Cut Flowers: Growing and DisplayingJuly 4, 2017
Last modified: May 26, 2020
Now is the perfect time to establish cut flowers in your garden and display them in your home! There’s nothing more uplifting than a vase of fresh cut flowers placed on a coffee table, dining table or kitchen counter and there’s something even more special when those flowers have been grown from seed in your own garden.
Stunning cut flowers also offer a much cheaper and fresher range of flowers than florists. If you want to decorate your home with gorgeous, colourful blooms this summer, follow our simple steps for growing cut flowers in your garden.
Where to grow
If you have enough space, dedicate a part of the garden just for growing cut flowers. The benefit of this over cutting flowers from borders is that you will avoid depleting beds and borders, as well as providing a more productive area for your flowers to grow.
If you do choose to adapt existing borders, you should plant larger groups of annuals, perennials and bulbs suited for cutting to allow for picking without affecting the overall appearance of the border. Don’t forget to incorporate a few well-chosen shrubs and grasses for interesting foliage.
Cut flowers need weed-free fertile soil to thrive, so make sure the soil has been weeded before you start planting. Annual applications of organic matter, especially to sandy and clay soils, will help to retain moisture and improve soil structure.
Most cut flowers are sun lovers so pick a spot you know will get plenty of sunlight. Moreover, windy sites are best avoided as the taller flowers will not do well in these areas. If possible, avoid frost pockets.
How to plant
Plant in rows. This makes weeding, staking and picking much easier. If the rows are planted too close together they can get tangled up and might get damaged. So, if you allow enough room to access the rows they’ll be much easier to harvest.
As taller flowers are often favourable for cutting, it’s important to keep in mind that they sometimes need robust supports. In dry summers watering may be necessary to achieve good stem length. Propagate perennials from seed or divide mature clumps in spring or early autumn. Some flowers can be also propagated from basal cuttings or from root cuttings.
Choosing Cut Flowers
Growing cut flowers is easy if you know how to choose the right plants for your garden. Make a list of annual and perennial flowering plants that you would like to display in your home. When selecting plants for cutting, it’s important to make sure they are suitable for the location they’ll be planted in.
The initial outlay of buying seeds is less than when buying perennials e.g. sunflowers, cosmos, cornflower and larkspur. They have to be sown every year, but this can be an opportunity to try new or different plants. Limited flowering seasons can be extended by sowing in autumn or propagating plants in a greenhouse.
Choose perennials that offer a long season of picking and include foliage plants. If raised from seed many perennials will not flower in the first year. However, if sown early, they can flower in the same season. Achillea millefolium ‘Summer Pastels’, Agastache, echinacea and delphinium will all do this.
Bulbs are great for the cut flower garden as many start flowering in late winter or early spring. Extend the picking season by planting early, mid and late-flowering cultivars. Bulbs such tulips and hyacinths may not flower well in following years, so consider discarding the bulbs and planting new stock each year.
Bulbs can be forced by an initial period rooting in cool and dark conditions before being brought indoors to flower from mid-winter. Bulbs, narcissi, for example, lend themselves to naturalising in the grass or deciduous shade from where blooms can be taken without reducing flowers in the garden.
Evergreens and early-flowering shrubs such as Camellia, Japanese quince (Chaenomeles), forsythia and witch hazel (Hamamelis) can provide invaluable cutting material in winter and early spring. However, shrubs can produce abundant ornamental foliage all year round. Allow shrubs to establish and settle into flowering before cutting.
A number of climbers are useful as they not only provide flowers but some bear attractive seed heads (clematis) or fruits (roses) as well.
Harvesting your cut flowers
Once your flowers have developed, you can harvest them and create beautiful arrangements for your home! Bring a bucket of water with you to place the cut flowers into while cutting so that they don’t wilt. For best results, harvest your flowers early in the morning.
If you’re wondering how to keep your cut flowers fresh once they’ve been collected, make a fresh cut on each stem and place them in the vase or container you will be displaying them along with water straight away. You can also display your fresh cut flowers in bowls and bottles, be creative! Remember to change the water every other day to keep them fresh!
How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer
If your bouquets don’t usually last very long, it might be because of simple mistakes which are causing them to wilt. Here are three useful tips to make your cut flowers stay fresher for longer!
TIP 1: Vases hold bacteria which can kill flowers
Freshly cut flowers will wilt quickly if there are bacteria in the vase. Make sure your container or vase is squeaky clean before you use it. Bacteria will block the stem of the flower and prevent absorption of water which can make cut flowers wilt. Change the water regularly to keep your cut flowers looking fresher for longer!
TIP 2: Remove leaves submerged in water
These will only rot and encourage bacteria to grow in the vase. Don’t, however, remove any thorns from roses as they are sensitive to bacteria and wounds left by the removal process will leak sugar which attracts bacteria!
TIP 3: Cut flowers don’t like certain temperatures