Budget Bouquet: How To Grow Cut Flowers For Almost Nothing

red cosmos

Cut flowers can be expensive when you buy bouquets at the store. Even the cost of growing your own cut flowers can add up if you grow lots of varieties or invest in a seed starting set up.

But you can absolutely grow flowers on a budget by sticking to just a few easy practices.

Grow flowers on a budget of $20 or less by planting a few annual flower seeds, hand watering, and growing in the ground instead of in raised beds. With minimal expenses for things like a watering can, one or two bags of compost, and a few seed packets, you can easily grow cut flowers on a budget.

We’re going to walk through the steps to grow a small patch of cut flowers from start to finish so you can see how easy it is to grow flowers. Along the way, you’ll get pointers on how to keep your costs down and stay on budget.

How much does it cost to grow flowers?

You can plant a 4×8 foot flower bed for less than $20 with just three packets of seeds, a few bags of compost, and a watering can to keep your plants irrigated. With these basic supplies you can plant a large even garden space to harvest a bouquet or two every week for months on end.

ItemCost
Zinnia (25 seeds) $4.00
Cosmo (30 seeds)$3.00
Basil (100 seeds) $3.00
Bonus seeds
(if ordered through Baker Creek)
free!
2 bags of compost
(optional)
$3.16
Watering can
(optional)
$3.99
Total cost$17.15 (or less!)
I’ll explain the bonus seeds you can get from Baker Creek in the following paragraphs.

Limit your seed and tool purchases to stay on budget

You’ll find that there are tons of great online seed companies that offer a whole catalog of seeds for cut flowers. I’ve spent plenty of time drooling over beautiful pictures and new varieties.

But, when you want to get seeds in your hands without spending a bunch of money, first commit to only buying a few seed packets. Don’t let yourself get carried away by the pretty pictures!

Plus, by having only a few different types of flowers in your garden, it’s easier to choose plants that have the same growing needs, making it easier to care for them and keep them happy all season. It will give you blooms simultaneously so you can pick an actual bouquet, not just solitary stems here and there.

To grow on the cheap, just make sure to have these three types of flowers in your garden and you’ll be set for months worth of blooms.

  • one central flower
  • one supporting flower
  • one herb (double duty for the kitchen!)

In addition to only buying a few seed varieties, don’t purchase a whole suite of hand tools or a drip irrigation setup. Sure, those are nice to have, but you don’t need them to get started with minimal expense. I’ll go into more detail about how to plant your seeds and water on the cheap in a moment.

Let’s have a look at the handful of items you’ll need to get your budget flower garden off the ground.

Plant these three flowers for a summer of budget bouquets

For a great start to budget bouquets, I recommend three types of flowers: zinnia, cosmo, and basil.

Zinnia: This will be your focal flower, or the central flower, of your bouquet. It’s the bloom that will first attract the eye. By choosing a zinnia, you’re planting a “cut and come again” type flower. This type of flower will send out new stems and buds to replace the flowers you harvest.

Cosmos: Cosmos will be your filler flower, or the supporting flower. A filler flower does just what the name implies. It fills up space in the bouquet, hiding stems, adding volume, and bringing more color to the bouquet. And they’re just so pretty!

You’ll be able to pick a ton of cosmos off just a few plants since they are also cut and come again flowers. Even better, cosmos produce wispy, airy leaves that look great in a bouquet. Any time a plant can do double duty, it’s a winner for the budget garden.

Basil: I know, technically, it’s an herb. But the basil will be the greenery, also known as foliage, for your homegrown bouquets. Foliage plants are grown for their leaves and stems. Like filler flowers, foliage bulks up a bouquet, but it also adds interest. Sometimes foliage comes with seed pods or tiny little flowers, or colored stems or veiny leaves.

In this case, basil brings scent, spiky stems, and bright green leaves to your garden. And you can eat it in pesto, as a seasoning, or in salads. Win-win on a budget!

All three flowers are also cut and come again flowers, which means that the more you cut, the more they grow. Each cut stem will regrow to produce a new flower or a new stem of basil leaves. It’s a neverending gobstopper garden, if you think about it.

Never heard of cut and come again flowers? No problem, just jump over here to learn about these budget-friendly flowers: Cut and Come Again Flowers: What Are They And Which Should You Grow?

Buy seeds online with free shipping

When I need seeds on a budget, I either stop by my local hardware store to grab some seed packets (no shipping!) or go to one of my favorite online seed catalogs, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They offer free shipping on orders of just $5, which you can quickly do with a couple of seed packets.

Their website is a wealth of information and gorgeous pictures, and the seeds are very high quality. I get good germination rates with their seed, meaning that I don’t waste money on seeds that aren’t going to sprout. And their varieties are always exciting and often include selections that I can’t find anywhere else.

Baker Creek also includes a free packet of seeds with every order over $10, which obviously helps stretch your budget a little farther. It’s always a fun surprise to see which free seed variety is included with my order. Sometimes it’s a vegetable and sometimes a flower, but either way, it adds variety to my garden plans.

Here are links to my favorite zinnia, cosmo, and basil varieties, all of which have similar growing needs and days to maturity. If you buy all three from Baker Creek Seeds, you’ll get that free shipping and a free surprise packet of seeds. Pretty great deal!

  • Queen Lime Red Zinnia: Red-rose petals and a lime green center make for a great focal flower.
  • Rubenza Cosmos: Cranberry red with fluttery petals, these cosmos will fill out any bouquet.
  • Lemon Basil: Lightly scented and tipped with small white flowers, lemon basil is a great filler.

Some people like to buy their flower seeds for even cheaper at places like the Dollar General or The Dollar Store, but I haven’t tried their seeds in many, many years, so I can’t personally attest to the quality of those seeds. But it’s an option for the tightest budget.

Get other recommendations for my favorite online seed catalogs in this article, 10 Best Places To Buy Quality Flower Seeds Online, although most charge shipping fees with each order, which doesn’t help to stay on budget.

Plant your seeds in the ground, not in raised beds

If you skip the expense of building raised beds, you can start your garden for just a little bit of elbow grease using one of two options. Whichever method you decide to use, try to have at least 10 square feet so you can be sure to have enough plants.

Option 1: Clear out a garden space

If you’ve already got a patch of bare dirt, you’re one step ahead. If you need to clear out some grass, then it’s time to bust out the shovel. Pick a spot that’s convenient to get to, so you’re sure to tend to your garden frequently. Use your shovel to scrape off the top layer of grass to get to bare dirt.

Once you’ve got your space cleared out, you can either plant straight into the dirt, or you can splurge on a bag or two of compost. Compost can range from deluxe worm castings (worm poop!) that are around $12/bag or much more budget-friendly chicken manure (chicken poop!) for about $1.50/bag.

Compost is an optional expense. If you live in an area with sandy or compacted soil, then it can be beneficial. By adding what’s known as “organic matter,” you’re providing nutrients, loosening the soil for the plant roots, and making it easier for the soil to retain water. So some benefits can make it worth spending a few extra dollars to prep your flower bed.

If you decide to use compost, spread a bag or two over the surface of your garden space. Use your shovel or a rake to mix the compost into the top few inches of the dirt. No need to dig it in deeply, as worms, the rain, and the natural breakdown of soil will do that work for you.

Option 2: Make a no-dig bed

If you don’t want to cut the grass out, go the no-till way and just construct a flower bed right on top of the grass. For this method, you’ll need to pony up a little money to buy compost, but it’s still cheaper than lumber or other raised bed materials.

To make a no-dig bed, lay flattened cardboard on top of the grass, making sure to overlap the edges to prevent the grass from growing through. Then spread a 3-4 inch layer of compost on top of the cardboard. You’ll plant directly into the compost, and the plant roots will penetrate the cardboard to reach the soil below.

It’s that easy, but a tutorial never hurts, so check out this one from Charles Dowding, the grandfather of no-dig gardening:

Sow your seeds directly in the soil

Many flower gardeners choose to start seeds indoors to get a jump on the growing season. But that adds an expense of seed starting trays, soil mix, grow lights, and more.

Let’s keep it simple and plant the seeds straight into the dirt. Make sure you wait until all danger of frost has passed, as zinnias, cosmos, and basil are all tender annuals. They grow during warm weather, and any frost or freeze will kill them.

You can drag a stick through the dirt to make a slight furrow or a divot in the soil. Keep it shallow, as all three seed types don’t need to be planted deeply. For the zinnias and basil, you’ll sow the seeds about 9 inches apart. The cosmos will do best planted about 12 inches apart since they grow tall and bushy.

hand planting seeds in dirt
Sowing seeds straight in the dirt keeps things simple (and cheap!)

This spacing is closer than what your seed packets will say, but don’t worry about it. There’s a method behind the madness of planting cut flowers closer together, and you can read all about it in this post, How To Space Annuals For Cut Flower Production (With Chart).

Once your seeds are in the ground, lightly sprinkle dirt over them and pat the soil down with your hand. Congratulations, you have sown a flower garden!

Keep your seeds watered for germination success

The next step is to get some water on your seeds. This is an uber-important step in your garden. Once the seeds germinate, you need to keep them moist; otherwise, the tiny little seedlings may dry out and die. Then you’ll have to start all over again.

To stay on budget, get a cheap watering can for a couple of dollars. Or use an empty container like a milk gallon and poke a bunch of holes in the bottom. You want the little holes so you aren’t pouring a wide stream of water over your seeds, which will wash them away.

Depending on how warm your weather is, you may need to sprinkle a little water on your seedbed a couple of times a day. Just check periodically and water accordingly to keep the soil moist but not soggy. You can cover the seedbed with an old bedsheet to help keep the moisture in and the birds out.

Just be sure to remove the sheet as soon as you see the first seeds sprouting so they can get immediate access to full light.

Watch your flowers grow

Your seeds should start to sprout in 5-10 days. If you notice any significant gaps in the spacing of your plants, you can put in new seeds to fill the gaps. Maybe a bird scratched the seeds around, or there was a dud seed in your packet. It happens. The replacement seeds will quickly catch up to the rest and even help stagger your plants’ bloom time.

Basil is a long-lasting and multi-purpose plant.

Once they’ve all germinated, the hard part is over. Now you get to watch your flowers grow! All three recommended varieties will bloom in around 75 days, so you’ll have to wait a couple of months to harvest, but it will be worth it. The three types of flowers are all pretty low maintenance and don’t need a ton of attention.

If you don’t get any summer rain in your area, use your watering can or even a pot from the kitchen to bring water to the garden a couple of times a week. Zinnias, cosmos, and basil do very well in warm weather, but they still need a drink of water from time to time.

Water enough to saturate the soil, but don’t drown out your plants. The soil can dry out a bit between waterings, but if you start to see drooping leaves or stems, then it’s time to get out there with your watering can asap and rehydrate your soil and plants.

Don’t fret about watering every day. Learn why you don’t need to here: Daily Water For The Summer Garden? Not Necessarily.

Harvest your blooms for bouquets

Once a couple of months have gone by, it’s time to harvest your blooms. If you don’t have a pair of garden clippers, there’s no need to buy a pair. A simple pair of scissors will do the same job since none of the stems are particularly thick.

Wait for the morning or evening to cut your flowers, so they last the longest. The zinnias should be fully open but the cosmos should just be cracking open to get the longest vase life.

For other tips on when and how to your flowers so they last a week or more, check out this article: When To Cut Flowers: The Right Time To Harvest Blooms.

Just as your garden is planted with three varieties, pick your flowers in thirds, so you have a balanced bouquet. A handful of each type of flower will be beautiful in the vase.

Cut your flowers with long stems so you have options for how to arrange them. A general guideline is to cut the stem at least one foot long, if not more. Once you’ve cut the stem, strip off all the leaves on the bottom half. Leaves in the water will shorten the life of your cut flowers because they encourage bacteria to grow in the water.

When you cut the basil, go for the larger, woodier stems. They will be able to bring up enough water from the vase to keep the plants from wilting. The thinner stems tend to droop prematurely.

Keeping on a budget might mean repurposing containers instead of buying vases. An empty jar or an old water bottle work just fine. Just make sure they’re tall enough to accommodate the flower stems, and scrub them well with soapy water before putting your blooms in them.

Any old jar will work as a repurposed vase.

Fill the vase or jar with room temperature water and recut all the stems at a 45-degree angle just before putting them in the water. This will help the stems take up the maximum amount of water so they stay fresh.

That’s it! With just a tiny bit of investment, you have the supplies and know-how to grow a summer’s worth of bouquets. If you want to learn about other cut and come again flowers that make budget-minded cut flower gardens a snap, check out this article, Cut And Come Again Flowers: What Are They And Which Should You Grow?

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