Finland’s Winter Tulips Wonderland


Freshly harvested tulips gliding along a conveyor belt in Finland.

Volume-wise, Finns and Swedes buy the most tulips per person in the world, writes Timo Taulavuori for FloraCulture International. The Finnish tulip season gets underway in the run-up to Christmas but tends to reach its peak in spring, ending by mid-April. For many Finns, the boldly coloured tulip is a form of inexpensive, weekly escapism offering a cost-friendly alternative to other more expensive flowers.

Finnish people buy an estimated 71 million tulips each season, which is about 13 tulips for every Finn. Growers source their bulbs from the Netherlands. A rough estimate indicates that the retail price per tulip stem ranges between 45–49 cents. So the total retail value is about 34 million euros, equalling 12 euros per Finnish household.

There are up to 450 tulip varieties, the most popular being Easter’s favourite, the ‘Yellow Flight’ variety.

Decades ago, there were more than 100 cut tulip forcers. Today, Finnish-grown tulips come overwhelmingly (90 per cent) from three nurseries: Partaharjun Puutarha in Pieksamaki, in the centre of Finland, Lepola in Turku, southwest Finland, and Huiskula, which this year celebrates 90 years in business and operates from a 4.3ha greenhouse space in Turku.

Jali Murto, CEO of Huiskula Oy in Finland.

Huiskula Garden OY grows around 16 million tulips a year,” says Jali Murto, CEO of the company.

Tulips’ omnipresence in retail

Finland’s three top producers of tulips sell the largest portion of their production to wholesalers, who in turn sell to several retail chains. In Finland, grocery stores, supermarkets, and DIY stores offer tulips.

Smaller-scale growers sell either directly to the customer or to specialised florists.

The volume of imported tulips is rather insignificant, mostly modelling on cheap deals or orders for unusual varieties.

In the past, Finnish growers exported their blooms to Russia, but following Russia’s war against Ukraine, that trade has virtually come to a standstill. Today, the only place outside the country where you can find Finnish-grown tulips is Estonia, Finland’s southern neighbour.

“Huiskula Garden OY grows around 16 million tulips a year,” says Jali Murto, CEO of the company. Tulips have been the company’s flagship product since the 1950s when Murto’s grandparents were still working in the company.

The arrival of new varieties and hi-tech ushered in a new era with tulips being grown on water, a system that was invented by the Dutch more than 30 years ago.

Murto explains, “Hydroponic cut tulips thrive in plastic crates in combination with an ebb and flood system. Compared to traditional soil culture, hydroponic tulips are more efficient, cost-effective and faster.”

Ladies bunching tulips on conveyor belt in Finland.

Although production is highly automated, Huiskula still needs dozens of seasonal workers, most of whom are Ukrainian.

Many different hues

Huiskula grows around 120 varieties, which comes with a fair bit of challenges. With the progress of the selling season, the market demand for specific colours changes, but Finnish customers increasingly tend to stick to mixed bouquets in shops.

The most important tulip-giving days are Valentine’s Day, International Women’s Day, and Easter. “We tried to extend the season to the beginning of May, but for some reason, Finns continue to see tulips as a quintessentially in-season flower for April. And in May, keeping the bouquets cool in shops also becomes more difficult,” says Murto.

He continues, “Although production is highly automated, we still need dozens of seasonal workers, most of whom are Ukrainian. They’ve been working for us for a long time. Even though Huiskula Garden OY boast year-round production of flowers and plants, some of our employees temporarily work at our strawberry farm during the quiet summer season. This cooperation will benefit all parties.”

Alvar Aato’s iconic Savoy vase offers room for two bouquets of tulips.

Alvar Aato’s iconic Savoy vase, which can hold two bouquets of tulips, can be found in nearly every Finnish home.

Spring delights

Tulips are a firm favourite among Finnish shoppers, who buy them almost weekly. They brighten up the dark days of winter, says Murto, who says that the country’s famed designer, the late Alvar Aalto (1898-1976), deserves credit for boasting flower sales by designing his iconic Savoy vase, which today is reproduced by Iittala. “It offers room to bouquets of flowers, and it can be found in nearly every Finnish home.”

Tulips are nearly ready for shipment from Finland.

Cost concerns

Murto candidly admits that growers have been through some trying times lately, with a dramatic increase in commodity prices and the cost-of-living crisis hitting consumer habits.

He elaborates, “The bulb price and product quality in the coming season will be of concern because the price of the everyday delighter, a bunch of tulips, must not be too high in the current economic situation. If not, sales volumes will fall. Consumers’ purchasing power has weakened because of the war started by Russia.”

At the same time, the energy price and labour costs continue to rise, which puts price pressure on winter production. Murto notes, “Huiskula’s investments in a domestic wood chip boiler installation guarantees partial energy security during the winter season when energy prices fluctuate dramatically. Energy is used for dehumidification in addition to heating and, of course, we are also a big electricity user. For example, in the past, the price of electricity was very flat and relatively cheap in Finland, but now the prices of the Nordic electricity exchange are changing dramatically, which affects all pricing.”

Huiskulan Garden Oy at a glance

— Family business founded in 1934
— As owners and working five cousins, CEO Jali Murto is one of them.
— Located in Turku in southwestern Finland
— Collaborating with Hilverda de Boer B.V. in the same premises
— Employees 50 permanent and 50 seasonal workers
— Net sales EUR 10 million EUR annually
— Production, tulips, hyacinths, amaryllis, daffodils and other bulb flowers, summer bedding flowers, hanging baskets and indoor greens, and Christmas poinsettias.


This article was first published in the March 2024 issue of FloraCulture International.

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