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Cut Flower Gardening For Beginners

Looking for ways to grow a cut flower garden this year? It’s not hard to do and is so rewarding to make bouquets all season long. Want to learn how to grow one too? From starting seeds to planting and fresh flower arranging, this post is for you! Follow these cut flower gardening tips and be sure to check out my best advice for beginners at the end of this post.

I’ve been growing flowers since I started gardening over 25 years ago.

For me, flowers bring great joy, and once the gardening bug bit me.

It bit me HARD.

My love for gardening and all things flowers started with one garden, and grew to well over 13 at my former home.

Over the last few years, I started branching out and trying my hand at cut flower gardening.

Most of the flowers I wanted to grow as cut flowers were not available at the local nursery, so I started them from seed.

There are so many different types of flowers you can grow.

So don’t limit yourself to just what’s available at the nursery.

Because starting flowers from seed is SO EASY and you can really grow some fun plants.

Wait until you see how to grow a cut flower garden from seed.

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

So What is a Cut Flower Garden?

A cut flower garden is a spot in the landscape where you can grow flowers to cut and make arrangements.

Cut flower gardens are grown specifically to harvest flowers instead of growing them purely for the aesthetic.

And the more you cut, the more flowers you’ll get.

Throughout most of my gardening life, I hesitated cutting flowers from the garden because I enjoy watching them grow and change in my landscape.

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To change that mindset, I started growing a garden with the specific intent of cutting the flowers.

And you know what?

IT IS AWESOME!!!

I love cutting flowers daily and making arrangements.

And you will too.

Here’s how to do it.

Zinnia in my gardening zone 6a summer flowers

How Do You Start a Fresh Cut Flower Garden?

The best way to grow a fresh-cut flower garden is to start it by seed.

But you can also purchase plants from local nurseries. So if you’re not interested in starting flowers from seed, you can still purchase flowers that are ready to plant from the nursery.

That said, I recommend starting them from seed if you can because:

  • You can grow so many more options and unique varieties from seed.
  • It’s a rewarding experience to grow plants from seed.
  • And it’s a fun indoor gardening activity to do.
Starting Seeds Snapdragons

What Can I Grow in a Cut Flower Garden?

There are so many flower options to grow in a cut flower garden, but here are some of my favorites to grow.

  • Dahlias
  • Zinnias
  • Larkspur
  • Sweet Peas
  • Sunflowers
  • Cosmos
  • Strawflower
  • Delphinium
  • Snapdragons

There’s so much more, but these are just a few of the favorites that I enjoy growing.

Thrifting for the Garden at the Vintage Market

How Much Room Do You Need For a Cut Flower Garden?

How much room you need depends how much room you have and what you want to grow.

Research the sizes of flowers you wish to grow and see how much gardening space you have that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

Because the most flowers grown for cutting need lots of sunshine to grow well.

Dahlia 'Jowey Winnie'
Dahlia ‘Jowey Winnie’

How to Grow a Cut Flower Garden in 11 Easy Steps

It is so fun to grow a cutting garden. While these steps may take a little while to do, it is fairly simple and worth the process.

Choose a Location

Before beginning, find a spot in your yard that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

Because a vast majority of flowers grown for cutting require full sunlight.

If you aren’t sure where that it is, study different areas of your yard throughout the day to find the best spot.

And if it’s too cold to physically make the garden, plan out the size and shape so you know how many and what kind of seeds to order.

Cottage Garden by the shed in the backyard

Ordering Seeds to Start Indoors

Have you ever started seeds indoors before?

It’s not hard to do and with the proper equipment, you can have great success growing lots of flowers intended for cutting.

Last year, I started over 1400 flowers in my basement!

Whether you have a greenhouse or not, starting seeds indoors allows gardeners to get a jump on the season and grow varieties not readily available at local nurseries.

When starting seeds indoors, it’s important to purchase high quality seeds.

While some sources sell year round, you’ll see the best supply in December and January.

My go-to sources for high quality seeds are Floret Flower Farm and Johnny’s Select Seeds.

How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse

Note about Floret: Watch their site like a hawk, because they sell out of their gorgeous seeds super quick!

Before ordering seeds, think about how you want your cutting garden to look.

Consider the colors, bloom time and heights so you can plan where everything is going.

For more information about how to start seeds indoors, CLICK HERE.

And to learn what equipment you need to successfully start seed indoors, CLICK HERE.

For garden design tips, CLICK HERE.

How to Start Seeds Indoors Without a Greenhouse

How to Sow Seeds

So you’ve got your garden planned out, you ordered seeds, now what?

Read the seed packet directions to determine when and how to start sowing them.

Know when your last frost date is because that date will drive when to start sowing seeds.

Some seeds, like larkspur, will have a chill requirement before sowing.

Others like, sweet peas, need to be pre-soaked and sowed 10-12 weeks prior to the last frost date.

To learn how to sow seeds, CLICK HERE.

What You Need to Know About Sowing Seeds Indoors

Starting a New Garden

When the ground can be worked in early spring, it’s time to start your new garden.

Be sure to remove all of the existing grass and make clean edges around the bed so grass roots don’t grow back into the new garden.

To learn how to start a new garden, CLICK HERE.

How to Start a Garden

Did you know there’s an easier way to start a garden without breaking your back?

Yes!

You’ll need to plan ahead to do it though because it requires laying down a barrier that will break down over time.

CLICK HERE to learn how to start a garden the easy way.

How to Start a Garden the Easy Way

For a cutting garden, I recommend doing this at least 6 months to a year ahead of time.

I’ve been asked about using weed fabric as that barrier in flower beds and I do not recommend it unless you plan to remove it before planting the bed.

To me, it’s much easier to use cardboard or newspaper that will break down over time and enrich the soil.

I use weed fabric in very limited situations.

Such as this raised bed garden for vegetables. Since I used the fabric as a barrier beneath the raised bed and applied pea gravel on top, I won’t ever need to dig in it, nor will I want my plants to self sow there.

Raised garden beds for vegetables and herbs

Hardening Off Plants

The hardening off process is when plants are transitioned from growing indoors or a greenhouse environment to the outdoor elements of fluctuating weather to help prevent shock from environmental changes.

It’s a two week process that involves acclimating tender seedlings to outdoor living.

CLICK HERE to learn how to harden off plants.

Hardening off plants after starting snapdragon seeds indoors

Direct Sow and Purchasing Plants From the Nursery

When the last frost date arrives, direct sow seeds that you didn’t start indoors.

I prefer starting some seeds this way, such as sunflowers and nasturtiums.

Direct sow seeds in the garden according to packet directions.

Nursery Trip

If seeds require sowing before the last frost date, follow that.

And start shopping your local nursery for plants you may want to include if you have some planting space.

If you are direct sowing, consider succession planting where you sow seeds a few days to a week apart to get an extended bloom time from flowers that are typically one and done, such as sunflowers.

Sunflower 'Panache' in the cut flower garden

Planting the Cut Flower Garden for Beginners

When plants are hardened off, plant your garden.

Be sure to plant smaller varieties in the front and taller varieties towards the back.

If you pre-planned your garden design, plant according to your garden layout.

And if you are following a general design but sort of winging it? Consider the color combinations of flowers you are growing and group plants together that are aesthetically pleasing.

Finally, protect young seedlings from harsh weather conditions such as extreme heat and wind until they acclimate after planting.

When I grew my cut flower garden last year, New Jersey experienced extreme heat for about a week, so I kept my flowers well-watered so they would not dry out.

Planting sweet peas after hardening off plants - How to Plant a Garden After Starting Seeds Indoors
These sweet peas are hardened off an ready to plant!

Staking and Supporting Tall and Heavy Flower Varieties

When planting, it’s important to know which plants will require support as they grow and mature.

Flowers requiring more support will generally be taller varieties, typically over two feet tall, and have heavier flower heads.

Typical plants that need additional support are dahlias, zinnias, snapdragons, delphiniums, peonies, cosmos, and several others.

Of course it depends on the variety, so make sure you read the seed packets or plant tags.

Staking flowers is important to do when cut flower gardening

Why We Need to Stake Plants

It is necessary to provide additional support for taller and more substantial flowers from heavy rain, strong winds, and the weight of blooms.

Because without that extra support?

They will topple over. And we don’t want that!

Peonies benefit from staking - I use grow through supports for them. Peonies and wine and roses wiegela on the happy gardening tour

There are a few ways to stake or support flowers that include:

  • Grow Through Supports like THESE
  • Corralling
  • Netting
  • Staking like THIS.
  • Trellising

When to Stake Plants

Now that we know we need to support taller and more sizeable flowers, when do we stake plants?

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Because growth happens quickly, it’s best to start whatever support system you choose either when you plant or before the plants reach about a foot tall.

I suggest staking when you plant because growth happens fast in spring and if you aren’t paying attention, it can be tough to support plants later.

And trust me when I tell you, I tend to put off staking thinking I have plenty of time and that’s a huge mistake.

Because growth sneaks up on you in spring!

Queen Lime Orange Zinnia in the Flower Patch. This is a cut flower garden favorite for me!

So I am trying to be better with it and setting up my support systems early when in the growing season or when I plant seedlings.

I know it won’t look great until the plants mature, but because I know how I garden, I need to start this process early!

Therefore, my best advice is to consider doing it when you plant versus waiting until it’s about a foot tall.

Dahlia 'Tropical' is great for the cut flower garden
Dahlia ‘Tropical’

Fertilizing Flowers

When seedlings are planted in the ground, fertilize with a fish emulsion fertilizer like THIS for the first week or two.

Fertilizing is necessary to provide the nutrients needed to grow healthy and bloom.

After plants acclimate, which is usually around a week or two, add a slow release fertilizer like THIS.

Backyard cut flower garden in August. How to Save Money at the Garden Nursery

As an aside, I feed both my annuals and houseplants with this same slow release fertilizer too.

It lasts about 4 months. And in New Jersey, that’s pretty much the growing season. So for me, the slow release fertilizer is a set-and-forget approach to feeding my cut flower garden.

dahlia 'eveline' in my cut flower garden
Dahlia ‘Eveline’ is a gorgeous creamy white flower with touches of purple that pairs well with other purple flowers and foliage.

7 Lessons I Learned from Growing a Cut Flower Garden

As with all things, we all make mistakes, right?

From cutting corners to learning as you go, cut flower gardening is a learning experience.

CLICK HERE to see what I learned last year as well as some mistakes to avoid when growing your cut flower garden.

Cut flower gardening is so fun! Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling

When Do You Cut Fresh Flowers From the Garden?

The ideal time to cut fresh flowers is in the early morning because evenings are cool and they have some morning dew.

That said, it’s OK to cut flowers in the evening as well.

Just avoid the heat of the day because they won’t last as long in arrangements.

Select flowers that recently opened, closely looking at the petals and foliage.

And choose ones that have some buds because they’ll extend the bloom time in your arrangements.

cutting garden in my gardening zone 6a backyard border

Bring a bucket of warm water with you to the garden.

Avoid using cold or hot water.

Using clean sharp pruners or snips, cut flowers slightly above a side branch or where you see another flower branch forming.

Cut the foliage off of the stems as you work so they don’t sit in the water.

Then plunge cut flowers directly into the bucket of water.

It’s best to let them sit in the warm water for a few hours in a cool shaded location to acclimate them to life in an arrangement.

Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling

Fresh Cut Flower Arranging Basics

Once fresh cut flowers acclimate (usually after about 2-3 hours), it’s time to make the arrangement.

Choose the container like a vase, bowl, etc.

Strip off any leaves that sit lower than the waterline.

Cutting hydrangea flowers for arranging and drying. How to Make a Hydrangea Wreath for Free

Be sure to remove any leaves that will sit below the waterline because they will decompose and contaminate the water which will lessen the life of the arrangement.

And if you are going to do all this work, you want these flower bouquets to last!

You can use a floral frog, floral tape or even scotch tape to help keep the flowers sturdy in the arrangement.

This flower arrangement was made from my cut flower garden.how to set a cozy fall harvest table
This entire arrangement for a fall harvest dinner party was made entirely from my garden.

If using tape create a grid pattern, then drop your flowers in.

Re-cut stems on a slant so the flowers can take in fresh water better.

And the general rule of thumb is to cut flowers roughly 1.5 – 2x the height of the container you are using.

hydrangea care

How to Keep Fresh Flowers Longer

Now that we’ve grown and made a gorgeous arrangement, how do we keep fresh cut flowers longer?

Follow THESE simple tips to prolong the life of your fresh cut flower arrangements.

Fresh-cut zinnias and a picnic date with friends
How to keep fresh flowers longer

My Best Advice for Beginner Cut Flower Gardeners

If you are just starting out with cut flower gardening, my best advice is to start small, get your feet wet, and build some confidence.

My eyes are always bigger than my stomach when it comes to growing plants and flowers, but trust me when I tell you, the larger the garden the more work it is.

And if you are a beginner gardener or new to cut flower gardening, starting with a smaller garden will help manage the beds better, grow plants with more confidence, and enjoy the experience more.

Growing a cut flower garden is a rewarding experience that you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Thanks so much for growing stuff with me!

I hope you found these tips on cut flower gardening for beginners helpful.

See you in the garden.

Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling in her garden.

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Enjoy a beautiful day! xo

Stacy Ling

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9 Comments

  1. Stacy,
    I didn’t start any flowers from seeds this year. Time got away from me but I will be planting some cut flowers regardless. Your tips are so helpful. Thanks so much!

    1. Hey Rachel! There’s still time! There are lots of seeds you can still start indoors or just sow them outside. And thank you!!! xoxo

  2. Your gardens are beautiful! I would love to grow flowers and landscaping like this! I may try! Thanks for all the great tips and I will be following along to learn more!

  3. Fantastic post! I love seeing all your garden pictures again. I can’t wait for winter to be over and get out there…don’t know where I’m planting the 5 zillion seeds I just bought!!!

    1. Thank you Jennifer! Did you start any seeds yet? I just started the sweet peas this week! I am so excited to get the new garden going here and see what pops up in the rest of the beds!

    2. Thanks so much Stacy. We live in south Jersey
      Love the cut garden article
      I wish you all the luck in the world to your new yard and home!! Cant wait to see your beautiful flower beds

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