When you don’t have a lot of garden space to work with, you have to make every inch count. That means being intentional with which plants you include in your cut flower garden, so you have enough blooms for a bouquet.
Avoid having too few blooms by planning the layout for your small cut flower garden to maximize the varieties of flowers you grow and their spacing.
To harvest at least one bouquet per week, plant a small garden space of 4×4, or 12 square feet. This space can be filled with annual flowers of varying bloom time, color, and shape to build bouquets. A dozen 7-gallon pots or grow bags will provide enough room if growing in containers.
Once you’ve figured out how to plan out one small bed, it will be easier (and tempting!) to establish more beds and add variety to your cut flower garden.
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How wide should I make my flower beds?
A four-foot wide garden bed works perfectly for a cut flower garden. This is even the industry standard on cut flower farms. You can plant five rows nine inches apart, which is the most common spacing for cut flowers.
Consistent spacing will make it easier to set up drip irrigation or soaker hoses if you don’t want to hand water.
A four-foot wide bed also means you can reach the middle of the bed from either side to access all the flowers.
If you’re growing in pots or grow bags, you can arrange the containers in a 4×4 grid or have them scattered wherever it’s convenient for you. Treat each pot as a square foot of garden space when planning out your space.
As a side note, if a four-foot wide bed is too deep for you, make an adjustment that suits you!
If you have a wonky back that hurts when you reach that far (I’ve been there!), then try two or three feet wide and make the bed longer. If you’re on the shorter side, three feet might also be easier for you to manage.
What’s the minimum width of a flower bed?
A flower bed should be at least a foot wide. This provides room for two tightly spaced rows or one row for larger, bushier plants. A narrow bed can work well when it’s located against a house foundation or fence since you’ll only be able to access the bed from the front.
If you want to also attract bees and butterflies to your garden space, rows of at least one foot are better. Pollinating insects are attracted to large swaths of flowers, preferably of the same type and color. A large planting of golden rudbeckia is like a homing beacon for bees.
So if your beds are one foot deep, aim to also plant each variety one foot wide, if not more. That way, you have a square foot of blooms to harvest from and to attract pollinators to your garden.
Speaking of square feet, if you’ve heard of square foot gardening (or maybe you grow veggies this way), then you’ll be happy to know that you can use this grid method to grow flowers, too. Jump over to this article to learn more: Learn Why Square Foot Gardening Is Perfect For Flower Beds.
Also, when you have a tight planting of flowers of at least one square foot, you will help the plants support each other. A single-file row of flower plants will easily be blown around by the wind or pummeled by the rain. By packing them into a block of flowers, they support each other against the elements, reducing stem bending and breakage.
How many plants can I grow in a 4×4 foot bed?
Here’s the question you really came for, right? Just how many plants can I pack into my flower bed? I get it, don’t worry.
A 4×4 foot bed can hold about 25 plants if they’re planted 9 inches apart, as most flowers are when grown for cutting. If you include a few larger plants, such as dahlias, the total number of plants will drop to about 10-14 since dahlias need about 18 inches between plants.
When you plan the layout of your flower bed, keep in mind that you need a balance of flowers. By that, I mean planting a few different shapes, textures, and colors so your bouquets aren’t just one type of flower.
Even though there’s nothing wrong with a handful of cosmos, you can level up that posey with the addition of a few trailing springs of mint or a sturdier stem of zinnia to balance out the wispy cosmo.
A good rule of thumb for planning is to split your garden into thirds. Each space will have a different focus. 33% of your garden space is dedicated to filler flowers, 33% to focal flowers, and the remaining 33% is filled with foliage. If these terms are new to you, let’s take a closer look.
Focal flowers are what most people think of when they imagine a bouquet or arrangement. Roses, dahlias, giant zinnias, peonies…these are all the stars of the bouquet. Some are easy-to-grow annuals, while some are perennials requiring more time investment. We’ll focus on annual options for now.
Filler flowers can make up a large percentage of any bouquet. They add volume, texture, and plenty of color. These are smaller flowers such as bachelor buttons, feverfew, or snapdragons. With filler flowers, you get a variety of shapes, which is great for personalizing your bouquets with style.
In addition to the three mentioned above, other popular filler flowers are rudbeckia, scabiosa, and salvia.
Also known as greenery, foliage focuses on the stems and leaves rather than the flowers. If you’ve ever picked a clutch of daisies, did you notice how leaving some leaves on the stems helps complete the bouquet? The green color contrasts with the white and yellow of the flowers. The leaves also provide a textured backdrop for the flowers.
Some easy-to-grow green foliage includes basil, bupleurum, and mint. For even more ideas that are easy to grow in any garden, check out this article, 7 Green Filler Flowers & Foliage To Grow For Your Bouquets.
How do I space plants in my flower bed?
To fit around 25 plants into 12 square feet, you’ll have to forget about traditional spacing between plants. When growing flowers specifically for cutting, you can get away with much closer spacing.
The most common spacing for cut flowers is 9×9, meaning that there are nine inches between plants in all directions. For more compact plants, 6×6 is the best spacing, and for larger plants, a 12×12 spacing works best.
Here’s a convenient chart of the recommended spacing for common cut flowers, which you’ll also find in this article, How To Space Your Annuals For Cut Flower Production.
What’s the logic behind this close spacing?
Since you’ll be picking stems regularly, the plants won’t get as large as landscape plants that decorate the garden.
Additionally, planting cut flowers closer together encourages long stems. As the plants compete for sunlight they send their branches up and out higher to get to the top. This results in a nice long stem that’s perfect for arranging.
Sample 4×4 cut flower garden layouts
These options represent only two of the infinite ideas. You could make new layouts all day by choosing different plants and varieties. These are simply two examples to get your creative juices flowing. All links will go to Johnny’s Selected Seeds website so you can look at each flower.
Option 1: The soft and romantic cutting garden
- Focal flower: Queen Red zinnia
- Filler flower: QIS Apricot statice and Double Click Snow Puff cosmos
- Foliage: Kiwi Blue cerinthe and mint (do yourself a favor and buy a mint seedling – it’s much faster!)
Option 2: The bright and bold cutting garden
- Focal flower: Benary’s Giant zinnia
- Filler flower: Flowerburst yarrow and Fama White scabiosa
- Foliage: Bouquet dill and Mrs. Burns’ Lemon basil
As you plan your flower bed, remember that each side is four feet long, and the rows are nine inches apart from each other. There is only about an inch and a half between the edge of the bed and the first row. Each row will have five plants also spaced nine inches apart.
Each variety of these sample layouts will get its own row. You can either plant the whole row at once, or you can plant half the row first, then a few weeks later plant the second half of the row. This is called succession sowing, and it will give you a longer window to harvest your blooms.
It does add another layer of planning, so if you’re just getting started, then planting the whole row at once is simpler.
Lastly, if you’re using a dozen pots or containers that are at least 7 gallons, plant three containers with each variety. In other words, treat a set of three containers like one row of this layout.
Now grab your seed packets and planning journal and design a layout that works for you and your gardening style!
Want some help getting started?
I would love to help you with your garden planning process. It’s one of my favorite parts of gardening. Check out the Cut Flower Garden Planner, lovingly created by yours truly!