Jelte Tjalf Schaap, head grower of Bloomaker in Waynesboro, Virginia
Photo: Cliff Brane, courtesy of Bloomaker

At stores like Costco, Walgreens and Kroger’s nationwide, Bloomaker’s tulip, hyacinth, daffodil and amaryllis arrangements are often on display near the entrance. At first glance, they may look like other container or bouquet arrangements, but if you examine them more closely, down to the very bottom of the stem, you’ll see that these “cut flower” products aren’t really cut at all. Instead, the popular varieties are still attached to their roots, which are gathered tightly together (along with their bulbs) at the base of the company’s patented tall, clear glass vase.

These beautifully blooming varieties are available as single bulbs, or in arrangements ranging from three bulbs to 11 bulbs.

All of the flowers, which are also patented by the Virginia-based operation, are grown hydroponically. This means that they’re produced without soil. While leafy greens like lettuce and kale grown in produce operations may be the more commonly referenced hydroponic varieties, Bloomaker also uses water as the media for its ornamental varieties. Water is distributed to plants placed in crates on a floor during the growing period. The water is controlled for nutrients and pH, and is constantly monitored to ensure there’s enough for the crop to thrive.

Growing and consumer perks

Bloomaker's patented vase design keeps bulbs and roots packed neatly at the bottom.
Photo courtesy of Bloomaker

Bloomaker’s flowers tend to stay fresh longer than traditional cut varieties, says Head Grower Jelte Tjalf Schaap. “When you have cut flowers, they’re already blooming,” he adds. “Within a couple of days they already start to wilt, but [because] we keep the bulbs on the plants, they actually last for weeks.”

In Tjalf Schaap’s opinion, colors also appear to be more vibrant. He attributes this to the plants’ constant access to water.

In addition to the aesthetic benefits of their crops, Bloomaker’s varieties have growing and production advantages. Firstly, the overall growing season is a few days sooner. And although it may not make a huge difference, the extra bit of time adds up when you’re pushing out more than 17 million bulbs a year, Tjalf Schaap says.

Additionally, no soil means no mess, and by not using a traditional growing mix, Bloomaker’s varieties have reduced risk for pests transporting from one plant to another. It also makes the labor “more comfortable,” Tjalf Schaap says, because lifting and transporting isn’t nearly as heavy.

Adjusting nutrients for the crops also isn’t nearly as difficult as with a soil-based medium, according to Tjalf Schaap.

“With tulips, you don’t see that the crop requires really specific nutrients because there’s already a lot of nutrients inside the bulb from the previous growing year,” he says. “All the micronutrients, like iron and magnesium … [are] not that important because they’re already in the bulbs.”

The bulbs are packed in the vase design, which holds them in place and also keeps the water underneath where the roots are. The design is nearly spillproof. “To get the water out, you have to hold it almost upside down,” Tjalf Schaap says.

Bloomaker grows its varieties in crates placed on the floor in the greenhouse.
Photo courtesy of Bloomaker

Attached to the vase is a colorful label with basic care instructions. It also directs consumers to Bloomaker’s mobile-optimized website that provides more detailed care and aftercare tips.

And because consumers can take the bulbs of the plant home with them, they can use them to grow the flowers again during the following seasons — another added value.

Depending on where the consumer is located (i.e., where cold-weather winters are present), they may use those bulbs year after year.

“It depends on the climate, but in general, you can plant them in your garden about 4 inches deep and then every year, you have flowers,” Tjalf Schaap says.