Growing Flowers For Cutting
Nothing says spring like a vase full of vibrant, beautiful flowers cut fresh right from your garden – bountiful blooms of an array of colors, shapes, and fragrances that are sure to look as good in the ground as they do atop your springtime table. Use these tips, along with the list of regionally-appropriate plants, to get you started on your own bouquet-cutting garden to enjoy throughout the year.
SITING YOUR GARDEN
Plants for a cutting garden can be sited informally as part of a general garden design or in an area specifically for one. A separate growing area has advantages – a place to try new plants, to experiment with color schemes, to put plants that become unsightly or out of place in a design, and to allow for very tight planting in grids for maximum production and longer stems. Planting in blocks allows for easier access to flowers. Some plants for cutting, such as hydrangea shrubs, are better incorporated into the yard where their larger footprint won’t take up too much space in a bed. Many good candidates for cutting gardens prefer well-drained soil. If you have heavy clay, plant in raised beds where strong breezes won’t buffet the flowers or plant/construct a windbreak. If deer are a problem, it may be necessary to fence the area or use repellents or netting.
Beginners should start with a mix that includes both foliage and flowers unless you already have plenty of foliage to use. The mix should contain both tried-and-true flowers and flowers with which you want to experiment. Try to include plants that bloom at different times for a long season of material for bouquets. A good ratio is about half the plots or area planted with reliable filler foliage, interesting twigs, or plants with showy seedpods. The other half should be reserved for your superstar bloomers. Also, I suggest starting with maybe a half-dozen varieties your first year and building from there.
Plants I call “cut-and-come-again” are great for cutting gardens. These are plants you cut and will then produce another round of flowers. The more you cut them, the more they bloom! Some good one for this are cosmos, marigolds, gomphrena, and zinnias.
Space annuals closely to reduce weed pressure. Try five rows that are 48” wide per bed. You’ll get many more flowers from a much smaller space. Planting in 9” squares in a 48” x 10' bed allows you about 65 plants and works for almost any annual cut flower bed. (Annuals die at the end of the season, while perennials return each year.)
KEEPING FLOWERS FRESH
Containers or vases should be cleaned beforehand with antibacterial soap and hot water. Keep flowers in a cool location out of direct sunlight. Be sure leaves are not sitting and rotting in vase water. Many flowers are sensitive to ethylene gas and should therefore be kept away from fruit and gas stoves. Store arrangements in the fridge overnight – it shouldn’t be too cold for flowers. Exceptions include tropical plants, zinnias, and monkshood. Floral preservative added to vase water will keep flowers fresh longer by feeding them and keeping vase water free of stem-clogging bacteria. Replace water if it starts to look stale and cloudy, and re-cut the flower stems before placing them back in the fresh water.
GOOD CUT FLOWERS
(Please note this is a sampling of flowers that are ideal for cutting, rather than a comprehensive list).
– Black-Eyed Susan: Flowers last 6-8 days. Cut when flowers are fully open. Bright orange yellow daisy flowers, sometimes with reddish centers. Plant in full sun to part shade. Grows to 3'.
– Daffodil: Flowers last about five days. Early to late spring blooms in white, yellow, cream, sometimes with darker colored, pink, peach, yellow, or orange coronas. Sap is harmful to other cut flowers so keep in a separate vase with cut flower food. Plant as a bulb in November.
– Foxglove: Flowers last 7-10 days. Lovely spires of bell-shaped, tubular, pink, white, or yellow flowers in spring and summer. Plant in light shade in a rich soil. Cutting the main spike will encourage side shoots to bloom.
– Globe Amaranth: Flowers last 7-12 days. Little lollypops of rich candy pink, white, lavender, or red. Great for little pops of color in arrangements. Prefer good drainage and full sun. The more you cut, the more it blooms. No pinching needed.
– Hyacinth: Flowers last 7-14 days. Fat, fragrant spikes of densely clustered spring flowers in violet, blue, pink, cream, crimson, and white. Plant bulbs in full sun to part shade in early fall.
– Hydrangea: Flowers last 5-10 days. Cut when flowerheads are mature. Deciduous shrub with large lacecap, mophead, or pyramidal clusters in pink, white, or blue. Plant in part sun in rich, well-drained soil.
– Larkspur: Flowers last 5-7 days. Bright spikes of light or dark blue, purple, lavender, or pink in spring. Plant by seed in mid to late fall. Likes sun with some afternoon shade. Grows 2'-3'.
– Lavender: Flowers last 8-10 days. Slender spikes of fragrant lavender purple summer flowers – sometimes also in pink or white. Plant in full sun in a lean, well-drained soil with little to no fertilizer.
– Lily: Flowers last 8-15 days. Handle cut flowers carefully; remove white section of the stem. Flared trumpet-shaped flowers in many colors and color mixtures. Plant in deep, loose, rich, well-drained soil. Best when roots are shaped and tops are in sun to part sun.
– Marigold: Flowers last 7-10 days and plants produce many flowers from a single plant. Harvest when beds are halfway open. Tough and low maintenance. Plant in full sun. Grows 1'-4' tall.
– Peony: Flowers last 5-10 days. Cut when buds are showing strong color but are not yet open. Herbaceous shrub with lush, bowl-shaped fragrant spring flowers blooming in pink, white, or red. Plant in sun with afternoon shade in well-worked, rich, well-drained soil.
– Peruvian Lily: Flowers last about 14 days if kept in cool temperatures. Tubular red flowers in summer. Foliage is dormant in summer and late winter, but lovely in early spring to early summer, and in fall to mid-winter. Plant in morning sun with afternoon shade.
– Phlox: Flowers last 5 - 10 days. Form varies but upright varieties bear clusters of flowers, some fragrant, in summer. Colors: pale blue, pink, white, pale violet, purple. Grows 1'-5' depending on species / cultivar. Plant in full sun.
– Rose: Flowers last 7-10 days. Keep vase water fresh and mixed with flower food. Do not remove thorns. Beautiful flowers in a multitude of forms and colors, many fragrant. Make clean, slanting cuts just above outward facing leaves with five or seven leaflets. Plant in full sun in rich, well-drained soil.
– Shasta Daisy: Flowers last 7-14 days. Cut when flowers are fully open. Single or double white daisy flowers. Plant in full sun and well-draining soil. Varieties grow 1'-4'.
– Snapdragons: Flowers last 8-12 days. Re-cut stems to lengthen vase life. Annual plant with spikes of lobed red, yellow, pink, white, or orange flowers in spring to early summer. Plant in sun. Grows 6"-3'.
– Tulip: Flowers last 5-10 days. Bulb flowers vary in form and color. Bloom times range from March to May. Plant bulbs three times as deep as they are wide, 4"-8' apart, in November in full sun. Plant the Clusiana species for longer garden life.
– Windflower: Flowers last about 7 days. Cut when petals have started to open. Poppy-like spring flowers bloom in red, purple, pink, and white. Plant in full sun to part shade. Grows to 6"-18".
– Zinnia: Flowers last 6-10 days. Cut when flowers are fully open. Double-flowered, cactus-flowered, or crested-flowered annuals bloom in summer in bright shades of orange, yellow, pink, purple, salmon, green, and white. Plant in full sun.
Additional flowers that produce beautiful cut blooms to enjoy include: blazing star/gayfeather, bluebell, butterfly weed, gerbera daisy, yarrow, cockscomb, coreopsis, cosmos, crocosmia, goldenrod, helenium, coneflower, lenten rose/Christmas rose, pincushion flower, red hot poker, sedum, sunflower, and Veronica/spike speedwell.