For many of us, our daily lives are fast-paced, hectic, and demanding. It can often be a challenge to feel like we have time to properly take care of ourselves and our families, let alone to find time to garden. It’s important to realize that gardening is a great way to relax and reduce stress—it offers low-impact exercise, creates habitat for wildlife, and provides opportunities to grow food to nourish ourselves as well as flowers to lift our spirits. Considering all of these benefits, how can we not find the time to grow a few things? It’s kind of like eating your broccoli—it’s good for you, but way more fun!
Benefits of Fresh-Cut Flowers
A bouquet of fresh-cut flowers can brighten up any room and make the ordinary seem special. However, constantly purchasing store-bought flowers can take a toll on one’s budget. In addition to their high cost, most flowers on the market today are imported, mass-produced, and usually not sustainably grown. Growing your own flowers for cutting is the answer! Many of our favorite flowers for bouquets are easy to grow and make amazing, long-lasting arrangements right from your own yard.
We chatted with a professional event florist from a local company, Seventh Stem, about favorite flowers for cutting and tips for keeping flowers looking perfectly fresh. Our mild northwest climate provides prime conditions for some of the most prized blooms including spring double-flowering tulips, ranunculus, peonies, summer sprays of roses, delphinium, lilies, autumn-blooming hydrangeas, dahlias, and ornamental grass plumes. Even in the dead of winter, the garden offers brightly-colored twig dogwood stems, budded camellias, and blooming hellebores to be brought indoors for our enjoyment. Hellebore flowers last longest if cut when blooms are mature with ripening seeds in the center; younger flowers may be cut close to the stem and floated together in a bowl of water for a unique display.
When choosing plants for your cutting garden, consider the following:
Focus on easy-to-grow flowers with long bloom seasons and copious amounts of blossoms, like roses, hydrangeas, dahlias, sweet peas, and zinnias.
The commercial equivalent is expensive or hard to find. We can’t buy peonies as nice as those that we can grow, and stems of garden roses tend to be expensive to purchase. Plus, we have access to so many amazing colors and varieties that we can grow right here in the City of Roses!
Perennial flowers provide blooms that return year after year, while shrubs often lend contrasting or complementary seasonal foliage, fall color, and interesting seed pods or colorful berries. Look for long, sturdy stems and shiny, contrasting, or brilliant foliage.
Vines such as clematis, jasmine, and honeysuckle offer multiple uses in the garden, and when used in bouquets, add color, fragrance, and whimsical texture.
Annuals such as zinnias, snapdragons, and cosmos can be planted by seed or starts and grown for summer bouquet-making.
Perennials for Cut Flowers
- Alstromeria/Peruvian lily
- Baptisia/False Indigo
- Campanula/Bell flower
- Centaurea/Corn flower
- Chelone/Turtle heads
- Eremurus/Foxtail lily
- Eryngium/Sea holly
- Erysimum/Wall flower
- Gypsophila/Baby’s breath
- Hosta flowers
- Leucanthemum/Shasta daisy
- Physostegia/Obedient plant
- Perovskia/Russian sage
- Platycodon/Balloon flower
- Rudbeckia/Black-eyed Susan
- Scabiosa/Pincushion flower
Accent Foliage for Bouquets
- Waxleaf Privet
- Mexican Orange
- Oregon Grape (Berberis/Mahonia)
- Evergreen Magnolia, Heavenly Bamboo/Nandina
- Smoke Tree/Cotinus
- Sarcococca, Viburnum
- Twig Dogwood (stems)
Shrubs with Great Cut Flowers or Berries
- Butterfly bush/Buddleia
- Beautyberry (late fall berries)
- St. John’s Wort shrub/Hypericum
- Hibiscus/Rose of Sharon
Annuals for Cut Flowers
- Sweet Peas
Gathering & Cutting
Gathering materials for bouquets is best done early in the morning while dew is present. Keep a bucket of lukewarm water available to put the cut stems into immediately. For the longest lasting cut material, it depends on what stage the flower was in when it was cut and can take some practice and experience to figure out.
- Spike-shaped flowers should be cut when 25% of the flowers have opened (salvia, snapdragons, veronica).
- Cluster flowers should be harvested when they are just opening; if cut too early, they never open, and if cut too late, they won’t last.
- Blossoms with single stems such as a rose or peony are best cut when the flower bud is fully plumped and barely beginning to open; young, underdeveloped flower buds will often not open if cut too early.
Different types of stems benefit from special treatments to extend their life in the vase. Examine the distinct kinds of stems that various plants have and experiment with a few cutting techniques, including cutting at a 45-degree angle.
- Woody stems should be split at the cut end to encourage more water uptake.
- Milky stems should be seared at the tip with an open flame or dipped in boiling water.
- Some flowers, such as daffodils (Narcissus) are best displayed alone instead of mixing with other types of blooms; the cut stems of Narcissus release a latex substance that can interfere with water uptake of other flowers in the same vase.
No matter how your flowers were cut, they should be placed in a clean vase with fresh water, and the water should be changed every two days with the stem ends re-cut by ¼ inch each time. Remove the foliage from the part of the stem that is below the water line to help keep the water clean. Be sure to wash flower vases often to combat the buildup of bacteria, which tends to cause flowers to wilt. If you want to create a homemade flower food to add to the water, mix together 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon bleach, 2 teaspoons lemon/lime juice, and 1 quart of lukewarm water.
Head out to your yard or garden and cut yourself a bouquet today—you deserve it! If you don’t find much in your own yard, you will find a wide selection of plants at each of our garden centers. Take a few home to create gorgeous backyard bouquets for fresh, local beauty at your fingertips.