before October 5th is August 10th.
So I will put out my first planting of sunflowers on May 4th and my last planting on August 10th. Since the sunflowers bloom over the course of approximately two weeks, I can space my plantings out every two weeks. This means when one planting is finishing, the other one is coming into bloom. And I can have sunflowers all season!
So my sunflower planting days would be:
This gives me a total of 8 succession plantings.
If that makes sense, bear with me for one more complication! I said that I am going to be transplanting my sunflowers. Sunflowers can be transplanted after growing out for about two weeks (they get big quickly!). If I plan on transplanting all of my sunflowers I’ll need to add those extra weeks to my schedule. So my succession planting schedule for sunflowers would look like this:
April 27th – Start round 1 seedlings
May 4th – Plant round 1 outside, start round 2 inside
May 18th – Plant round 2 outside, start round 3 inside
June 1st – Plant round 3 outside, start round 4 inside
June 15th – Plant round 4 outside, start round 5 inside
June 29th – Plant round 5 outside, start round 6 inside
July 13th – Plant round 6 outside, start round 7 inside
July 27th – Plant round 7 outside, start round 8 inside
August 10th – Plant round 8 outside
Let’s pretend that sunflowers needed 3 weeks before transplanting, then it gets more complicated:
April 13th – Start round 1 seedlings
April 27th – Start round 2 seedlings
May 4th – Plant round 1 outside
May 11th – Start round 3 seedlings
May 18th – Plant round 2 outside
…and so on….
Hopefully that makes sense! Like I said above, here’s a printable planner you can download to work through the process yourself.