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How to Start a Cut Flower Garden: Plan and Layout

Starting a garden dedicated to growing flowers specifically for cutting brings numerous rewards. The process begins with proper planning, selection of annual and perennial flowers, and the right garden design. With some careful thought about layout and flower choices, along with efforts to nurture the plants, a thriving cut flower garden will provide fresh bouquets to enjoy for months. I write this guide, especially for you who want to start a cut flower garden for the first time or want to leap your previous one. I encourage you to read carefully and return to this guide in every step of the plan to create your dream flower garden successfully. Let’s start.

What is a Cut Flower Garden?

A cut flower garden is your own floral boutique tucked away in the backyard. More than just a flower bed overflowing with charming blooms, it is a dedicated space for cultivating fresh-cut flowers to grace your home with beauty all season long.

Unlike a typical ornamental garden that is meant to be admired visually, plants in a cut flower garden are specifically chosen and tended for their vase life, for the gardener’s arranging, a gift, or a cut flower farming business. The gardener selects flowers that can withstand days in an arrangement without wilting—varieties with long, sturdy stems and lasting flowers. Careful attention is also paid to proper harvesting techniques to maximize the display life of each stem after it is snipped.

With a bit of planning and care, a cut flower garden yields an abundant, renewable source of floral decor to fashion into stunning bouquets and arrangements. It provides the joy of immersing yourself in nature’s palette of colors and textures that you alone can shape into a customized work of art for your tabletop.

Why Grow a Cut Flower Garden?

Aside from the joy of growing your own blooms, a cut flower garden allows you to create beautiful bouquets for your home, share them with friends and family, or even sell them locally. It’s a rewarding hobby with endless possibilities. There are several excellent reasons to put effort into a specialized cut flower garden:

  • For Fresh Bouquets: A cut flower garden provides on-demand flowers when you want them without having to purchase bouquets. You can create arrangements that match your home’s style and color palette.
  • For Floral Arrangements: Whether crafting centerpieces, wreaths, or other decorative flourishes, homegrown flowers provide ample material to work with.
  • To Save Money: Purchasing fresh flowers and arrangements from a florist or grocery store adds up. Growing your own cuts costs a fraction of the price.
  • To Start a Business in the Flower Farming field (a cut flower farming business): flower farming businesses involve aspects of agriculture, horticulture, and retail or wholesale, depending on your market strategy. It’s a business that combines the love for gardening with entrepreneurial skills to meet the demand for locally grown, fresh flowers.
planning a cut flower garden

Planning Your Cut Flower Garden

A bit of planning goes a long way when starting a cut flower garden. It helps ensure you have a productive space and get the most out of your effort.

Selecting the Right Location

Before grabbing your gardening tools, carefully choose a sunny spot with well-draining soil for optimal flower growth.

Most flowers thrive in at least six hours of sunlight a day. So, find a spot that gets 6-8 hours of sun daily with good airflow and access to water. An out-of-the-way area works well since cutting flowers won’t leave empty spots in an ornamental garden.

selecting the best flowers for cutting

Selecting the Best Flowers for Cutting

First of all, if you are a beginner, let’s make clear the difference between annual and perennial flowers.

Annuals vs. Perennials

Annual flowers complete their life cycle in a single growing season. From seed germination to blooming, setting seed, and eventual senescence, this entire process happens within one year. Annuals are known for their vibrant and prolific blooms, providing a burst of color for the season. Popular annuals include marigolds, zinnias, and cosmos. As they don’t return the following year, they are typically replanted annually.

Perennial flowers have a longer life cycle, persisting for multiple years. They typically bloom for a specific period each year, go dormant during the off-season, and then re-emerge and bloom again in the next growing season. Unlike annuals, perennials return each year, making them a more permanent feature in a garden. Examples of perennials include lilies, roses, and daisies. While they require less replanting, they may take longer to establish and bloom initially.

Although you may think at first you should start a cut flower garden only with perennial flowers, there are many advantages to planting annual flowers, too. Annuals often have a more prolonged blooming period within the year, while perennials have specific bloom times. Annuals grow easily, while perennials may require more patience for initial growth, but they offer a long-term garden structure.

Decide if you want an ever-changing display with annuals or a more permanent garden with perennials. I strongly suggest a mix of both, as it provides continuous blooms throughout the seasons (it is indeed more fun!) The best is choosing a mix of annual and perennial flowers that have long vase lives, bloom all season, and fit your style. Consider the height, color, and complementary blooming periods.

Ideal Flower Varieties

Opt for flowers known for their long vase life and vibrant colors. Zinnias, sunflowers, and dahlias are popular choices for cut flower gardens.

Considering Bloom Times

Plan for a variety of bloom times to ensure a constant supply of fresh flowers. This diversity adds interest and keeps your garden visually appealing.

Over 30 Best Flowers for Cutting: Planting and Blooming Times Chart

The following table summarizes over 30 flowers, with the planting and blooming times classified as annual and perennial flowers, to start a flower garden layout.

Planting Annual Flowers vs. Perennial Flowers
Flower Planting Season Blooming Season Annual or Perennial
Amaranthus Spring Mid-summer to frost Annual
Alliums Fall Late spring to early summer Perennial
Asters Spring Late summer to fall Perennial
Bachelor Buttons Spring or fall Spring to frost Annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial
Calendula Spring or fall Spring to frost Annual or short-lived perennial
Carnations Spring Spring to fall Perennial
Celosia Spring Summer to frost Annual
Cosmos Spring Mid-summer to frost Annual
Daffodil Fall Spring Perennial
Daisies Spring, fall, or winter Spring to fall depending on variety Perennial
Dahlia Spring Summer to frost Annual
Delphinium Spring Early to mid-summer Perennial
Echinacea Spring or fall Midsummer to fall Perennial
Foxglove Spring Early to midsummer Biennial or short-lived perennial
Gomphrena Spring Summer to frost Annual
Hydrangea Spring Early to late summer Perennial
Lavender Spring Early to midsummer Perennial
Lilies Spring (bulb) Mid to late summer Perennial
Lilacs Spring Spring to early summer Perennial
Marigolds Spring Spring to frost Annual
Nasturtium Spring Spring to mid-summer Annual
Peonies Fall (bulb) Late spring to early summer Perennial
Phlox Spring Midsummer to fall Perennial
Queen Anne’s Lace Spring to early summer Summer Biennial or short-lived perennial
Ranunculus Fall or early spring Spring Annual or perennial (depending on the variety)
Roses Winter or spring (pots or bare root) Repeat bloom spring through fall Perennial
Sedum Spring Late summer to fall Perennial
Snapdragons Spring Spring to frost Tender perennial often grown as an annual
Statice Spring Mid-summer to frost Annual
Strawflowers Spring Spring to frost Annual
Sweet Peas Winter/spring (frost-free area) Spring to fall Annual
Sunflowers Spring Mid-summer to frost Annual
Sweet Peas Winter/spring (frost-free area) Spring to fall Annual
Tulip Fall Spring Perennial
Yarrow Spring or fall Summer Perennial
Zinnias Spring Summer to frost Annual
how to start a cut flower garden layout

Easy-to-Grow vs. Profitable Cut Flowers

Depending on your goal, you may want to start a cut flower garden to enjoy making your own arrangements or consider having a small business in your backyard. So, instead of growing flowers randomly, I suggest growing some of the most profitable cut flowers. If you’re going to start a small business, make it profitable. I recommend reading my article, which lists the 23 Most Profitable Cut Flowers with pricing ranges.

On the other hand, if you just want to grow flowers for your enjoyment, you have limited space and want something beginner level (or gardener-stress-free level – if that exists…, not sure…) I gather a list of the 20 Easy Flowers to Grow in Pots for Long-lasting Garden Blooms. Most of them are easy to grow from seeds, so you could also create a flower garden on a budget with potted flowers. Not all are suitable for flower bouquets and arrangements, but you can find some cut flowers.

If you are seriously considering running a small business with your garden or starting a flower farm, you can take advantage of more than 100 tax deductions when you grow cut flowers as a business. As a flower farming business, you can deduct many expenses related to your operations. You can also deduct a portion of your start-up costs (up to $5,000) in the year you begin an active trade or business. Learn more about Business Income, Expenses, and Deductibles when Growing Cut Flowers for Profit. Also, you may want to take a look at my guide about Writing a Powerful Flower Farming Business Plan (with a Template PDF Included).

Designing a Cut Flower Garden Layout

Consider the aesthetic appeal and functionality of your garden layout. Raised beds, rows, or a mix of both can create a visually pleasing and accessible space.

Think of grouping plants with similar needs together. Place taller flowers toward the back or middle so they don’t shade shorter varieties. Ensure adequate spacing for growth and airflow.

Here are some ideas to start a cut flower garden layout with the selected flowers. It would be best if you considered the following arrangement based on their characteristics and growing requirements:

In-ground Planting

SectionPlants
Back Border (Tall Plants)Sunflowers
Delphinium
Lilies
Hydrangeas
Roses
Mid-height SectionFoxglove
Snapdragons (Tender perennial often grown as an annual)
Asters
Phlox
Dianthus (including Carnations)
Dahlias
Echinacea (Coneflower)
Front Border (Low-growing Plants)Strawflowers
Marigolds
Nasturtium
Sweet Peas
Bachelor’s Buttons (Cornflower)
Daisies
Calendula
Gomphrena
Bulb/Root SectionTulips (Perennial when grown from bulbs)
Daffodils (Perennial when grown from bulbs)

Potted Flowering Plants

SectionFlower Plants
Centerpiece ContainerLavender
Sedum
Feature PotsZinnias
Cosmos
Statice
Celosia
Amaranthus
Ranunculus
Lilacs
Amaryllis
Alliums
Queen Anne’s Lace

Overall, you can combine these or many other flowers depending on your climate and space. Just a few last considerations when you design a cut flower garden:

  1. Group plants with similar water and sunlight needs.
  2. Plan for continuous blooming by selecting varieties with staggered bloom times.
  3. Allow enough space between plants for proper growth and air circulation.
  4. Incorporate pathways for easy access and maintenance.
  5. Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. There are different types of mulches for each type of garden.
growing and harvesting flowers for cuttings

Growing Flowers: In-Ground vs. Pots vs. Garden Beds

When embarking on the journey of cultivating flowers for a cut flower garden, the choice of planting method plays a crucial role in the success of your blossoming haven. Each approach – in-ground planting, pots, or garden beds – comes with its own set of advantages and considerations. The best method depends on your specific circumstances, preferences, and the types of flowers you intend to grow. Many gardeners opt for a combination, leveraging the strengths of each approach to create a diverse and thriving cut flower garden.

Let’s explore the best ways to grow flowers for a cut flower garden, ensuring you make the most of your green space.

In-Ground Planting

Advantages

  • Natural Soil Interaction: In-ground planting allows flowers to interact directly with the native soil, fostering a more natural and robust growth environment.
  • Extensive Root Growth: Plants can spread their roots widely, accessing nutrients and water from the surrounding soil.

Considerations

  • Soil Quality: Ensure the soil is well-draining, nutrient-rich, and suits the specific needs of your chosen flowers.
  • Space Requirements: Some flowers may have extensive root systems, so proper spacing is essential to prevent overcrowding.

Pots or Containers

Advantages

  • Versatility: Ideal for small spaces, balconies, or patios, pots offer flexibility in rearranging your garden as needed.
  • Controlled Environment: You have greater control over soil composition, water drainage, and sunlight exposure.

Considerations

  • Limited Root Space: Plants in pots may have restricted root growth, requiring more frequent watering and fertilizing.
  • Temperature Regulation: Potted plants may be more susceptible to extreme temperatures, so consider the local climate.

Garden Beds

Advantages

  • Structured Layout: Raised garden beds provide a neat and organized layout, making it easier to plan and manage your cut flower garden.
  • Improved Drainage: Raised beds often offer better drainage, preventing waterlogging and promoting healthier plants.

Considerations

  • Construction Materials: Choose materials wisely to ensure durability and consider the visual aesthetics of your garden beds.
  • Initial Investment: Building garden beds may require some upfront investment, but the long-term benefits often outweigh the costs.

How to Plant a Cut Flower Garden

First, I suggest removing weeds and grass. Get rid of competing weeds and grass entirely before planting. Solarize the area under plastic for several weeks or smother it with layers of newspaper or cardboard.

Then, I recommend amending the soil. Mix several inches of aged compost or well-rotted manure into the top 6-12 inches of soil to enrich it before planting. Learn about the different types of soil before starting your cut flower garden. Recommended readings if you have sandy or clay soil: how to amend sandy soil and how to amend clay soil.

Once the ground, beds, or containers are prepped, it’s time to plant your selected flowers.

Proper Spacing and Planting Depth

Follow planting guidelines for each flower type, ensuring proper spacing and planting depth to prevent overcrowding and competition for resources.

Direct Sowing vs. Transplants

Some annuals and hardy perennials can be directly sown into the containers, in-ground, or garden beds, according to the layout you planned in advance. Others do better when grown from transplants. Check seed packets for guidance and head to the grow and care guide of trusted resources. I linked some excellent articles that are very helpful for learning about growing and caring for these flowers.

Caring for Young Plants

Water new seedlings frequently, keep the area weed-free, and protect from pests until established. Consider using row covers to conserve moisture and prevent insect damage.

maintaining the cut flower garden

Maintaining the Cut Flower Garden

Regular maintenance, such as deadheading, encourages prolonged blooming. Caring for your cut flower garden during the season boils down to a few key tasks:

  1. Watering: Providing plants with adequate, consistent moisture is essential for stem length and flower production. Establish a consistent watering schedule and provide the necessary care to keep your flowers healthy. Target the soil instead of leaves when watering. I encourage you to learn more about the best time to water plants.
  2. Fertilizing: Apply a balanced flower fertilizer according to package directions to fuel plant growth and maximize blooms. Stop fertilizing 6-8 weeks before the first frost.
  3. Staking Tall Flowers: Insert stakes next to plants that tend to stretch and flop over, like delphinium, dahlias, and gladiolus. Tie stems loosely to supports as they grow. Explore these garden trellis ideas useful for your flowering plants.
  4. Cut-Off Wilted Flowers (deadheading): Cut off wilted flowers to direct the plant’s energy toward producing more flowers instead of planting.

Cutting Flowers Tips to Prolonge Vase Life

Proper harvesting and care of freshly cut stems maximize their display life. Timing is crucial. Harvest flowers when they’re in full bloom but before they start to wilt.

  • Tools for Harvesting: Invest in quality tools, including pruners and buckets, to make the harvesting process efficient and enjoyable. Having the right equipment ensures a smooth experience.
  • Proper Cutting Methods: Use sharp, clean pruning shears or scissors to make clean cuts, preventing damage to the plant. Cut at an angle to facilitate water absorption and reduce the risk of stem crushing.
  • When and How to Cut: Early morning or late evening is often the best time. Cut flowers early in the morning when they contain the most stored carbohydrates.
  • Conditioning the Stems: After harvesting, place the flowers in a bucket of water to keep them hydrated. Let them soak for several hours before arranging to allow full hydration. Remove excess foliage to prevent bacterial growth in the water.
  • Storage Tips: Store cut flowers in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to arrange them. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or drafts, which can accelerate wilting.
  • Prolonging Vase Life: Add floral preservatives to the water and change it every few days. Trim the stems at an angle and remove any submerged leaves to maintain water clarity.
  • Arranging Cut Flowers: Craft thoughtful arrangements and bouquets to display your homegrown beauties artfully. Mix flowers of differing heights, textures, and colors.

Creative Ways to Use Cut Flowers

Floral Arrangements: Let your creativity bloom by experimenting with different flower combinations, colors, and vase styles. Arrange them in bouquets, centerpieces, or even hanging installations.

Gift Ideas: Surprise your loved ones with personalized bouquets or flower-themed gifts. A handpicked selection from your garden adds a special touch to any occasion.

DIY Projects: Explore various DIY projects using dried flowers, pressed blooms, or even homemade potpourri. Your cut flower garden extends its influence beyond fresh arrangements.

ways to use flower cuttings

Seasonal Considerations

  • Spring Planting: Kickstart your cut flower garden in the spring, taking advantage of the growing season and preparing for a summer filled with blossoms.
  • Summer Maintenance: Stay on top of watering, weeding, and deadheading during the summer months to ensure a continuous supply of fresh flowers.
  • Fall Cleanup: As the growing season winds down, tidy up your garden by removing spent plants and preparing the soil for winter. That sets the stage for a successful start in the next growing season.
  • Overwintering Tender Plants: Protect dahlias, gladiolus corms, and other non-hardy plants through winter. Carefully dig up tubers or roots after the foliage dies back and store them in a cool or fresh, dark location until spring.

Common Problems On Cut Flower Gardens

Even well-cared-for gardens sometimes run into issues. Strategies to prevent and mitigate problems in a cut flower garden include:

  • Attract beneficial insects, use row covers, apply organic sprays, and wash away pests with a strong jet of water from the hose.
  • Improve airflow and avoid wetting foliage.
  • Remove and destroy infected plants or plant parts.
  • Apply appropriate fungicides.

Dealing with Pests: Keep an eye out for common garden pests like aphids or mites. Use natural remedies or insecticidal soap to protect your flowers without harming the environment.

Disease Prevention: Maintain good garden hygiene to prevent diseases. Proper spacing, adequate airflow, and regular inspections help catch and address issues early.

Addressing Soil Problems: Regularly test and correct your soil pH. You can also check for nutrient levels. Amend as needed to create an optimal growing environment for your cut flowers.

Here is a video from The Flower Hill Farm Family.

Common Mistakes in Cut Flower Gardening

Starting a cut flower garden can be an exciting endeavor, but like any new venture, there are common mistakes that beginners might make. Here are some pitfalls to avoid:

Common Mistakes in Cut Flower Gardening
Category Common Mistakes Tips to Avoid
I. Lack of Planning A. Not Researching Flower Varieties Take time to research the specific needs of each flower variety, including sunlight, soil type, and water requirements.
B. Neglecting Garden Layout Plan a well-thought-out garden layout to maximize sunlight exposure and ensure easy navigation for maintenance and harvesting.
C. Ignoring Soil Preparation Invest time in soil preparation by adding organic matter and ensuring proper drainage for an ideal growing environment.
II. Poor Flower Selection A. Choosing Incompatible Varieties Plan a diverse selection of flowers that complement each other in terms of bloom times, heights, and color schemes.
B. Overlooking Bloom Times Choose flowers with staggered bloom times to ensure a consistent supply of fresh blooms throughout the season.
III. Planting and Care Mistakes A. Improper Spacing and Planting Depth Follow planting guidelines for each flower type, ensuring proper spacing and planting depth to avoid overcrowding and competition.
B. Inconsistent Watering Establish a regular watering routine, keeping the soil consistently moist without overwatering.
C. Neglecting Maintenance Tasks Stay vigilant with regular maintenance, including deadheading and weeding, to promote healthy growth and prevent diseases.
IV. Harvesting and Post-Harvest Mistakes A. Harvesting at the Wrong Time Learn the optimal harvesting time for each flower variety, typically when they are in full bloom but before signs of wilting.
B. Improper Cutting Techniques Invest in quality cutting tools, cut flowers at an angle to facilitate water absorption, and avoid damaging stems.
C. Neglecting Post-Harvest Care Provide immediate care to cut flowers, including placing them in water promptly, removing excess foliage, and following proper storage.
V. Lack of Adaptability A. Not Adjusting to Seasonal Changes Stay adaptable and make seasonal adjustments in planting and care practices to ensure your cut flower garden thrives year-round.
B. Ignoring Pest and Disease Management Regularly inspect your garden, implement natural pest control methods, and address diseases promptly to prevent widespread issues.
common mistakes when starting a cut flower garden

Frequently Asked Questions about Starting a Cut Flower Garden

Can I start a cut flower garden if I’m a beginner?

Absolutely! A cut flower garden is a fantastic project for beginners. Start with easy-to-grow varieties and gradually expand your garden as you gain experience.

What flowers are best for cutting and arranging?

Zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, hydrangeas, and roses are excellent choices for cutting gardens. Also, I mentioned over 30 flowers that are easy to grow and are perfect for a cut flower garden. I encourage you to go back to the first chart of this article and then head out to the “Designing Your Garden Layout” section to understand how to lay out them based on growing requirements. Choose varieties with long stems and vibrant colors. You can check out our spring flower arrangements gallery for more ideas on how to combine flowers.

What is the easiest cut flower to grow?

Some of the easiest cut flowers for beginners are zinnias, sunflowers, snapdragons, cosmos, dahlias, and marigolds. They tend to be less fussy about growing conditions.

What is the most profitable cut flower?

The profitability of cut flowers can vary depending on factors such as local market demand, climate, and production costs. For example, red roses are one of the most profitable on San Valentine’s Day but a challenging market. However, certain types of flowers are generally considered to be more profitable than others due to factors like popularity, rarity, or extended vase life.
Varieties such as lisianthus, hydrangeas, peonies, dahlias, specialty roses, unique sunflower varieties, ranunculus, and orchids are often considered lucrative options. Lisianthus is one of the most profitable cut flowers, generating high returns per stem. Other moneymakers include tulips, sweet peas, ranunculus, anemones, and calla lilies.
The profitability of these flowers can vary based on local market demand, climate conditions, and production costs. Growers should conduct thorough market research and consider the specific needs of their customers to make informed decisions about which flowers to cultivate for maximum profitability in their flower farming business.

Should cut flowers be deadheaded?

Yes, it is essential to deadhead (remove spent blooms) on cut flower plants frequently. Deadheading redirects the plant’s energy to produce more flowers instead of setting seed.

How often should I water my cut flower garden?

Watering frequency depends on factors like weather and soil type. Generally, aim for deep, consistent watering, keeping the soil evenly moist but not soggy.

What tools do I need for harvesting cut flowers?

Invest in quality pruners or scissors for clean cuts. A sturdy bucket for water and a comfortable apron or basket can also make harvesting more enjoyable.

Are there any environmentally friendly practices for cut flower gardening?

Yes, consider organic fertilizers, natural pest control methods, and sustainable gardening practices. These eco-friendly approaches promote a healthy garden and environment.

How often should you cut flowers from a garden?

You can begin harvesting flowers from annuals once about one-third of the individual blooms on the plant are open. For perennials, cut no more than one-third of the stems at any one time.

What time of day is best to cut flowers?

The best time of day to cut flowers is in the early morning before it gets hot and plants wilt. The carbohydrate levels in the plant will be highest at this time.

Conclusion

Planning and planting a garden explicitly dedicated to growing flowers for cutting brings great satisfaction. Follow basic guidelines for site selection, bed preparation, and plant care to keep your cut flower garden looking lush and productive all season. Take time to properly cut, condition, and display floral arrangements to enjoy their versatile beauty. Now, armed with this How to Start a Cut Flower Garden guide, go ahead and sow the seeds of your cut flower garden.

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About Julia Morgan

Julia Morgan is an agronomist and a master gardener. In her previous roles, Julia was an advisor promoting large-scale food growing in urbanized areas, introducing the concept of chemical-free produce. She is an expert in putting her hands in the soil, developing organic foods, and improving production processes for decades. Julia is a natural teacher and encourages every person in her way to grow their own food. She split her days between writing and reviewing for The Garden Style Website and offering assessments to cure edible land. Julia enjoys connecting with The Garden Style Community.

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