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Cut Flower Garden
Published August 17, 2022 by Danielle Boss

How to Start a Cut Flower Garden for Beginners

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Anyone Can Add Cut Flowers to Their Garden

Everyone has an important memory that involves flowers. Perhaps it is the memory of your wedding bouquet, full of beautiful roses, peonies, or wildflowers. Perhaps it is the memory of the funeral of a loved one and seeing the greenery cascading over the casket. Perhaps it is a memory of a holiday, like lilies at Easter or poinsettias at Christmas. Whatever the memory is, we all have moments in our past that are connected to flowers.

Flowers are the exclamation point of nature. Their many colors, textures, and forms are in and of themselves an incredible miracle of life. To think that something so exquisite comes from the tiniest seed, corm, bulb, or tuber is a special kind of magic.

It truly feels magical when you bring to life these beauties yourself, in your own garden at your home. I remember when I saw the first anemone flower from a corm I planted, how gorgeous it was. I was so proud, knowing that I had acquired, planted, and cared for that little plant for so long and was rewarded months later with weeks of glorious pastel blooms. I have grown countless flowers at my home, in my garden, over the years, and I become more and more enthralled with this beautiful part of gardening each year.

When you first think of growing cut flowers, what comes to mind? Perhaps it is a row of daffodils or a small box of tulips or a bed of rose bushes. Yes, there are definitely traditional ways to grow flowers, as well as traditional flowers themselves, but there is so much more out there these days for anyone wanting to add cut flowers into their gardening journey. I will take you through the ins and out of growing cut flowers, as well as provide resources for getting started. Hopefully this will encourage you to give it a try this next season!

cut flowers that are easy to grow

Why You Should Have a Cut Flower Garden

First of all, what is a cut flower? Simply put, it is a flower that is grown for the purpose of cutting it off and using it for decorative purposes. The bud, full flower, stem, and/or leaves are used, and the plants are grown with this purpose in mind. Not to say that you can’t grow typical cut flowers in your landscape and leave them be, but most people choose these types of blooms with the thought of harvesting them.

Why should you grow cut flowers? Well, first and foremost, they are beautiful. They will make your garden and landscape a more captivating environment, even if just for enjoying the view. Another reason is that flowers are expensive to buy, especially pre-arranged bouquets. Maybe you enjoy having fresh blossoms on your kitchen counter or dinner table on a weekly basis. Maybe you have a small business or shop that would benefit from the beauty of fresh flowers as decor. Buying flowers on a routine basis can quickly add up. If you grow your own, you can save a ton of money.

Another big reason to grow your own cut flowers is to avoid unnecessary chemicals and the like that often come with flowers grown far away and shipped into your climate. The majority of the time, these flowers are grown in huge fields and routinely sprayed with pesticides before being shipped with various holding solutions and preservatives to keep them as healthy and fresh as possible. Just like growing your own food, if you grow your own flowers in your garden, you will know exactly what goes into the soil and onto the plant before you bring it into your home.

And stemming from this, if you grow your own cut flowers, you will have fresher blooms, and can many times get types or varieties that would not be available otherwise. Think of how far roses from Ecuador and peonies from the Netherlands have to travel to get to you. But from your backyard? Super fast! And things like dahlias, zinnias, and delicate flowers like cosmos and bachelor’s buttons cannot be shipped at all, or they will be ruined. So if you want those types in your home, you had better grow them yourself. Especially if you want rare or unusual varieties, which you definitely won’t find at your local florist or grocery store.

best cut flowers to grow

How to Create a Cut Flower Garden for Beginners

First and foremost, it's important to understand your growing climate and space. When are your warm, hot, cool, and cold seasons? How long do they last? Many flowers are going to want a temperate warm/cool climate, but there are definitely some that flourish in the heat and those that can handle some frost or very cold temps. 

Also, where will you be growing your cut flowers? Do you have a dedicated bed or area, or are you going to disperse them throughout your garden or landscape? Will you grow them in rows or bunches, or maybe even pots or large containers? Realize that, other than a few outliers, most flowers will want rich, well-draining soil and at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Also consider wind and rain exposure. Lots of flowers grow fairly tall, and a strong wind can easily break them down. See if you can give them some protection from the elements if you live in a blustery or rainy environment.

After your climate and environment, you will want to think about what flowers you want to grow. What flowers do you like? How will you be using them? Do you want flowers that have a long vase life for arrangements? Do you want to grow flowers to dry to make crafts? Do you need flowers that do okay out of water for weddings or other events? Do you want flowers that are pollen-less due to allergies?

Once you decide on what and where you are going to grow, it is time to plan out your cut flower garden! Let’s take a look at the different seasons and some good beginner options.

cut flowers annuals

What to Grow in a Beginner Cut Flower Garden

Determining What to Grow and Planning It Out

Cut flowers/foliage come in five main groups: focals, spikes, discs, fillers, and airy bits. If you are wanting to put together some really killer bouquets and floral arrangements, you'll want to think about growing plants that fit into each of these groups. I know this can be a bit overwhelming, so I will share with you some common and easy flowers to grow in each season, plus how you plant each.

Spring

Focal:

Tulips (bulb), Daffodils (bulb), Anemones (corm), Ranunculus (corm)

Spike:

Snapdragons (seed or transplant), Stock (seed or transplant), Larkspur (seed)

Disc:

Poppies (seed), Hellebores (transplant)

Filler:

Bupleurum (seed), Statice (seed or transplant), Queen Anne’s Lace (seed) 

Air:

Bachelor's Button (seed)


Summer

Focal:

Lilies (tuber), Zinnias (seed), Sunflowers (seed)

Spike:

Celosia (seed), Salvia (seed or transplant), Bee Balm (seed)

Disc:

Cosmos (seed), Rudbeckia (seed), Yarrow (seed or transplant), Marigolds (seed or transplant)

Filler:

Amaranth (seed), Basil (seed or transplant), Mint (seed or transplant), Oregano (seed or transplant), Cress (seed)

Air:

Gomphrena (seed or transplant)


Fall

Focal:

Chrysanthemums (transplant), Zinnias (seed), Sunflowers (seed)

Spike:

Celosia (seed), Salvia (seed or transplant)

Disc:

Cosmos (seed), Rudbeckia (seed), Strawflower (seed), Marigolds (seed or transplant)

Filler:

Amaranth (seed), Basil (seed or transplant), Sweet Annie (transplant), Eucalyptus (seed or transplant)

Air:

Orach (seed)

best cut flowers to grow each season
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Summer Skye Gardens brings garden design and native landscape services, plus one-on-one coaching, to Spring, Texas. Their mission is to help people become confident and successful gardeners in their own backyard kitchen gardens.

Cut Flower Garden Layout Ideas by Season

Spring Cut Flower Garden Layout Idea

This simple 4ft x3ft bed covers all the categories and maximizes your space. If you live in a warmer climate, the poppies, Queen Anne’s lace and bachelor's buttons are all direct sown in the fall; if you get frequent frosts or freezes and snow, then you will want to sow these in late winter or early spring. The anemone corms are also planted in the same way. The snapdragons can be direct sown in the fall or winter or transplanted in early spring. You can plant 5 anemones per square foot and 2 snapdragons per square foot.

cut flower garden layout with pictures

Summer Cut Flower Garden Layout Idea

Sunflowers are direct sown after the last frost. You can plant 4 sunflowers per square foot, and you'll want to sow these every 2 to 3 weeks to have continued blooms. You can continue until 60 days before your last frost. Zinnias (1 per square foot) will be direct sown or transplanted after the last frost. Celosia (2 per square foot), cosmos (2 per square foot), basil (1 per square foot), and gomphrena (1 per square foot) will be direct sown after the last frost. 

summer cut flower garden layout with pictures

Fall Cut Flower Garden Layout Idea

This bed can be similar to the summer bed, but makes more use of flowers and plants that have darker, richer tones. Sunflowers (4 per square foot), amaranth (4 per square foot), and orach (1 per square foot) are direct sown, but salvia (1 per square foot) and marigolds (2 per square foot) may be direct sown or transplanted.

fall cut flower garden layout with pictures

How to Tend and Harvest Cut Flowers

General Tips for Growing Cut Flowers

  • With the exception of a few, most flowers will want a good amount of compost in the soil and flower food every 2 to 4 weeks. I like using a basic liquid fish fertilizer like Microlife’s Ocean Harvest.
  • Some flowers may need support, such as staking, netting, or corralling. For simple purposes at home, I would suggest using bamboo stakes and plant velcro to help support your flowers upright to get straighter stems.
  • When watering, water at the base and early in the day. Some flowers may turn color when wet or develop fungal disease if you spray the foliage.
cut flower garden in raised bed

How to Cut Flower Stems to Encourage More Blooms

  • When cutting, aim to cut deep on the plant. This encourages more branching and blooms, and ultimately longer stems. 
  • Harvest cut flowers when it is cool outside, either early in the morning or later in the evening. Place your flowers immediately in a bucket/vase of cool water and let them sit at least a few hours before you work with them.
  • Make sure you know if a plant is a “one-hit wonder” or a “cut-and-come-again”. One-hit wonders, such as single-stemmed sunflowers and tulips, only produce one flower and then are done. Cut-and-come-again plants, like zinnias and basil, will keep producing and flowering the more you cut them. The one-hit wonders you will want to plant more of so that you have more blooms, and you may want to consider succession sowing them. Cut-and-come-again flowers benefit from pinching. To do so, cut the tops of the plant off above a set of leaves when it is at least 6 to 12 inches tall. This will encourage it to branch out and give you more flowers.

Tips for Arranging Cut Flowers

Of course there are so many different ways to use your cut flowers, but for our purposes, we will stick with simple arrangements. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • When arranging in a vase, fill your vase with cool water and add a bit of flower food, like this one from Floralife, if you’d like. You can arrange the flowers in a bunch in your hand, or you can arrange directly into the vase. Be sure to change the vase water daily and remove any flowers that are past their prime.
  • If something looks like it's wilting, stick the stem in boiling water for a few moments and then put it back in some cool water. This trick will perk it right up.
cut flower garden layout

Where to Find Cut Flower Seeds, Bulbs, and More

There are lots of places you can get seeds, bulbs, corms, tubers, and transplants from. For starters, check with your local nurseries. It is always fun to go see the flowers in person, and most local places will have knowledgeable staff to answer questions. I prefer to do this for my perennials and transplants, especially because I know how they look and I can get them planted very quickly!

For seeds, I definitely prefer larger, well-respected companies like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Floret Flower, Botanical Interests, and Wildseed Farms. You will find way more varieties ordering online than you will in local stores.

For tubers, bulbs, and corms, I have had success ordering from Swan Island Dahlias, Halden Garden, The Flower Hat, Brent and Becky’s, and Eden Brothers. Oftentimes, you can find cheaper options for these in places like Home Depot or Costco if you aren’t terribly picky on the variety.

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And that is it! Hopefully this starter guide for growing cut flowers will encourage you to add some to your garden this next year. There really is nothing like growing your own flowers and enjoying their beauty in your home!

Meet the Author, Dani Boss

Dani Boss — Summer Skye Gardens

Dani is a Gardenary-certified garden coach and proud owner of Summer Skye Gardens in Spring, Texas. She loves giving tips for how to grow your own plants from seed or how to set up your own pollinator garden, complete with cut flowers and roses.

As a garden coach, she's passionate about helping families get started growing their own food with confidence and success in their very own backyard gardens. She offers design service, one-on-one coaching, and consultations.

Follow Summer Skye Gardens on InstagramFacebookYouTube, and Pinterest to see how Dani is helping others grow in health and happiness. If you're in the Spring area, sign up on her website to receive a free seasonal planting guide and see how Dani can help you make your kitchen garden dreams come true!

Thanks to Dani for supplying the pictures of her cut flower garden and beautiful arrangements for this article. We used images from Canva for the flowers that represent how she'd plant out each cut flower bed by season.

FOLLOW DANI AND LEARN MORE ABOUT HER BUSINESS

Summer Skye Gardens

Summer Skye Gardens brings garden design and native landscape services, plus one-on-one coaching, to Spring, Texas. Their mission is to help people become confident and successful gardeners in their own backyard kitchen gardens.

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