By Lori Lovely | Updated Jan 6, 2023 6:19 PM
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Vibrant blossoms in flower beds are a delight that many gardeners want to bring inside to enjoy—but some might hesitate to decimate their lush garden with extensive flower harvesting. If you want to enjoy outside color in indoor bouquets, the best answer is planting a cut flower garden.
Gather some cut flower garden ideas from the following tips, as well as a few suggestions for a cut flower garden for beginners to savor the scents and sights of your favorite flowers filling up your vases.
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While planning a cut flower garden isn’t vastly different from planning a vegetable garden or flower bed, there are key differences that are important to note, including location, maintenance, and flower type.
As with most planting beds, you’ll want a sunny spot with rich, well-draining soil for your cut flower garden. Most flowers prefer full sun. Since the intended display area for the cut flowers is inside your home, this garden can thrive in an inconspicuous area of the landscape. However, to achieve the best results and make maintenance simpler, avoid concealing a cut flower garden to the point that you forget to harvest flowers as they bloom.
If a separate space isn’t feasible, it is possible to incorporate cut flowers into a vegetable or ornamental garden and grow them in groups or rows like other crops. Some gardeners scatter cutting flower garden plants throughout their landscape, mingling them with perennials, annuals, and edibles in beds where flower removal won’t be so noticeable.
Raised beds can facilitate easier access for cutting. A very small cut flower garden can even consist of containers. But for large masses of flowers, planting in the ground usually works best.
Just like any flower bed, a designated cutting garden requires care and maintenance. Because sunny locations preferred by most flowers can dry out, a nearby water source or easy way to provide water is handy. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are two smart choices to provide watering when needed.
Adding mulch around the ground below flowering plants can help the soil retain moisture and prevent weeds. A layer of heavy-duty landscape fabric might help reduce weeds, but can also affect reseeding and spreading of plants, as well as the ability to amend soil when growing multiple flowers. Investing in a stirrup hoe can make it easier to scrape up young weeds beneath the flowering plants without damaging blooms.
If the soil is poor, it will need amending with compost or fertilizer. Organic composts improve soil slowly, helping it drain well and adding nutrients. Adding a slow-release organic fertilizer in spring after planting or appearance of healthy starts can improve bloom production.
When selecting flowers and preparing to grow a cut flower garden, plan for which plants might require staking or support; it helps to place them at the back of the garden, near a fence, or in spots where you can easily add stakes if needed. Others might need regular pruning, pinching, or deadheading when you’re not harvesting blooms. Keep this in mind and place these higher maintenance options in raised beds or within easy reach.
Cutting gardens are designed for harvesting flowers on a regular basis. Choosing the right cutting flower garden plants will supply a variety of flowers all season long—and possibly cut flower garden seeds for next year’s plot. Opt for prolific types that won’t be detrimentally affected by pruning. Easy-care varieties also can reduce maintenance, such as the need for supplemental watering. Finally, choosing a few with flowers pleasant scents can add to the allure of the garden and cut bouquets.
Gardeners might be wise to keep floral design in mind when choosing plants. Eye-catching bouquets are known to contain a “thriller,” a “filler,” and a “spiller.” Grow some tall, showy flowers to use as the centerpiece, some flowers with multiple small buds (like baby’s breath), and a trailing variety that can spill over the side of a vase. Color and blooming season are also important considerations when choosing which flowers to plant.
Whether you prefer heirloom flowers, fragrant blossoms, or bold colors, there are many varieties that do well in cutting gardens. Planting a mix of annual and perennial flowers helps extend the cutting season. Flowering shrubs can also provide buds for your favorite vase; here are some ideas to get started.
Planting a cut flower garden takes a little planning and preparation. This includes selecting a site, preparing the soil, choosing flowers, and laying out the cut flower garden.
Most flowers prefer full sun, so find a sunny spot to start your cut flower garden. If it’s near an available water source, it will be more convenient to maintain. Since you’ll be harvesting flowers regularly, this garden doesn’t need to be in a highly visible space, but you will need easy access to blooms. If you lack room for a separate cut flower garden, add a few rows (or a border) to grow cutting flowers that also attract pollinators to your vegetable garden. You also can mix cutting flowers into your ornamental garden beds and landscape plans.
If starting a new garden area, prepare the soil by loosening it to a depth of about 12 inches. Before loosening the soil, remove weeds or competing plants like grass that you do not want growing there (and take steps to prevent weeds from starting until spring planting time if necessary). Enhance the soil by adding a few inches of compost and working it into the existing soil. The better prepared the soil, the more success you will likely have with flower seeds. Make sure the soil drains well; most flowering plants don’t like wet feet.
Start with flowers that you like and want to enjoy indoors. Then, determine perennial plants’ hardiness zones, as well as all plants’ sun, soil, water, and nutrient requirements. Group flowers with similar needs together. If you prefer that plants return year after year, be sure to include some perennials for cut flowers and enjoy an easy-care source of blossoms. Use annuals grown from starts or seeds to introduce some variety each year if you like.
Plan your cut flower garden layout for convenience of watering, weeding, and harvesting. Arrange plants by height and bloom sequence. Either plant in wide rows or small plots that allow you to easily snip blooms as they appear.
For continuous blooms throughout the season, leave space for succession planting. For example, sow a row or group of cosmos seeds as soon as recommended for your area and save some space for a second sowing 2 weeks later. Or place transplants of sunflowers out for early blooms and follow up in another spot with seeds as soon as the soil is warm enough.
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Once your plants have begun to bloom, it’s time to selectively harvest flowers for your home. For many flowers, such as roses, choose buds that are about to open because they’ll last longer as cut flowers. Some daisy-like flowers will do best if harvested once they fully open. The best time to cut flowers in the garden is either early morning or late afternoon and early evening. Avoid the heat of the day.
Using a sharp tool, cut the stem a little longer than you need. Place the stems in a bucket of water in a cool location for a couple hours to allow them time to hydrate before arranging them in a vase or container. Feel free to add floral preservative to the water. Strip lower leaves that will sit below the vase’s water line, and do not place any flowers in the refrigerator.
If your harvest fails to keep up with flower production, be sure to keep deadheading old blooms off the plants. If left on the plant, older flowers steal some energy that the plant could otherwise put into making and growing new buds.
After your cut blooms have hardened off in a bucket of water for a couple hours, it’s time to arrange the flowers for display.
Remember the “thriller, filler, spiller” rule when it comes to arranging flowers.
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The choice of flowers is seemingly endless, but some are better suited to a cut flower garden than others. Here a few of basic questions and answers about how to grow a cut flower garden:
Some of the easiest cut flowers to grow include zinnias, sweet peas, tulips, daffodils, gladioli, cosmos, sunflowers, peonies, coneflowers, calendula, and roses.
It depends on how many flowers you want to grow and whether your garden includes perennials and shrubs. Gardeners might start with a few cutting flowers in a raised bed, about 18 square feet in area. If you have the space, you can add cut flowers throughout the yard or think big and create a wildflower meadow.
For most plants, 6 to 18 inches deep is sufficient for a raised bed. Some large tubers like dahlias will require a depth of at least 18 inches.
A width of three feet is fairly standard for a cut flower garden to allow easy access for watering, weeding, and harvesting flowers. In general, keeping rows at about 36 inches wide, with a 12-inch foot path around each row, helps gardeners reach as many plants as possible without stepping on others.
Good filler plants for a cutting garden include caladium, euphorbia, petunias, artemisia, portulaca, verbena, and sweet alyssum. These plants can provide some ground cover to curb weed growth while adding color.
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