A fresh cut bouquet of flowers can brighten any room and elicit happiness for any who see it. But as wonderful as these arrangements are, they are even more rewarding when you grow your own! While this may seem like a daunting task to those without much of a green thumb, there are plenty of flowers which grow well in our climate and can be very forgiving to new growers. Some of my personal favorites are zinnias, cosmos, and celosia (also known as cock’s comb). These three varieties are available in endless amounts of colors and zinnias and cosmos are known to bloom all summer long.
The best way to get started growing cut flowers is to browse online or flip through seed catalogs and pick out the colors and varieties you would like to try your hand at growing. I have found that over the last few years more and more seed catalogs are beginning to include flowers, with some even having their own catalog solely dedicated to cut flowers. Generally, cut flower seeds are best to start at the same time as most of our vegetable crops (4 to 6 weeks before the last frost). This way you are able to start harvesting your first cuts by middle to late June. Both zinnias and cosmos are great flowers for producing blooms all summer long and into fall right up until frost. The trick to keeping your flowers blooming is to keep harvesting and cutting back the spent blooms. This promotes more branching and further bud and flower development. Zinnias and cosmos can both be planted as bedding plants, so be sure to select seeds for long stemmed varieties when growing for cut flowers. With this in mind, you may want to consider staking some of these flowers. Old tobacco sticks or tomato stakes work well for staking. You may even want to consider using the Florida weave (a series of stakes and twine) just as you would do for tomato trellising. If you are planting several taller varieties into a home landscape as opposed to mixing them with your vegetable garden, as I generally do, you may find it nice to plant some smaller annuals in front of your cut flowers or mix them into your perennial beds to provide some height variation.
In addition to these annuals, many of our perennials as well as our tubers and bulb plants make for great cuts as well. Some of my favorites from these categories include hydrangeas, peonies, dahlias, gladiolus, black eyed susans, and coreopsis. What can you find in your garden and flower beds to bring inside and brighten your day?
Submitted by Tracey Parrison