With so many profitable plant choices available to specialty crop growers, why do woody ornamentals belong on their top 10 list? Woody ornamentals, for those who are not familiar with these appealing perennial plants, are shrubs and trees with branches that are harvested and sold to florists and crafters.
Woody ornamentals have colorful stems, unusual stems like the corkscrew willow, or stems with berries, buds or flowers to add eye appeal. Some of the better known woodies include holly in winter, pussy willows in spring and dogwood, forsythia and hydrangeas in late spring and summer.
Most woody ornamental stems are large and expensive to ship, so local growers have a price advantage, as well as a freshness advantage, over distant growers. That’s why florists and other woody stem buyers appreciate local growers who can supply fresh, quality stems at reasonable prices. Here are 6 ways to profit from growing fresh local woody cuts:
1. Flowering stems. These beautiful branches are sold in the spring and fall, and include viburnum, lilac and redbud. To stretch the harvest season, growers often plant different varieties of the same tree or shrub with different bloom times.
2. Foliage stems. These are also popular woodies, and can be harvested and sold over a very long season in most areas. The smoke tree is a spectacular example that always sells well. Boxwood is another steady seller that is harvested in late fall and early winter for holiday arrangements.
3. Fruiting stems. Although not as common, stems with fruit are very profitable for growers. Examples include golden or red holly berries that are so popular for Christmas arrangements, and the dried orange fruit of bittersweet.
4. Plain stems. These are harvested and sold in the late fall and winter when the leaves have dropped, and the stem color is more visible. Both willow and dogwood varieties produce a rainbow of colors.
5. Value-added products. Many specialty crop growers double or triple their profits by taking an extra step or two beyond just selling the basic woody stems, flowers or fruit. Some use the fruit of woodies to make gourmet jelly, jam or chutney, while others package aromatic leaves into sachets. Crafting is a time-tested way to add value. One willow grower uses his stems to create rustic willow rocking chairs that sell for over $500, and can not keep up with demand. Another grower grows twisted filbert stems to craft exquisite walking sticks that bring $40 to $50 each. Others weave willow baskets, and many supply the large catalog companies with wreaths and garlands.
6. Potted plants. As most woody ornamental growers propagate their own plants from cuttings, creating extra plants and potting them can bring a tidy extra income from retail and wholesale sales, as potted woodies in one and two gallon pots can bring $10 to $30 each.
As you can see, profitable opportunities abound with these lovely perennial plants. New growers can get started growing with just a few hundred dollars for seedlings and supplies, and create a “legacy” income stream, as most woodies will continue to grow profitable stems for many decades! To learn more about growing woodies, read Growing Woody Ornamentals For Profit.