Gardeners grow flowers for many different purposes, from attracting bees and butterflies to growing edible flowers to just enjoying a beautiful landscape. But what if you don’t want to limit savoring your flowers only in the garden, but rather in your home or to give to friends? Well, cut flower gardening might be just the right type of gardening for you.
Cut flower gardening means growing flowers to cut and use in bouquets, arrangements, and other uses such as wreath-making or dried arrangements. Cut flowers can be grown in backyard gardens, containers, mixed with vegetable gardens, or tucked into other landscaped areas.
Get started with a few basics of just what cut flower gardening is all about and see if it’s right for you!
What is an example of a cut flower?
A cut flower is simply a flower grown with the specific purpose of being cut or harvested and used in bouquets and arrangements.
Think back to being a kid, picking dandelions in the backyard. That right there is probably the most general example of a cut flower. No, dandelions aren’t typically used in bouquets. But it’s an example of a cut flower that most of us can probably relate to.
A rose is another great example on the other end of the spectrum. Though also grown as garden treasures by rose lovers everywhere, they are also an iconic example of a cut flower that you can find at any grocery store or florist.
Let’s be a little more practical. Chances are you aren’t growing a patch of dandelions (at least not on purpose!) and roses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.
Another example would be a zinnia. This flower is one of the most popular flowers to grow in the cutting garden. It comes in a huge variety of colors and shapes, produces more blooms the more you cut, and the flowers last a long time in the vase.
There are dozens and dozens of flowers that can be grown as cut flowers, and we’ll get into some recommendations shortly. But no matter which type of flower is grown, a cut flower is prized for its production of uniform and beautiful blooms, having long stems, and lasting a long time in a vase.
What types of flowers can be grown for cutting?
The most common types of flowers grown for cutting are annuals. These flowers are planted in the spring and bloom all summer. Once frost hits in the fall, they die, completing their life cycle in one growing season.
Many annual flowers are what are known as cut and come again flowers. These types of cut flowers produce new blooms every time you harvest flowers from the plant. It’s like the gift that keeps giving. If you pick a handful of flowers one day, new flowers will be there to replace them just a few days later. Pretty neat, right?
For a detailed walk through of a working cut flower farm, check out this video from You Can’t Eat The Grass, plus get tips on which flowers you should start with:
Perennials are another classification of plants in the cut flower garden. These plants live for more than one season, often years and years if they’re well cared for. Some will only bloom for a short period, such as peonies in the spring. Other types, such as Shasta daisies or salvia, will bloom all summer.
Perennials are usually planted in the fall and bloom the following year. A few perennials, such as the elegant peony, take a while longer to bloom. With the proper care, perennials can become the backbone of the cutting garden, with annuals adding variety from year to year.
Another type of flower to add to the cutting garden comes from shrubs, also known as woodies in the cut flower industry. These shrubs produce branches and buds that can build up an arrangement from a small handful of flowers to a structure fit for an entryway or holiday table.
The bark’s color, the wood’s texture, and the leaves combine to create a backdrop for the arrangement. Some of the most common shrubs to grow in a cut flower garden are pussy willow, ninebark, and smokebush.
These plants all need time to establish in the ground, and they are a bigger time and money investment than a seed packet of annuals. They take more expertise to grow and help thrive, but it’s good to have them on the radar for future cutting garden projects.
Easiest cut flowers to grow for beginners
There are dozens of options for cut flowers that you could grow. Some are very straightforward and easy to grow from seed, and others need to be coaxed into germination and monitored through their growth.
To get started with cut flowers, stick to the easier end of the spectrum, so you have enough success that you’re dreaming of your next garden, rather than swearing off growing flowers for good.
Here is a roundup of some of the easiest flowers to grow in your cutting garden. All of these flowers are:
- easy to grow from seed
- can be started in the spring after your last frost
- will bloom again after each cutting
- have plenty of colors available no matter your color preferences
- can be grown in containers if you don’t have garden beds
- are great companions to vegetables if you’re doing companion planting
- Cosmos: Tall, willowy stems with lacy foliage support delicate-looking blooms in all colors, from white to pink to orange. Even though cosmos look delicate, they’re very tough plants. They grow well in poor soil and with little water, and they will pump out flowers all summer long.
2. Zinnias: Another must-grow for the cut flower garden, zinnias also have a vast range of colors, so you’ll find a variety you like no matter your style. Whether you gravitate toward light yellow or vibrant red or prefer soft tones of cream and rose, a zinnia is there for you. Prolific bloomers, zinnias will keep your vases stocked all summer long.
3. Sunflowers: A classic choice for any summer garden, sunflowers are a premium flower for bouquets throughout the year. Choose from a soft butter yellow in spring, deep gold in the summer, and ruby in the fall to have your varieties follow the mood of the changing seasons. Sunflowers are versatile and long-lasting blooms for any decoration.
4. Marigolds: This iconic kitchen garden flower deserves a place in the cutting garden. Yellow and orange blooms can be found in round puffballs or dainty little rings of petals. They are long-lasting in the vase and do double duty as pest repellants in the garden. Plus, their petals are edible, so if your kids are still in the mouthing phase, no worries if they get ahold of a bloom.
5. Sweet Peas: This vining flower adds an old-style cottage feel to the cut flower garden. Wonderfully fragrant, sweet peas are some of the first flowers to plant in the spring, and they’ll produce blooms until the heat of summer slows them down. Colors range from deep, moody maroon to bright white, so you’re sure to find a variety you like.
Take note that the entire sweet pea plant is poisonous, so this is one to keep away from children and pets.
6. Nasturtiums: Another everyday companion of the veggie garden, nasturtiums are one of the easiest flowers to grow. Large, pea-sized seeds produce trailing or bushy plants with large lily pad-shaped leaves. The bright flowers are a quirky addition to bouquets, and the entire plant is edible.
7. Calendula: An edible, medicinal, and decorative jack of all trades, the calendula is a flower that anyone can grow. Put seeds in the ground, and you’ll get calendula plants. They last all season from the earliest spring until past the first light frost. Their colors stay in the orange, yellow, and cream range, so they’ll add a spot of cheer to any garden or bouquet.
This list focuses on flowers that produce colorful blooms, but another critical part of a bouquet is the foliage that supports the focal flowers. Silvery, fuzzy sage leaves and scented bunches of basil add dimension to bouquets, stretch your flowers further, and provide a backdrop to showcase your blooms.
If you aren’t sure which plants to grow for foliage, check out this post I wrote called What’s The Difference Between Foliage and Filler for Bouquets? to learn more and get some easy-to-grow recommendations.
What do I need for a cutting garden?
Getting started with a cutting garden only takes essential tools such as a shovel, a rake, a hose or watering can, and seeds. Depending on where you plan to grow, you might also need some containers, potting soil, or a load of quality compost to add to your garden bed.
If you don’t want to buy pots, grow bags are a low-investment way to get started. These thick fabric pots are much less expensive than ceramic pots and can easily be purchased online. They are available in a range of sizes, just like pots, making them suitable for different types of flowers.
Here are a few of my favorites for a few quick ideas of other garden goodies to get you started.
My Top 3 Cut Flower Supplies
Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms: This is the book that inspired me to start growing cut flowers. Plant profiles, seasonal tasks, and arrangement tutorials will get anyone started with growing their own bouquets.
Fox Farm Fertilizer Soil Liquid Nutrient: Tiger Bloom: More flowers? Yes, please. I treat my cut flowers to a sip of this phosphorous-heavy liquid fertilizer throughout the season, so I never run out of fresh flowers in my house or garden.
Corona FS 3214D ComfortGEL Leaf & Stem Micro Snips: Perfect for cutting small stems, deadheading spent blooms, or keeping the mint plant from taking over my garden.
Find the rest of my “use on the daily” garden gear on my resources page.
Beyond the basics, tools such as a drip irrigation system and a seed starting setup will allow for convenience and expansion but aren’t necessary initially. Even then, you can easily set up a drip irrigation system with supplies bought either online or at the hardware store.
It may look intimidating to get started, but it’s really just like piecing together Legos. One piece connects to another until you have rows of tubing leading straight to your plants to give them the right amount of water.
Likewise, for a seed starting setup. Some shop lights on a shelf or rack and store-bought trays or recycled containers are all you need to set up a small seed-starting operation. By starting your own seeds, you can extend your season by getting older plants in the ground instead of directly sowing seeds in the garden bed.
So keep irrigation and seed starting in mind for when you’re ready, but don’t feel like you need them right off the bat to get a cut flower garden going.
How much space do I need for a cut flower garden?
To have enough flower plants to harvest at least one bouquet per week, you will need at least one small garden bed of about 10 square feet. This square footage will provide enough space to grow a handful of different annual flowers and a few varieties of foliage to provide texture and greenery to your bouquets.
You could also use ten 5-gallon buckets or large pots for your cutting garden if you don’t have a patch of land for planting. Containers are an excellent option for people renting or who need to plant flowers where the sun is since the containers are portable.
For a few ideas of how to layout your cut flower garden, this article has three different examples to inspire you: 3 Cut Flower Garden Layout Ideas (Plus Tips For Your Own).
There isn’t an upper limit on the space you need for a cut flower garden beyond your ability to maintain it. It’s so tempting to stake out a large piece of your yard and pack it full of flower transplants and seeds.
But as the season progresses and the weeds sprout, and the hot summer days demand frequent watering, it gets difficult to stay on top of the garden chores.
So choose wisely how much space you want to dedicate to your garden, especially if you’re just starting. It’s much better to start small and grow things well than to overcommit and scrape by with the bare minimum. You’ll get higher quality flowers when they get the care they need, and chances are you’ll enjoy the experience much more.
If you don’t have a lot of space to commit to a cut flower garden or you only want to have a small patch of flowers to harvest from, check out this post, Get Blooms From A Small Space: Planning A Cut Flower Garden, to learn about space requirements, continuous bloomers, and more.
Another suggestion is to try companion planting. If you’re an experienced vegetable or herb gardener looking to dip your toe into the world of cut flowers, start off simply by planting some zinnias, cosmos, or scabiosa in your vegetable garden.
Including flowers will make it easier to get started than starting a new garden from scratch, and it will help attract pollinators and beneficial insects to your existing garden.
For some first-hand experience and tons of footage of your favorite flowers, check out this article, 7 Best YouTube Channels To Inspire Cut Flower Gardeners and see if you don’t immediately feel like becoming a flower farmer!