How to make your dahlias pay for themselves
Unlike most other addictions, a dahlia habit can pay for itself! Dahlias are quite capable of bringing in at least as much money as they cost you each year, even for the average gardener with no ambitions of becoming the next Floret Farm.
When my dad, Andy, started growing dahlias, his goal was always to double his stock each year without spending a dime out of pocket. I’m happy to say he succeeded, and we’ll show you how to do the same.
In this article we’ll show you three of the simplest ways to make your new dahlias pay for themselves this year.
This is meant to be a quick overview, but if you want to know exactly how much money you can earn with the dahlias you have to plant this season, check out our free Dahlia Earnings Calculator (more on that at the end of the article).
Now, on to the main event!
Selling your dahlias at your own flower stand
The simplest, easiest, and perhaps the most fun way to make your dahlias pay for themselves is to sell a few of your blooms to the public via a flower stand.
This is how we started out, and it’s how many other full-time flower farmers began, too. That’s not because a flower stand requires the expertise of a successful business owner. Quite the opposite. So many flower farmers start with a flower stand because it’s so easy and simple that absolutely anybody can do it, almost anywhere.
If you live in a suburban or urban neighborhood, or if you live in the country on a road with daily traffic, you can sell flowers from your own property, or from a neighbor’s (we do both).
Here’s what you need:
· Any amount of flowers. More is better, but you really can start with one single bouquet per day
· A sign that can be read from the street
· Something to display your flowers in that holds water
· A secure container for cash OR a digital payment processer tag (like a Venmo code)
To get you started quickly, this can be as simple as a few bouquets in a plain bucket, placed on a thrift-store table at the end of your driveway, with a hand lettered sign that says “Fresh flowers - $10 a bunch!”
Your cash box can be a Tupperware box with a slit in the lid, or not a box at all: a laminated sheet of paper with your Venmo QR code works just fine.
Remember, most people are honest. Place your stand as close to a home as possible to deter thefts, but don’t worry too much about it. We always experience a few thefts every year. It’s a part of the game, and you can’t let it stop you from playing. Sometimes it helps to imagine those few missing flowers were just people who didn’t have the cash on hand, but who meant to come back!
Selling your dahlias as a flower subscription
If for any reason you don’t want to or feel you can’t sell your dahlias at an unmanned stand, a bouquet subscription is a great alternative.
The idea behind flower subscriptions is this: instead of selling individual bouquets to many customers, you sell a seasonal supply to a few customers.
You’ll either deliver the bouquets to them yourself; have customers come to you for pickup at a regularly scheduled time; or drop off your bouquets for customers to pick up at a third party’s location, often a local business which benefits from the increased foot traffic.
This is perhaps the second most common way budding flower farmers start out, for a few reasons:
· Fewer customers are required, since each customer purchases flowers for a month, two months, or a whole season, ahead of time
· Selling flowers this way eliminates your reliance on local traffic, which is one of the biggest weaknesses of a flower stand
· Flowers sold this way can command a higher price, especially if the grower is delivering to a drop-off point or directly to the customer. · It eliminates the possibility of theft of flowers or money from your cash box. · Many people like knowing in advance exactly how many flowers they’ll need to harvest and arrange – this method removes the uncertainty of daily changes in demand. · If you have enough customers, you may only need to harvest, arrange, and deliver (or man pickup) one day a week!
The tradeoff with a bouquet subscription is that it requires a little more pre-season salesmanship to set up. But once you have your customers, you’re golden!
How to sell dahlia tubers to earn money to buy . . . more dahlia tubers!
We’ll let you in on a little secret – though we started with flower stands, and we still keep them stocked all summer and fall, we actually make most of our money now selling tubers.
Selling tubers is a different game than selling cut flowers, but it can be an excellent way to fund your ever-growing dahlia collection.
The gist of a tuber business is this: You buy dahlia tubers, plant them, and harvest 3-5 times as many viable tubers in the fall as you planted in the spring. You typically need to successfully store them yourself over the winter, and during the winter and spring you have to find customers locally or online to sell your tubers to.
For most home gardeners, it’s actually pretty easy to sell enough tubers to fund next year’s harvest, if you know where to find eager customers. We’ll write more on this in a future article, but here are your best bets for finding customers as a new seller:
· Post your stock on the Dahlia Growers Facebook page
· List them locally on Facebook marketplace
· Set up an Etsy shop (ours is linked as an example)
· Set up a simple Shopify website, add your tubers, and list your stock on dahliaaddict.com
If you have fewer than 100 tubers to sell, we recommend the first two methods. An Etsy shop, and a website linked to Dahlia Addict, are effective selling tools. But they do take a little while to learn and cost some money, so they’re only worth it if you have quite a few tubers to move. Once you know where the other dahlia addicts are (hey, we’re including ourselves) the challenges are primarily:
· Taking good photos of your dahlias while in bloom
· Successful winter storage
· Safe and cost-effective shipping
· Taking and tracking orders and payments
· Keeping up with customer service
We think the tuber biz is a lot of fun and while it’s a little different than selling flowers, it’s totally doable. We know many home growers enjoy selling small batches of their own tubers to fund next year’s acquisitions.
Exactly how much money can I earn with my dahlias? Try the Dahlia Earnings Calculator
But how much can you really make with dahlias? We’ve been asked that question many times now, so we made a calculator to answer it: not to tell you our numbers, but so you can figure out your own.
All you have to do is type one number into our pre-programmed spreadsheet and it’ll tell you exactly how much you could make from any given number of dahlias. It’s that easy.
This resource is free for our subscribers. If you’re not a member of our newsletter you can go ahead and sign up on our homepage, and you’ll receive the download link for the calculator.
You can see from the example above that it only takes about 35 tubers minimum to earn $1,000 in a year, if you combine cut flowers with tuber sales.
We hope by now you’ve seen that it’s not nearly as challenging as one might think to make your dahlias pay for themselves. We hope you enjoy this beautiful hobby, and if there’s ever anything we can do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask!