How to Start a Cut Flower Garden at Home

By Roger Davis, on

What a joy it is to stroll through a home garden and see the natural ebb and flow of plants as they emerge from the soil in spring and then put on an exuberant flower display in summer. By creating a cut flower garden at home you can have the luxury of creating bouquets to take inside … and to enjoy them even when you’re not strolling through the garden.

Cut flower gardens can be constructed in a variety of ways to fit a gardener’s needs and desires. They can be simple garden beds where plants with long lasting blooms can grow or they can be larger, more elaborate production spaces with diverse flowers and structures to support long-stemmed flowers. Converting already-existing beds into a cut flower space is the easiest way to get started. Utilizing extra space in a vegetable garden is another time-saving strategy.

Zinnias serve as a fantastic cut flower because of their long stems and long-lasting bloom. Tomato cages work great for supporting them. Photo by Amy Simon Berg.

No matter the type of cut flower garden you’re constructing, choosing a sunny site will help ensure success as most cut flowers require a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day. Creating a garden space dedicated to growing cut flowers will allow you the freedom to cut those flowers without the guilt of removing too many flowers from other gardens.

One of my favorite jobs as Longwood’s outdoor landscapes manager is selecting the flowers I want to grow. Seed catalogs and websites will often have sections devoted to the best flowers for cutting. Typically, you should look for flowers that have long stems with long-lasting blooms. Ageratum, globe-amaranth, snapdragons, zinnias, and dahlias are some of my favorites. I find that I often run out of space in the garden long before I run out of fun plants I want to grow.

Ageratum houstonianum 'Blue Planet' is an easy plant to grow with a unique flower shape that's good for cutting. Look for the tall Ageratum varieties, as many varieties are very short and will not ive you enough stem length for cutting. Photo by Candie Ward.

Depending on your available time and interest you can start flowers from seed or purchase transplants around mid-May. Choosing plants that bloom in varying seasons will ensure there is always something ready to harvest for the vase. There are lots of great resources to learn more different types of cut flowers, including the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, which I refer to frequently.

Plants like cosmos (shown here) and sunflowers can be directly sown in the garden for ease. Photo by Amy Simon Berg.

Many cut flowers feature lovely long stems that require some type of support. It takes a bit of time to provide this support when setting up the garden, but it’s well worth it as it saves time throughout the growing season and yields beautiful results. You can provide needed support a variety of ways.

Bamboo staking can be used to support many cut flowers, such as Eustoma grandiflorum, as shown here. Photo by Gene McCutchen.

If your cut flower garden is on the smaller side you can stake plants individually using bamboo or tomato cages. A larger cut flower garden might require more of a field production staking method. Many plastic, grid-like netting materials can be used horizontally so the plants grow up through the grid to provide support between plants. Corner posts give the grid netting stability. You can add more grid layers as the plants continue to grow.

With their hollow stems, the Dahlia, such as this Dahlia 'Lora Ashley' requires that most be supported by some form of staking as they grow. Photo by Amy Simon Berg.
Ideally, stakes should be placed in the ground before the dahlias are planted in the spring, so the tubers are not disturbed. Use a single metal rebar, multiple bamboo stakes, or sturdy tomato cages for staking, and support them as they grow throughout the summer. Photo by Fred Zwiebel.

As a gardener, it is a joy to be able to create bouquets to share with others, as well as enjoy in our own homes. I think all gardeners can agree that flowers are meant for sharing.

Related Articles

  • Botanical Curiosities of Spring Flowers
    close up image of a yellow winter aconite flower

    Botanical Curiosities of Spring Flowers

    The beauty and abundance of flowers—both in gardens and in nature—is the hallmark of the spring season. Although their beauty is obvious and appreciated by all, these highly anticipated floral displays are the result of complex, interacting factors.

    By Peter Zale, Ph.D., on April 3, 2019
  • Eco-friendly Home Gardening
    blues stones covered by water in a natural bird bath contained in a nest of woven brown twigs and wire, elevated on a pole of white birch

    Eco-friendly Home Gardening

    What does it take to be an ecological gardener, beyond filling landscapes with a diverse selection of native plants? While the vast majority of our native fauna depend on plants directly or indirectly for their survival, many animals also have specific environmental needs that must also be met, as the physical environment of the garden provides shade, shelter, and living space for its residents.

    By Colin McCallum-Cook, on June 20, 2018