Do you dream of lazy warm summer days, running barefoot in your garden, sun on your shoulders, cutting beautiful fresh flowers for your home? I sure do! Growing a cut flower garden in your backyard is a beautiful dream, but can seem daunting for beginners. When will everything bloom? What are the best flowers to plant? And can I really grow cut flowers even if I don’t live on an acreage?
You can make your dream a reality, even if you’ve never grown cut flowers before. All you need is a spot in your backyard that receives at least 8 hours of sun a day, a willingness to weed and water, and a little know-how.
How to Start a Cut Flower Garden
In these five simple steps, I’ll help you cut through the confusion and give you the beginner basics to grow your first successful cut flower garden. I’m assuming you know your last Spring Frost and first Fall Frost dates—AKA the length of your growing season. If you don’t, head over to the Seed Starting Calculator to find out yours.
The good news about planting a cut flower garden with annual flowers is that your growing zone generally does not matter. It only matters if you want to grow perennials for cut flowers, which is another post for another time.
5 Steps to Create a Simple Beginner Cut Flower Garden
- Prepare the Soil – The first step in starting your cut flower garden is to prepare the area you will be planting your flowers in. I am assuming you already have a useable garden space, but if not, follow these directions (How to Plan Your Vegetable Garden) to get your space ready for growing. Once the soil is dry and workable, add in compost to the soil and either rototill (large garden space) or mix it in with hand tools.
- Choose Your Flowers – Next, choose the flowers you want to plant. It’s good to have a mix of greens, small flowers, and large flowers, so that your arrangements look interesting in the vase. Once you become more serious about your cut flower garden, you’ll want to order your seeds in January and start some of them as far as 8-10 weeks before you intend to plant them.
For beginners, I recommend snapdragons (purchased as starters unless you’re comfortable seed starting), zinnias, cosmos, sunflowers, and both a purple and green basil for greens. There are so many more possibilities that you can grow, but these choices are very beginner friendly and, except for the sunflowers, all cut-and-come-again varieties that you plant once and harvest until the first fall frost. I go into much more detail about the different types of flowers to plant and the best varieties in my e-book, Cut Flowers Made Simple.
Whatever flowers you choose, make sure that the stem length will be at least 18 inches or longer, so you have as much flexibility as possible in the type of arrangements you can make with your flowers.
- Plan out the Space – When growing a cut flower garden, you want to plant the flowers a little bit closer together than the seed packet suggests to get longer stems. If you’re following my beginner recommendations, the snapdragons, zinnias, cosmos, and basil can all be planted about 6-9 inches apart. The sunflowers should be planted at least 12 inches apart. Grow at minimum 12 of each type of flower to get a small bouquet a week once the flowers start blooming. Ideally, you would plant even more—24-48 of each plant if you have the space.
- Plant & Maintain – After the last Spring frost has passed, plant your cut flowers outdoors. For direct seeded plants, I like to plant 2 seeds in one spot, and thin out multiples later. I live in zone 3 and have a short growing season, so I don’t have time to recover if my flowers don’t germinate the first time.
To keep your garden as low maintenance and weed-free as possible, put a layer of mulch (wood shavings, grass clippings, shredded leaves, etc.) around your plants when they reach 3-4 inches in height. You will still have to do an initial weeding before you apply the mulch, but whatever weeds grow after the mulch is put down will be very minimal and easy to pull. With a good layer of mulch, you may only need to water once a week. However, you should still check your soil once every day or two to see if it needs watering.
- Harvest the Blooms! – Now comes the fun part—harvesting the flowers! Where I live, the flowers will start to bloom sometime in mid-July, with everything blooming by early August. If you have a longer growing season, you will likely harvest flowers sooner and your season will last longer.
When cutting the flowers, make sure to cut the stems as long as possible, even if you’re putting them in a shallow container. The plant will set out a new stem from wherever you have cut it. Therefore, if you make short cuts, you’ll eventually end up with a lot of short stems.
If you’d like more help with creating a cut flower garden, Cut Flowers Made Simple was made just for you! It helps both beginner and intermediate gardeners plan out a beautiful cut flower garden at the backyard scale. Inside you’ll learn. . .
- The five types of flowers you need to grow to create arrangements that don’t fall flat
- The 40 best annual flowers for beginner and intermediate gardeners, plus the best varieties to purchase
- Locations in Canada, the US and Europe to buy the most Instagram-worthy varieties in the best colours
- How & when to seed start flowers
- The framework to create a simple garden now, and expand year after year as you gain confidence in your cut flower garden.
Plus, there are two completely done for you garden plans with start-to-finish instructions—one of which doesn’t require seed starting!!
Want to plan it yourself? There’s worksheets and checklists so you don’t miss a thing and are perfectly prepped to plant your cut flower garden.