How to Start a Productive and Beautiful Cut Flower Garden


It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of my love of flowers. Suffice it to say that before I embarked upon a cutting garden, I probably could retire with the money I spent on cut flowers from the store. So, with great enthusiasm from my husband, I embarked upon the project of creating a cut flower garden.

Growing flowers specifically to cut them has been a labor of love and a learning curve for certain. However, I have avoided buying grocery store flowers for nearly a year now, which brings a certain sense of achievement and a fair amount of bragging rights. 

Whether or not my cutting garden has saved any actual money is between me and Botanical Interests. But I can tell you this: there is great satisfaction in harvesting a beautiful bouquet from my own garden that money cannot buy. Here are some important things that I have learned from my own experiences. I hope they will also get you on the road to floral department freedom. 

Understand Your Climate

A close-up of purple coneflower plants showcasing pink blooms with grand golden centers. Elegant stems and leaves grace the composition, capturing the essence of these sunlit beauties. These botanical wonders bask in the warm glow of sunlight.
Certain seeds need cold for germination and are ideally planted in the fall for natural chilling.

The first step is understanding your climate to know which plants will grow best there. Your climate also influences the kind of treatment your seeds or bulbs require and what time of year you should take certain steps. 

Some seeds require a period of cold to initiate germination. These seeds are best planted in the fall to go through the chilling process naturally. If you forget to plant before the ground freezes or live in a warmer climate, you may need to cold stratify some of your seeds by other means. 

Cold tender seeds also need special care, depending on your climate. If you plan to grow dahlias in your zone 6 garden, you must do some extra work, such as digging them up and storing them for the winter, to keep the tubers alive. 

Knowing your climate zone and paying attention to your flowers’ specific needs are of the utmost importance in building a cut flower garden. Moisture is another component that needs attention.

Some flowering plants are drought tolerant and can withstand periods without rain. Others, not so much. Likewise, if you live in a very humid climate, you will have to know which plants are susceptible to mold and mildew and give those plants plenty of space for air to circulate. 

Choose a Location

A close-up of a large sunflower takes center stage, its intricate details illuminated. The sunflower's golden petals form a mesmerizing pattern, surrounded by fellow sunflowers in a vast field. The backdrop features a tranquil blue sky, enhancing the overall beauty of the scene.
Aim for a spot with at least six hours of daily sunlight for a thriving cut flower garden.

The best location for a cut flower garden is the one that receives six or more hours of sun per day, with as many hours in the morning as possible. The reason that the morning sun is preferable is simple. The morning sun provides all the same benefits as the afternoon sun, with much less heat. 

Most flowering plants prefer full to partial sun. If your garden doesn’t get enough sun, your plants are not likely to do their best blooming. On the other hand, a garden that gets a lot of sun in the afternoon can be an issue during the hot summer months. 

Look for a location with good drainage, too. You don’t want to end up with a garden full of root rot from poor drainage or overly wet soil. I prefer to grow my cut flowers in raised beds, like Birdies metal raised garden beds. This takes some of the guesswork out of watering and is great for weed prevention. 

Select Your Flowers

Within a picturesque garden, an array of perennial plants display a kaleidoscope of colors – from white, pink, to orange. Diverse in size and shape, their vibrant flowers harmonize with the surrounding green leaves and stems, creating a visually captivating and diverse botanical display.
Your flower choices hinge on climate and whether you want annual or perennial growth.

Selecting flowers depends upon your climate and your intention to grow the flowers as annuals or perennials. If you are growing a predominantly annual cut flower garden, you can grow flowers that aren’t necessarily suited to your climate. 

The advantage to growing perennial plants in your climate is that you don’t have to purchase them yearly, and they will tend to be sturdier and stand up to the elements better. However, many plants we consider annuals are bigger bloomers than their perennial counterparts. 

You also want to consider the different textures and sizes of your flowers. You will want flowers that are focal points, others that are fillers, and some that create vertical interest in floral arrangements. Think about planting various sizes, shapes, and colors in your cut flower garden. 

Consider fragrance, foliage, and whether you want flowers that will dry nicely. Choosing one specific flower you want to feature and building the rest of the garden around it can be effective.

Create a Plan

A close-up view of brown soil and lush green grasses, featuring a hand shovel in the uncovered soil. Among the greenery, small potted seedlings and a wheelbarrow contribute to the narrative of starting a new flower bed in a backyard, capturing the essence of growth and cultivation.
Diversifying your garden with flowers that bloom at varying times is smart.

Are you planting a cutting garden for one season, or will you want to have flowers blooming in different seasons? This is an important question to ask yourself, as each plant has a season, and they do not always line up perfectly. It’s a great idea to plant varied flowers that bloom at different times of the year. 

You want access to all parts of your beds, so you don’t have to trample one plant to reach another. Take this, and blooming time, into consideration when you choose locations for your plants. Group together plants that have similar needs in terms of watering and fertilizing. 

Prepare Your Soil

A larger hand clasps a smaller hand as they both grip a small green hand shovel, filled with dark, rich soil. Together, they carefully transfer the soil into a large, white pot positioned atop black plastic and dark soil, preparing for garden planting.
Maximizing flower yield necessitates providing for your plants’ soil needs.

While some plants, like lavender, prefer poor soil and dry conditions, this is only the case for some plants that typically go into a cutting garden. If you want to maximize the number of flowers you get from your garden, your plants will need some extra help with their soil.

Different soil types require different treatments, with clay-heavy soil having different needs from sandy or loamy soils. Your soil may need some additional nutrients as well. A soil test is a great tool for determining the composition of your soil, as well as what nutrients are present and in what amounts. 

If you get a head start in the fall, there are ways that you can naturally prepare your soil to be at its best in the spring. Cover crops can be planted in the fall to enrich the soil for the next season, and it’s always a good idea to work in some rich, organic compost in time for it to break down and enrich the soil.

Ward off Weeds

In a brown soil bed, a gardener in black boots and gloves hammers a weed barrier, securing it firmly. The ground, covered with the barrier, showcases a gardening tool in the background, as the gardener anchors the barrier to the earth.
Employing a weed barrier saves time and effort during rainy seasons.

Weeding is one of my least favorite garden pastimes. It’s hard on the back and knees and takes time away from other garden tasks. If you are using raised beds, lining the bottom with a weed barrier nearly eliminates this issue, but in the ground, they always seem to find a way in. 

Using a weed barrier will save you time and energy once the weather warms up, particularly during the rainy season. Keeping weeds to a minimum means that your flowering plants don’t have to compete for water or nutrients, and you have more time and energy to tend to your other responsibilities. 

Lock in Moisture

A close-up reveals a small, branching plant with emerging leaves set in brown soil. Surrounding the soil, black textile weed control is in place. The intricate plant thrives amidst this controlled environment for optimal growth.
There are effective methods to retain soil moisture and reduce excessive watering.

Helping your soil stay moist will also be a big time and resource saver. Where I live in zone 8, we get some very dry, very hot summer weather, and those times require a lot of watering on my part. Fortunately, there are some great ways to help maintain moisture in your soil and minimize the necessity of all that extra watering. 

Weed cloth helps maintain the moisture level in the soil beneath it. A nice thick layer of mulch will provide a similar barrier to keep water from evaporating too quickly. Placing your garden in a location with more shade in the afternoon will also help protect your plants from dehydration.

If you anticipate that you will have to do some watering regardless of these things, soaker hoses or drip lines make a lot of sense in this type of flower bed. If you want your plants to produce many flowers, most plants will need ample water. 

Give Your Flowers Support

Pink roses bloom vibrantly, showcasing delicate petals against lush green leaves. Supported by an iron trellis, the roses stand out against a clear blue sky in the background, their hues complementing the serene atmosphere.
Heavy winds and rain pose threats, potentially damaging delicate, tall stems.

You may need to support your plants depending on the type of flowers you grow. I’ve found this to be especially true with dahlias, as they tend to grow quite tall in some cases, and the flowers are rather heavy. I’ve come out too many mornings to cut a few dahlias, only to find the branches snapped and my flowers lying on the ground looking smashed up. 

Heavy winds and rain can do a number on some of your taller, more delicate stems. Giving these plants some support will help them stay upright until you are ready to cut those beautiful blooms. You can stake them or use a trellis. Even tomato cages work well for many flowering plants. 

Trellising can be very effective for use in a raised bed garden. Some plants, like sweet peas, will grow straighter, taller stems if you give them the support they need. Constructing your support before your plants need it is a good idea, so get that started while your plants are still small for best results. 

Pinch 

A hand delicately removes wilted dark magenta petunia flowers from their stems. The vibrant blossoms are fading, contrasting with lush green leaves. The foliage surrounds the fading blooms, indicating signs of withering.
Pinching plants when young can lead to branching, doubling the flower potential.

Now, I try to teach my children that pinching is unkind and not an appropriate way to make contact with each other. However, when it comes to my flower garden, I understand that pinching is a very effective practice that promotes more flowering. 

When you pinch a plant while it is young, if you do it correctly, the plant will branch, and instead of one branch to produce flowers, you will have two! Timing is important for this step because you don’t want to pinch before the plant is ready, but if you wait too long, you risk weakening the central stem by making it support too much weight.

The central stem should be fairly short, which will help keep it stable. Pinch the central stem back by about four inches when your plants reach about six to eight inches tall. The best place to pinch them off is directly above a set of leaves, as this is where the new branches will sprout, which will be more aesthetically pleasing. 

Pinching can be done by hand for some plants, but for most, it is best to use a clean pair of garden shears to reduce trauma to the plant. Pinching increases the number of flowers each plant will produce and promotes longer stems, which is a major bonus for a cut flower garden.

Feed Your Flowers

A gardener, wearing gloves, sprays fertilizer from a yellow bottle onto clusters of vibrant red roses. The roses boast rich, velvety petals, exuding elegance. Their lush, emerald-green leaves provide a stunning backdrop to the blossoms.
Fertilizing a cut flower garden necessitates timing your fertilizer applications correctly.

Now, not all flowering plants like a great deal of fertilizer. We discussed lavender and how it prefers to be grown in poor soil that lacks nutrients. However, this is more the exception than the rule when growing flowers for cutting, so it’s best to keep these low-nutrient flowers in a separate space.

Fertilizing a cut flower garden should occur at two separate times, with two different formulations. When you first plant your seeds or transplant in seedlings, give them a fertilizer rich in nitrogen, as this encourages plenty of green growth. We want those plants that will hold our flowers to grow big and strong right from the start. 

Your second application should take place as your plants are developing buds. This time, use a fertilizer that is made specifically for boosting blooms. These formulas are higher in phosphorus, which helps the plant transfer energy to root and flower development. 

Harvest at the Right Time

A woman uses pruning shears to gather a bouquet of dahlia-like flowers in various shades of white, pink, and lavender. The sturdy stems bear vibrant blooms while the lush green leaves bask in sunlight, complementing the colorful flowers.
Certain flowers can be cut in the bud, extending their vase life.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but not all flowers should be harvested simultaneously. Some flowers can be harvested while still in bud, and the buds will continue to develop and then bloom after cutting. This is nice for extending the vase life of many of these flowers. Cutting flowers like roses, peonies, lilies, and others while in the bud is perfect, as they will open up after cutting. 

Not all flowers have this habit; some will stay as a bud if you cut them too soon. Sunflowers and dahlias, for example, should be left on the stem until the flower is almost completely open, or you will miss out on the full effect of the blooms. 

Keep Cutting

A man's hand, holding pruning shears, trims a pale, weak pink rose in need of deadheading. The fading pink petals contrast with the healthy, lush green leaves surrounding the fragile flower, hinting at its delicate state.
To ensure continuous blooming, it’s crucial to trim the flowers regularly once they start blooming.

Once your plants begin to bloom, cutting their flowers regularly as they mature is important. For most flowering plants, cutting the flowers off as they mature will cause them to produce more flowers. Some call this deadheading, but in a cutting garden, you want to cut them before they are spent, whereas, with garden plants, you want to remove the blooms afterward.

Even if you have no more space and no single empty vase in the house, keep cutting. Share them with friends and neighbors, but don’t let your flowers die and stay on the plant. This will surely slow down flower production. 

Grow for the Season

Snapdragon plants display red clusters of blooms. The vibrant red spikes form clustered blooms amid lush green leaves, adding a vivid contrast. In the background, other green plants populate the garden scenery.
Pay attention to your plants’ preferred weather conditions to ensure their flourishing growth.

Finally, make sure that you are paying attention to the seasonality of your plants. Some plants prefer cool weather and will flourish in fall or spring. Meanwhile, they suffer in the summer heat and are unlikely to produce flowers during this time. On the other hand, some flowers thrive in the hot summer temperatures.

It is good to know which plants prefer what type of weather. A seed packet often indicates the best time of year to plant the seeds enclosed, but these are not always hard and fast rules. Often, seeds that are indicated to start in early spring will also do well in the fall. Snapdragons, for example, are typically spring flowers, but they like the autumn chill, too. 

Final Thoughts

If you, too, enjoy bringing flowers indoors as much as enjoying them outdoors, I encourage you to embark upon growing a cut flower garden. The feeling of placing a stunning garden-to-table arrangement on my dining table is one that I will never get tired of. I would love to share that joy with you, my fellow gardeners. Happy planting!



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