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  • Dana Tutela

Beginner Cut Flower Garden

Updated: May 29

Let's create an easy cut flower garden that's perfect for a beginner!


rose colored flowers in field

Keep reading for your free printable cut flower garden plan!


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Why plant a cut flower garden?


Have you ever sniffed the pretty flower bouquets at the grocery store and thought, "Hmmm they don't really have a scent?" That's because they are mass farmed in foreign countries that douse them with chemicals and dyes. Promise me you will never stick your nose in one again! Instead, grow your own cut flower garden and sniff away!


*Bonus: your flowers will be less expensive and fresher!


red and orange sunflowers in vase
Look at the water color from the dyes!

What exactly is a cut flower garden?


While typical gardens and landscapes have flowers, a cut flower garden is an intentional crop, if you will. Think rows like a vegetable garden with several of the same variety planted together en masse.


row of lavender for cut flowers

When my Shasta Daisy blooms next to the birdhouse and tea olives, I leave it alone because cutting it would make it disappear into the landscape. I want to see it in the bed as an accent. However, the Shasta Daisy in the cut flower garden is plentiful and meant to be harvested.


chickens in shasta daisy cut flower garden

Cut flower gardens are usually annuals. They grow for the season and then they're done. Adding in perennials and bulbs can help save money in the long run because they will return each year. However, annuals are typically more colorful and productive. They like being cut back. In fact, you'll find many of them are labeled as "Cut and Come Again" flower varieties. They will be the shining stars in the cut flower garden.


sunflower field

How to Prepare Your Cut Flower Garden Site


For a beginner, start small with your plot and add more as you gain experience and confidence. We will be creating a 4'x8' bed which can be either raised or in the ground. This might seem too small at first, but you will understand when we start placing plants why it works!


Choose a location in your yard that receives full sun 6-8 hours a day. Remember the annuals? They need lots of sunshine to do their thing.


Amend your soil if necessary with plenty of compost and organic matter to feed these hard working flowers. Add aged manure and/or slow release fertilizer as needed to keep these babies producing. Our area is heavy orange clay with poor drainage which is why I use raised beds. I control the soil in the bed from the outset. This allows me to spend more time growing plants and less time working the land.


My brother recently prepared two new level areas for more vegetables and a cut flower garden. After removing the existing grass and weeds, he dumped a huge load of compost and he's ready to go!


hillside with two garden plots and a dog

See how he works together with nature in my post: Visiting David's Garden.


sunflowers, chickens and gardens

Your cut flower garden will be thirsty in the full sun. Lay out soaker hoses or drip line irrigation to water at the base of the plants before planting anything.


Finally, if you're planting in rows like a vegetable garden, lay down landscape fabric on the paths to control weeds.


Choose the Flowers for Your Cut Flower Garden


When planning your cut flower garden, consider the end result first. How do you like to arrange flowers? Do you want a vase overflowing with color and a wide variety of blossoms? Do you prefer a mason jar filled with daisies? Do you have a particular color family in mind?


table with brown craft paper and flowers for arranging

A bouquet of flowers is similar to container gardening. You've probably heard the phrase "Thriller, Filler and Spiller" for containers: a tall or vibrant focal plant goes in the center to thrill; surround it with smaller background plants to fill in gaps; tuck some trailing plants around the edge to spill over the sides. With flower arranging, you want a focal flower that has big colorful blooms; fill in with smaller accent flowers; add some foliage to bring it all together.


bouquet of orange flowers in gold container

Other variables to consider: do you want to attract pollinators? This is especially helpful if you have vegetable gardens as well. Are you aware of native species in your area? Intentionally adding native flowers to your cut flower garden not only reduces your workload (thank you, Mother Nature), but also helps out your native pollinators and birds.


bumblebee on purple spike flower

Cut flowers are also perfect for pressing. Read DIY How to Press Flowers for details.


how to press flowers

Finally, know your flower sources. Choose seeds from reputable businesses. Go to local nurseries and see what they suggest for your area.


Annuals in the Cut Flower Garden


Our beginner cut flower garden contains common annuals that are readily available and easy to grow. Most are directly sown into the cut flower garden soil, but can also include plant starters from a nursery if that's easier. The basil is edible, but plan to let it go to seed instead of harvesting the leaves. The texture and greenery adds a nice foliage element to your bouquets.


*Ginger Tip: When planting a cut flower garden, your seed placement will be closer together than what the packet instructions suggest. This encourages tall leggy growth as the plants reach for sunlight and allows for frequent cuttings with long stems. Being close together also helps block out weeds and provides support for each other against wind.


The flowers suggested here are in the light peachy, salmon color family and will make lovely bouquets together and on their own. Experiment with different varieties and color palettes.  If you prefer more vibrant colorful bouquets, swap out the varieties of zinnias, cosmos and dahlias.


Looking at this diagram, each block is one square foot. The letters correspond to the plant in each block as well as where they are to be planted within the block. You will notice that I put North at the top. As the sun travels east to west across your garden, the taller plants in the back will not shade the shorter ones in the front. With this in mind, feel free to adapt each row according to your desire. If you really love sunflowers, plant them all the way across. If basil doesn't sound like a foliage choice for you, add another row of zinnias or find a different low growing sun lover that you prefer.


annual cut flower garden plan

Easy Cut Flower Garden Plan
.pdf
Download PDF • 75KB


Plant after Your Last Frost


With this Annual Cut Flower garden, plant your seeds/tubers/plants after your last frost date. Here in zone 8a, our last frost date is April 15th. That means there is a 50% chance of frost on or before that date. By May 1 our chance of frost decreases to 10%. Unfortunately, I've seen frost in early May two years in a row! I'm still planting in mid April as long as the forecast is strong, but I always have old sheets and raised bed frost covers ready to use if necessary. Let me say it again: these annuals are not frost tolerant!


sunflowers in bloom for cut flower garden
Sunflowers

Sunflowers


Sunflowers come in various sizes and colors. For our cut flower garden, we are planting Procut Plum and Procut White Lite which are both single stem sunflowers. They are not the branching variety which means we can plant three in each block. These will grow tall, but produce smaller blooms which are easier to manage in bouquets. Of course, feel free to adapt this garden layout to accommodate a different variety if that suits you.


You might notice the leaves in my photo have some discoloration. As the season progresses, the leaves might be nibbled by insects or discolored from disease or nutrient deficiency. Remove any 'ugly' leaves and keep the flowers for the bouquet. They are still stunning!


colorful cosmos in cut flower garden
Zinnias in Bloom

Zinnias


Zinnias are best sown directly in the soil at 1/4" depth after last frost. They are easy to grow from seed and make lovely colorful blooms. The more you cut, the more they produce. Powdery mildew can be a problem depending on your climate, but the flowers should still be fine. Similar to sunflowers, strip the 'ugly' leaves and keep the flowers. Then add another foliage filler to the bouquet. Cut zinnias when the bloom is fully open and the stem is rigid. No floppy toppy!



pink cosmos blook
Cosmos

Cosmos


After all danger of frost, direct sow cosmos seeds into loose soil. Cover with 1/4" of soil and expect germination in a week or two. Unlike zinnias, cosmos blooms will continue to open up after being cut and placed in water. Wait until the bloom begins to crack and starts to open before cutting. For this cut flower plan, I chose Double Click Snowpuff which is a beautiful white and ruffly blossom and Cupcakes White which looks like a cupcake wrapper. Both are white in order to complement the colors of the other flowers. Both have unique bloom textures. Feel free to replace one with another variety if you want to add more color!


Vibrant pink cosmos blooms
Cosmos Mix


vase with cut flower dahlias
Dahlias from the Garden

Dahlias


Dahlias are grown from tubers (imagine small weird looking potatoes) and should be planted after last frost at a 4-6" depth on their sides. They do not like being soggy in the beginning, so hold off on the drip irrigation with these babies until they sprout through the soil. Trust me, it's hard not to water something you just planted, but they don't want it yet. Once they are above ground and flourishing, THEN keep them well watered. The more you cut dahlias, the more they bloom!


*Ginger Tip: add stakes to them at the time of planting because their blooms will be heavy and robust. Staking will help keep them from crashing over onto each other. I absolutely love using these stakes and clips for all of my garden needs.


pink spidery dahlia with bee inside
Incredible Dahlia I found in an Irish Garden


basil in raised bed
Basil in Kitchen Garden

Basil


Basil might be a surprise for your cut flower garden plan, but hear me out. When we think of basil in the garden, we think about the kitchen garden overflowing with herbs. In the herb garden, we cut basil continuously to keep it bushy and productive.


In the flower garden, the basil is ornamental and is left to form flower spikes and seed pods. It is this portion that looks so incredible in our bouquets. I chose Cinnamon Basil for its green leaves and deep purple spikes and Aromatto Basil for its overall deep plum colors.



chicken hiding in dusty miller foliage
Dusty Miller

Dusty Miller


This is the only plant in the cut flower garden that is not direct sow. Pick up a 6 cell pack at the local nursery and plant one in 5 blocks after the last frost. They are incredibly easy to grow and provide a striking silvery foliage for your cut flower bouquets. The peach and salmon colored zinnias and dahlias will look amazing next to the dusty miller stems. My chicken, Dottie, agrees!


Arrange Your Cut Flowers


When your garden produces its plentiful blooms, cut your flowers early in the morning before they are stressed by the heat. Carry a small bucket of fresh water and use clean sharp clippers. After snipping, place them in the bucket and get ready to create a bouquet.


The simplest arrangement is a container filled with the same flowers. You can't go wrong with a vase filled with sunflowers. Build upon that by adding some of the white cosmos around the sunflowers and a few sprigs of basil. Another option is to make the dahlias the center of attention surrounded by zinnias and dusty miller leaves. Consider going big and putting them all together for a stunning arrangement!


Remember to add a floral preservative to the water and to change frequently.


Maintaining Your Cut Flower Garden


Plan to feed your flower garden every 4 to 6 weeks with a slow release fertilizer and to water routinely.


Keep the garden free of weeds. It's not a fun chore, but it is necessary. Weed fabric helps. I love my Grandpa Weeder Tool to keep my back from aching! It's amazing!


Finally, even if you are not bringing every bloom in to arrange, remember to deadhead your cut flower garden to keep the plants producing. Otherwise, they slow down and go to seed. Remove the spent blossoms and any diseased plants immediately. Sow new seeds in the empty blocks for more flowers in the fall!


bouquet of cut flowers

Your Beginner Cut Flower Garden will be filled with beautiful blooms perfect for bouquets.


Have fun cutting flowers this season! I would love to hear how your Annual Cut Flower Garden turns out. Leave a comment or question!



cut flower perennials



Additional Resources:

For a list of local native plants in South Carolina, visit https://www.scwf.org/native-plant-list










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