Grow a Cutting Garden for Beautiful Bouquets

Updated: Mar. 29, 2023

Follow expert cutting garden advice for a thriving and successful plot full of blooms that is perfect for at-home flower arrangements.

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Why You Should Plant a Cutting Garden

Marigold African Bali MixBall Horticultural Company
Marigolds are a great choice for beginners who want to grow cutting gardens.

Growing a cutting garden is a pretty pastime that saw a significant boost in popularity in the early days of the pandemic—and growing cut-flower gardens is poised to stay. Follow the advice from a Midwest-based master to become a cutting garden pro. Jamie Rohda is the owner of Harvest Home Flowers in Waverly, Nebraska, a farm growing specialty cut-flowers for nearly 25 years.

“A cut-flower garden is not meant for looks but for harvesting,” Jamie says. “Whereas a flower garden meant for the landscape is laid out for the benefit of being viewed, a cut-flower garden’s purpose is to provide the owner with a continuing array of flowers to be harvested and used for floral display.”

That’s not to say a cut-flower garden can’t be aesthetically appealing; it’s just not the primary intent of this type of space. To keep this goal in mind, Jamie finds that it’s best, to situate a cut-flower garden where it is the least visible. The temptation to leave it for viewing is not as great.

Check out the prettiest cutting garden flowers to grow.

Picking Plants for a Cutting Garden

Zinnias from a cutting garden make a beautiful bouquet.COURTESY JENNIFER GREGORY
Zinnias from a cutting garden make a beautiful bouquet.

Before choosing flowers for any cutting garden, Jamie suggests that you ask yourself questions to set yourself up for success:

  • What amount of sun does the garden get? Will it be best to plant sun-loving flowers, or will this be a partially shaded garden?
  • What are your personal likes and dislikes?
  • What skills do you have? Is this your first time planting a garden, or do you already have some growing experience?
  • How much growing space do you have?
  • What climate zone are you in?

Jamie prefers to choose what she calls “cut and come again” blooms, which are “annual types of flowers or flowers that can be planted multiple times throughout the season for the beginning grower, as they give you the most reward for your effort.” Some of her go-to favorites include zinnias, ageratum, tall verbena, sunflowers, celosia, cosmos, gomphrena, dianthus and cut-flower types of marigolds.

Jamie says, “With the addition of some perennials that may already be in the grower’s landscape, these can provide an ongoing array of cut flowers for the entire season.”

Annuals vs. perennials — what is the difference?

Designing a Cutting Garden

Sonata Pink Blush Cosmos BallBall Horticultural Company
Choose easy to grow, sun-loving annual flowers such as cosmos.

In terms of what grows well together, the most important thing to consider is size. “I think as long as the size is considered, almost anything works,” Jamie says. “Of course, you don’t want to grow 5-foot-tall sunflowers in with 18-inch ageratum.”

Sunlight and water availability are the two most important things to consider when designing a cut-flower bed. Jamie says that most easy-to-cut flowers thrive in full or nearly full sunlight, so plan accordingly.

Also, if you live in an area where you need to irrigate, that should be a major consideration during the planning process. She adds one more design note in terms of functionality: “Harvesting is easiest when the garden is laid out in a nice straight bed about 3 feet across.” So aim for that when creating a layout.

Design a gorgeous garden with colorful flowers.

Maintenance Tips for Cutting Gardens

David Austin Roses Silas MarnerHoward Rice/David Austin Roses
Mix in pretty perennials such as David Austin Roses.

Once you have everything planted, maintenance is crucial, so your hard work doesn’t go to waste. For lifestyle blogger, content creator and avid gardener Kate Knowles of Kate Knowles Home, who started multiple cut-flower gardens from seed in 2021, that means visiting the garden beds almost every morning to check on things.

“Watering is my least favorite chore, so installing a drip irrigation system in our garden beds that waters everything on an automatic timer has made that chore so much easier,” Kate says. “I found a video on YouTube from Garden Answer that shows the exact parts you need and instructions on installing it yourself. It wasn’t too hard to figure out, and our garden benefits from consistent watering.” Kate enjoys maintaining her three cut-flower beds (one dedicated to David Austin roses) with her three sons as a fun family activity.

Check out the top 10 flowers for harvesting seeds.

How to Harvest from Your Cutting Garden

Harvesting flowers and creating bouquets from a cutting garden is an art.COURTESY LORENA FABER
Harvesting flowers and creating bouquets from a cutting garden is an art.

Finally, proper harvesting is essential when working on any cut-flower garden. Jamie suggests planning your flower harvest based on temperature. “In the cool of the morning or evening is the first place to start,” she says. Be sure to have the proper tools.

“A very sharp knife is the best way to harvest cut flowers, but if you’re uncomfortable with that, then a good pair of sharp snips will work,” she says. “Those with a bypass-type blade (not an anvil type) will give you a good clean cut that allows the flower to drink when put in water.” Cut at an angle while harvesting or arranging, Jamie says, as this will expose the most surface area so the stem can draw up water.

Bnbbyc18 Christie Keefer (1)Courtesy Christie Keefer
Start cutting garden flowers such as Shirley poppies from seeds

Kate likes to keep the seed packets for each flower in her cut garden available, as many contain harvesting instructions for optimal vase life. “Each flower has its own harvesting instructions, and usually it’s best to do it in the mornings when it’s not as hot outside,” she says.

And the best part of a cutting-flower garden? The fresh blooms, of course. The options for using fresh flowers are limitless, but Jamie shares a few favorites. “I personally love just a few stems on my kitchen windowsill to enjoy or a collection of vases with one variety in each vase. Of course, a big mixed bouquet is always great for the dining room table! And having fresh flowers to give to a friend is always delightful for both the giver and the receiver.”

Learn how to arrange fresh-cut blooms from your cutting garden like a pro.

Best Blooms for Cutting Gardens

A cutting garden will give you beautiful bouquets such as this one made with zinnia blooms.COURTESY TERESA MILLER
A cutting garden will give you beautiful bouquets such as this one made with zinnia blooms.

Next, learn how to grow a pollinator garden.