How To Space Annuals For Cut Flower Production (With Chart)

flower seedlings in dirt with 6 inch spacing

Plant spacing for the cut flower garden is different than what is normally used in a landscaped bed or an ornamental flower garden. This is particularly true for annual flowers, which only live one growing season, and many backyard cut flower growers focus on annuals since they’re easy and quick to grow.

Follow the spacing guidelines that flower farmers use to get solid production of cut flowers from your own garden.

The most common spacing for annual cut flowers is 9×9 inches, though spacing can go as small as 4×4 or as wide as 18×18, depending on the plant. With close spacing, plants are able to shade out weeds, support each other against wind and rain, and grow taller for longer cut stems.

So not only can you space plants close together, but you should space them close together when you’re growing cut flowers.

First, let’s take a closer look at how to apply those measurements to various types of cut flowers.

Handy dandy spacing chart for annual cut flowers

Note that all measurements are in inches, and if you stagger the rows of plantings you’ll be able to fit even more plants into the same amount of space. This list is just a sampling of varieties, but you can generalize the guidelines to other annual plants that have the same growth habit at the ones listed here.

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Spacing chart for annual cut flowers

Why can you plant cut flowers so close together?

When you buy an annual plant from the nursery or you look at the back of the seed packet you’ll get a recommended spacing to allow for the mature size of the plant. But a mature landscape annual and a cutting annual will have very different purposes.

A landscape annual is meant to stay there all season, providing beautiful blooms to decorate the garden and be admired on the plant.

On the other hand, a cutting annual is meant to have its blooms harvested frequently. You’ll be cutting blooms every week, if not more often. Because the plant is pruned so frequently, it doesn’t need as much space in the garden bed. With that extra space, you’ll also be able to squeeze in far more flower plants than with traditional spacing.

More plants means more flowers to cut and arrange. And as you’ll see, it also means a little less work on your part.

What benefits are there to close spacing?

Now that you’ve got a handy spacing chart, let’s look some of the benefits of following that guidance.

You’ll do less weeding (hurray!)

When plants are spaced with only 6 inches between them it won’t take long before the leaves begin to spread out and create a canopy over the soil. That canopy will shade the soil, reducing the amount of light that reaches it. Without light, any dormant seeds or small weeds will fail the thrive and eventually die off.

I don’t know any gardener who doesn’t wish for fewer weeds in the flower garden!

This will be the same for plants spaced 18 inches apart, but you’ll have to stay on top of the weeding for a bit longer until the canopy will do the work for you.

You’ll need fewer stakes and netting

When cut flowers are packed in tighter than the standard spacing recommendations, they are able to provide a support system for themselves. As the wind blows through the garden, the mass of the flower plants provides a stronger wind block than an individual plant would. As a result, there are fewer instances of strong winds flattening out a stand of cut flowers.

The same is true for rainfall. Flowers with large or delicate heads such as poppies, cosmos, or bells of Ireland can be beaten down by the rain or catch water in their blooms, making them top-heavy. With closer spacing the plants can lean on each other and stay more upright than they otherwise would.

Flower netting can be a pain to work with, so if you don’t have to use it, all the better.

You’ll get longer stems

One of the hallmarks of cut flowers is getting a long, straight stem to allow for ultimate creativity in arrangements. Whether they’ll be in a tall vase or a short bowl, you have the stem length to go between the two extremes.

When plants are spaced close together they’re each competing to reach a height that will give them access to the most sunlight. With more space between plants they would have the luxury of staying short and bushy, which doesn’t make a good cut flower.

So pack those annual cut flowers in tightly and make them produce abundant quality stems for your vase.

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