Even though it’s easy to go to the garden center and buy transplants, any cut flower gardener should try starting their flowers from seed. It’s so easy to do with many types of flowers, and there’s no comparison to the sheer volume of varieties you can try.
Don’t be intimidated about starting your own seeds. You can plant them directly in the ground once the soil warms up, and as long as you keep them lightly watered until they sprout, there aren’t any other tricks you need to know.
Try one or two or even all ten from this list and enjoy the show in your flower garden this summer.
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1. Sweet Peas: the charming vine
Why this flower? Sweet peas shout whimsy and charm. They grow as a vine instead of a bushy plant, reaching up to five feet tall. Some varieties are bred to be shorter, so keep an eye out for those if you don’t want to trellis them.
Sweet peas are great for planting out early in spring because they are somewhat cold tolerant. They also prefer to grow in cooler weather, so have these flowers on your spring to-do list. The large seeds are easy to direct sow, which is handy because sweet peas usually don’t want to be transplanted.
Some gardeners like to soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing to soften up their exterior, but others sow them as is. Both methods result in sprouts, so decide if you want the extra step.
Bonus: sweet peas are wonderfully fragrant. They have a lightly perfumed scent that many people associate with being kids and hanging out with their grandmas. Maybe it’s because sweet peas are an old-fashioned flower. In any case, enjoy the scent, but remember that all parts of the sweet pea plant are toxic, so keep them out of reach of kids and pets.
My favorite variety: Old Spice Mix has a relaxing, floral scent that makes you want to carry around a posey of blooms to sniff every so often. This variety holds up well to warmer weather so that you can get more summer blooms with these sweet peas.
2. Calendula: the season extender
Why this flower?
Calendulas are seriously one of the easiest flowers to grow. This isn’t very PC to say, but I grew up knowing them as “idiot flowers.” My mom nicknamed them that because she swore, “Any idiot can grow them.” Kosher or not, it doesn’t change the fact that calendulas are an excellent beginner flower to grow from seed.
On top of that, calendulas are prolific bloomers. They only need about two months from seed to bloom, and once they get going, it’s a continuous display, especially if you remove the old flowers as they fade. If any flowers do go to seed and drop, you will almost certainly find new calendula plants sprouting at the base of the plant.
If you can, let those volunteer plants grow. Calendulas are somewhat hardy and can survive light frosts, making them a great option to extend your growing season as long as possible. If you’re not sure if you still have time to plant this year, check out this post: Too Late To Plant A Flower Garden? A Guide To Summer Planting.
Most calendula varieties are single-petaled, daisy-like flowers in shades of orange or yellow. Some varieties are double, meaning the blooms have two rows of petals. The cheery faces of calendulas are easy to blend with many other flowers, making them an easy-to-grow and versatile choice.
My favorite variety: Snow Princess is an interesting variety because the flowers start as a light yellow and then fade to a lighter cream shade as the days go on. They are very productive and don’t let the cool weather slow them down in the least.
3. Strawflower: the everlasting gobstopper
Why this flower?
Whoever heard of a squeaky flower? I hadn’t until I grew strawflowers. These quirky flowers squeak as you squeeze the blooms because the petals are much drier and stiffer than regular flower petals. It’s what makes them such good dried flowers, earning the descriptor of “everlasting.”
Strawflowers are a warm-season annual, so they’ll grow well in the heat of summer until a frost. They’re also a great drought-tolerant flower, similar to cosmos, so they don’t require a ton of water. If you live in a climate with mild summers, you can still grow strawflowers, but they’ll be more prolific in hotter weather.
The seeds are easy to sow directly in the garden, or as many other warm-season flowers, you can start them indoors to give your plants a head start.
Once you pick a strawflower for the vase, be prepared to enjoy the blooms for at least a couple of weeks, as they’re incredibly long-lasting when cut. From multi-colored mixes to vintage cream-colored blooms, strawflowers are worth a spot in your flower garden.
My favorite variety: I’m growing the Tall Double Mix this year. I like the cheerful colors for both fresh bouquets and dry for fall decor use. Next year I have plans for Copper Red and Apricot/Peach Mix.
4. Marigold: the multipurpose flower
Why this flower?
Marigolds are often seen in the vegetable garden, especially growing among tomatoes. This is because marigolds are known to help deter pests due to their fragrance and root hormones. But marigolds also have happy pom-pom flowers, so why not bring them over to the cutting garden, as well?
Marigold seeds have a funny little brush on one end, and they’re large enough to be easy to handle. They sprout quickly in the spring, and they will keep blooming all summer long through spring rains and summer heat.
There are dwarf varieties with short stems and giant types with very long stems, so read the description before selecting varieties. The most common bloom shape is a puffy sphere, but some smaller plants also have round, daisy-like petals.
Marigolds are available in red, yellow, and orange colors, and some varieties have two-toned leaves, adding to their charm.
My favorite variety: I’ve only ever grown the traditional orange and yellow varieties in my flower and veggie gardens. But this year, I’m trying a new variety, the Kilimanjaro White. They look like an excellent addition to soft-colored bouquets with creamy yellow petals and a yellow center.
5. Zinnia: the nonstop bloomer
Why this flower?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, zinnias are a workhorse in the garden. The plants are known as cut-and-come flowers, meaning they will replace picked flowers with new ones, just like cosmos and calendulas. So as long as your plant is healthy, you will get a nonstop show of flowers.
Zinnias are also available in every shade of the rainbow and different shapes, so there’s something for everyone. I like the shaggy cactus-type flower heads because they’re just different from other blooms. The most popular are the ball-shaped blooms, which are easy to incorporate into many types of bouquets and arrangements.
If you like to have flowers to match the season, check out this post for some ideas for fall-colored zinnias: Plant Zinnias In Summer For Easy Blooms And Fall Color.
Zinnia seeds are a medium arrowhead shape, making them easy to pick out and plant. Since zinnias are a warm-season annual, they need to be planted out after all risk of frost has passed. To get a head start while waiting for that date, you can start zinnia seeds inside 4-6 weeks early.
Zinnias will produce blooms as long as the season stays warm, throwing out flowers until the first frost. Keep the plants deadheaded by removing the old flowers, and your zinnia plants will never be empty of color and beauty. Or butterflies, for that matter, who love zinnias just as much as people.
My favorite variety: I adore the Queen Series of zinnias. There are several variations, such as the Red and Blush. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have those in my collection, along with the Orange and Lime varieties pictured above. They bloom like crazy and just go well with so many other colors of flowers.
6. Cosmos: the romantic element
Why this flower?
Wispy, ferny foliage provides a bushy backdrop for delicate-looking cosmos flowers. But cosmos are no wimp in the garden. This flower can flourish with a bit of neglect, preferring regular old garden dirt to rich compost. Once established, cosmos can get by with minimal watering, so they’re a great option if you want to keep your water bill to a minimum.
Cosmos seeds can be directly sown in the garden once the risk of frost has passed. They are heat-loving flowers, so don’t try to plant them too soon. You can also start them indoors for transplanting out, and you’ll get flowers sooner with that method.
You can expect to get flowers about three months after planting, and you’ll get loads of them. As long as you keep your cosmos deadheaded by removing the fading blooms, the plants will keep growing new buds to replace the flowers you pick.
You will probably see butterflies flitting and bees buzzing around your plants, too, since cosmos are perfect flowers to attract pollinators.
My favorite variety: As much as I love the pinks and whites of the Sensation Mix, I like to change up the flower color with a stand of Xanthos now and again. This variety doesn’t get as tall as other varieties, so they’re easier to squeeze into crowded flower beds.
7. Scabiosa: the pincushion filler
Why this flower?
Scabiosa is a lesser-known flower in the home garden, which is unfortunate because it is easy to grow and produces pretty, muffin-top-shaped blooms on long, thin stems. They are also known as pincushion flowers, so keep that in mind when looking them up in seed catalogs.
Scabiosa seeds look like mini badminton birdies. To sow them, you press the top of the seed into the soil without covering them, so you can watch the seed germinate and sprout leaves. They are a great flower for kids to plant since they are easy to handle.
Scabiosa are available in many shades of purple and burgundy, white, and cream, so you’re sure to find a color you like.
My favorite variety: It’s a toss-up between Dark Knight’s purple-black blooms and this versatile Formula Mix. The lavender and white flowers are my favorites to use with green sage filler.
8. Sunflower: the cheerful focal flower
Why this flower?
Who doesn’t love a sunflower? An iconic summer flower, sunflowers deserve a spot in any cut flower garden.
If you’ve ever snacked on sunflower seeds, then you already know that they are large and easy to handle. Just like other warm-season flowers, the seeds need warm soil to germinate. They will pop up quickly after a week or so.
The newly planted seeds can be attractive to birds, just like they are in a bird feeder, so if that becomes a problem for you, try laying a piece of burlap or old bedsheet over the seedbed just until they’ve sorted to prevent the birds from scratching around.
Sunflowers suitable for cutting (so not the mammoth varieties) are available in single-stem and branching types. Single-stem sunflowers need to be replanted after every harvest, which is called succession sowing. This requires some planning to keep a constant supply of flowers, so keep that in mind.
If you want a sunflower that will bloom repeatedly with one sowing, go for a branching variety. This type will need more space in the garden, but the benefit is many blooms per plant, so it’s a trade-off. Plus, branching sunflowers have greater variety in color and bloom type, so they are a great option.
Read this post, The Best Sunflowers For Cutting (Grown By Flower Farmers) to get more suggested varieties for your flower garden.
My favorite variety: The yellow center and pale yellow petals are a great contrast to the traditional golden-orange petals and brown center of a variety like ProCut Orange (which I grow, too). Beware that the bugs like these light colors, too, so pick the sunflowers when the petals just start to crack open.
9. Snapdragon: the spiky element
Why this flower?
Okay, let me get this out of the way. Snapdragon seeds are a pain to handle.
As small as a speck of dust (Not really. But they’re so small), snapdragon seeds require some precise handling. But they’re easy to sprout, and there are so many more options than what you’ll find at the garden center that it’s worth a little squinting to start your own.
When you plant them, just put the seed right on top of the soil and don’t cover it. They require light to germinate so a buried seed won’t sprout. Just keep them moist until the seedling pops up since there’s no soil to insulate them.
You can start seeds early in the spring to transplant out even before your last frost has occurred since snapdragons are hardy flowers. Some people even plant out seedlings in late fall and overwinter them in the garden for super early blooms the following spring.
The spikes of flowers add variety to bouquets when mixed with all the round and disk-shaped flowers like zinnias and cosmos. But even on their own, snapdragons make a gorgeous and rustic-looking bouquet, so give these tiny seeds a shot.
My favorite variety: The Rocket Mix is a great mid-season snapdragon. It produces a ton of stems, and the mix of colors makes it handy for changing up the color palette of any given bouquet.
10. Amaranth: the mood setter
Why this flower?
Every bouquet needs an element of drama, and amaranth brings that and more. Amaranth doesn’t put out blooms like the other flowers on this list do. Instead, it produces stalks of tiny grains on spikes or drooping fingers. They add a whole different design element to bouquets, and the foliage can also be used as greenery.
Amaranth is available in deep reds, pinks, and even green and is very easy to grow from seed. The tiny seeds (these rival snapdragons for being itty-bitty) barely need to be covered once sown in the soil. You can start them indoors or direct sow them outside. Just make sure that spring has officially sprung since amaranth won’t survive a frost.
Amaranth also makes an excellent dried flower for holiday and winter decorations, so if you have leftover stems be sure to hang on to them for later.
My favorite variety: The Burgundy variety of amaranth has dramatic trailing stems and leaves that are great for arrangements. I especially like these flowers for fall bouquets. Next year, I’ll try a green trailing variety for something new.