Fabulous flowers for your cutting garden

What should you grow in your cutting garden?

If you adore bold colors and textures, choose cheerful zinnias and sunflowers in vibrant colors. If you prefer a softer palette and delicate blooms, consider sweet peas or cosmos. The choice is yours.

You should grow what you love!

To ensure you enjoy a long season of bouquets, consider adding the following to your cutting garden:

Heat-Tolerant Annuals

Queeny Lime Mix Zinnia is a Fabulous Cut Flower to Grow in Your Garden - National Garden Bureau
Pro Cut White Nite Sunflower
Suncredible from Proven Winners - Year of the Sunflower - National Garden Bureau
If you’re just starting out with a cutting garden, sunflowers and zinnias make the perfect beginner’s flowers. Nothing says summer like the towering, cheerful blooms of sunflowers or the vibrant, eye-popping colors of zinnias. While these popular warm-season flowers look lovely in the garden, they can be tricky to use in bouquets—unless you choose the right varieties.
Beginner Tip for the New Gardener
Many tall flowers need staking, and even some mid-sized blooms benefit from support. Try a trick used by flower farmers to support your blooms: a horizontal trellis. The flowers grow through the wide mesh, which encourages straight stems and keeps flowers upright.
Fortunately, you’ll find many choices of both of these summertime favorites for your cutting garden. Flower farmers and florists love the pollenless sunflower cultivars, such as the ProCut® series, which keep bouquets from making a mess on tabletops. ‘ProCut Orange’ offers great resistance to downy mildew, while ‘ProCut Orange Excel’ blooms earlier than its peers. For an upward-facing, lollipop look, ‘Vincent’s Choice’ makes a great addition to arrangements. Available in a wide range of colors, from vibrant yellow with dark centers to ruby red and even creamy white, sunflowers make a perfect summery statement in bouquets.
Along with traditional single-stem sunflowers, branching varieties prove a popular choice for cutting gardens, as the plant produces flowers all season long until the first frost. The smaller, multiple stems make arranging bouquets easy, too. Look for ‘Sunfinity’ and ‘Suncredible’ to add to your cutting garden. All-America Selection ‘Soraya’, pollenless ‘Royal Rouge’ and ‘Strawberry Blonde’, and fragrant ‘Florenza’ top the lists of many flower farmers for favorite additions to bouquets.
You’ll also find a wide range of colors, forms, and sizes of sunflower available. From ‘Frilly’ to ‘Greenburst’ to ‘Ruby Eclipse’, the wide variety of sunflowers available means that you’ll create an endless supply of interesting, unique bouquets.
Along with sunflowers, zinnias belong in every cutting garden. Whether you love the big, bold, old-timey blooms of ‘Benary’s Giant’ or prefer the newer, unique, ethereal colors of the ‘Queeny’ Series, zinnias provide non-stop color in the garden—and vase—all summer long until frost. Plus, the return on your investment is huge: a single pack of seeds can produce flowers to fill your vases all season. (But who wants to grow only one pack of seeds?!) From singles to doubles to cactus-flowering types, the rainbow of zinnia options makes a terrific addition to cutting gardens.

Beyond the Usual Annuals

Cosmos Double Click Mix for your Cut Flower Garden
Herb Cinnamon Basil makes a great addition to your cut flower bouquets - National Garden Bureau

If you’re ready to branch out and diversify your bouquet ingredients, give these heat-tolerant annuals a place in your cutting garden:

Beginner Tip for the New Gardener

Harvest flowers early in the morning. Use sharp, clean garden snips to cut stems. Dirty tools can spread bacteria, which causes stems to rot more quickly. Submerge newly cut stems in a bucket of water immediately. Let the flowers rest for an hour in the bucket to rehydrate before arranging them in bouquets.

Remove any lower foliage that might be covered by water in the vase and recut the stem again for good water uptake. Arrange in a vase. Flower preservative added to the water helps extend the bouquet’s life.

Hardy Annuals

Poppy Champagne Bubble Mix Blooms for your cut flower garden
Stock Katz Bright Rose for fragrant cut flowers
Snapdragon Chantilly Bronze for cut flower gardens

While some annuals thrive in summer’s heat, others prefer a slightly cooler temperature—and may even tolerate a light frost. Adding hardy annuals to your cutting garden allows you to extend the season of homegrown bouquets inexpensively, as most of these plants can be grown from seed. Before sowing, read the instructions on the seed packet. Some hardy annuals prefer autumn sowing or a stint in the refrigerator to boost germination through a cool period known as stratification. Others can be planted in spring earlier than many other annuals, with their blooms lasting until the first hard freeze in fall.  You’ll love the early- and late-season additions to your vases when you grow hardy annuals, like:

  • Bachelor Buttons: the old-fashioned blue flowers found along roadsides and in fields have evolved to include blooms in various shades of blue, purple, pink, and white. Look for ‘Classic Magic’ or ‘Choice Mix’ to fill your cutting garden.
  • Larkspur: tall, floriferous spikes of delicate blooms look lovely in arrangements. Try ‘Misty Lavender’‘QIS™ Dark Blue’, and ‘QIS™ White Cloud’.
  • Love-in-a-Mist: lacy, star-shaped flowers in shades of blue, plum, and white are followed by spectacular seed pods—equally gorgeous in bouquets as the blooms.
  • Poppies: with so many poppy varieties, it’s a challenge to pick which ones to add to your cutting garden. Florists love breadseed poppies, like ‘Frosted Salmon’, but they also adore Iceland poppies—technically considered a perennial, but they often don’t last in hot climates. Still, these beauties add a phenomenal splash of color to bouquets. Look for ‘Pastel Meadows’, and ‘Champagne Bubbles’. Plus, poppy seed heads make a gorgeous architectural addition to bouquets.
  • Snapdragons: a popular flower many gardeners enjoyed as kids (who didn’t make the blooms roar?), these tall, spiky flowers add gorgeous height to bouquets. New varieties in a rainbow of colors provide loads of options for your cutting garden. Try ‘Chantilly Bronze’ or ‘Maryland Plumblossom’.
  • Stock: the highly fragrant, fluffy blooms provide the perfect filler for your bouquets. Look for snowy white ‘Avalanche Supreme’, magenta ‘Pacific Crimson’, or rose-pink ‘Katz Bright Rose’.
  • Sweet Peas: these nostalgic beauties may have graced your grandmother’s garden, climbing a trellis and filling the air with sweet scent. Available in a rainbow of colors, these delicate-looking beauties add charm to any bouquet. Look for ‘Nimbus’‘Streamers Chocolate’, and ‘Mars’.

Beautiful Bulbs & Terrific Tubers

Dahlia Sincerity for a cut flower garden
Daffodil Art Perfume for your spring cut flower garden
Tulip Antoinette

There’s nothing like the joy of seeing the first spring bulbs emerge after a gray, dreary winter. By adding your favorite bulbs to your cutting garden, you can fill your vases with early spring blooms to bring inside to brighten chilly days.

Along with daffodils and tulips, consider adding summer-flowering bulbs and tubers, too. Perhaps your wedding bouquet included Casablanca lilies. Why not add them to your cutting garden to enjoy a sweet scent from the past? Dreamy dahlias fill the feed of every floral Instagrammer. Pick your favorites and add these tubers to your cutting garden for stunning focal points in bouquets.

With thousands of bulbs, tubers, and corms to choose from, here are just a few to try in your cutting garden:

Perfect Perennials & Beautiful Biennials

American Gold Rush Rudbeckia
Phlox Bright Eyes make an excellent cut flower addition
Digitalis Camelot Cream

Imagine the joy of plants that produce beautiful blooms for years—that’s why you need to add perennials to your cutting garden. Choose easy-to-grow plants that will keep your vases filled not only all season—but for years to come. Look for plants such as:

  • Rudbeckia: perfect for producing blooms even on the hottest, driest days of summer, this low-maintenance plant provides gorgeous additions to vases until the first frost. Look for ‘American Gold Rush’, ‘Cherokee Sunset Mix’, and ‘Cherry Brandy’.
  • Phlox: pretty clusters of blooms on the tall stems of garden phlox fill vases with color and fragrance, depending on the variety. Newer introductions resist pesky powdery mildew that plagued phlox for years. Look for ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Luminary™’.
  • Coneflower: pretty pink, daisy-like blooms always look lovely in bouquets, but this old-fashioned perennial recently received an update: AAS Winner ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ produces flowers in red, orange, purple, scarlet, cream, white, and yellow. But best of all, this perennial flowers the first year when grown from seed, unlike many perennials that don’t bloom until the second year.
  • Foxglove: a charming biennial beloved for its spikes of pretty, often freckled blooms, many gardeners think that foxglove is a perennial. In fact, although a biennial, it often self-seeds, giving you a continuous supply of flowers for your cutting garden. Try ‘Camelot Cream’ or ‘Dalmatian Peach’.
Beginner Tip for the New Gardener

Harvest flowers often to keep the plant producing new blooms. Deadhead any spent flowers to encourage the plant to direct energy into producing new flowers, not seeds.

Fabulous Fillers & Foliage

Dusty Miller as a great foliage addition to your Cut Flower Garden
Bells of Ireland adds a great look to your bouquet
Ammi is a great filler plant for any bouquet

While big, brilliant blooms star in your arrangements, fillers also play an important part in creating lush, lovely arrangements. From the silvery leaves of Dusty Miller to the bell-shaped bracts of Bells of Ireland, plan to add your favorite foliage plants to your cutting garden to help add fullness and balance to your bouquets.

Likewise, florists incorporate light, airy flowers as “fillers” in arrangements, serving to add texture and interest to bouquets. Umbels like Ammi and Dill look lovely filling gaps in vases.

And don’t forget: you may find gorgeous foliage growing elsewhere in your garden. Rosemary, grasses, mint, and even evergreen branches snipped from shrubs provide terrific seasonal interest. As temperatures drop and blooms fade, a pretty arrangement of evergreens adds seasonal ambiance.

While there may be a few “rules” about growing a cutting garden—good light, good soil, good water—there’s only one rule about which flowers to include: grow what you love. After all, the sole purpose of a cutting garden is to create beautiful bouquets that give you pleasure. Plant your favorite flowers and enjoy delightful, deliciously full vases that give you joy.

“This post is provided as an educational/inspirational service of the National Garden Bureau and our members. Please credit and link to National Garden Bureau and author member when using all or parts of this article.”



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