How to Plan and Grow a Cutting Garden
It’s such a delight to see flowers blooming in the garden that it’s often hard to cut them to bring indoors. That’s the beauty of a designated cutting garden. Find a sunny spot in your yard and fill it with plants that are grown to be cut. Then treat your cutting garden as your private source of flowers for bouquets to brighten your indoor spaces.
Think you don’t have any space left for a new garden, even if it’s tucked away? How about designating a few rows in your vegetable garden to flowers. It’s a win-win. You get flowers to cut and the flowers will attract more pollinators to your vegetables.
Plants to Grow in a Cutting Garden
Annuals are the most traditional cutting flowers, although it is entirely possible to have a perennial cutting garden. Many annuals tend to repeat bloom and you can grow them quickly. Whichever you choose, here are a few traits to consider:
- You will probably prefer flowers with long stems since you will be cutting and displaying them.
- If you love fragrance, make sure you include some scented flowers.
- Include some filler plants, like baby’s breath or coral bells.
- Plants with attractive foliage, like artemisia and coleus, will also be handy for arrangements.
- Planting flowers that dry well will extend your bouquets into winter.
- Grow what you love. If you want sunflowers all summer, give them top priority in your cutting garden.
Consider ordering some specialty seed and plant catalogs for exotic or old-fashioned varieties that might not be available at the local garden center.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Cutting shears
- A variety of flower seeds for a cutting garden
- Compost or leaf mold
- Organic fertilizer
Prepare the Site
Just because you’ll be cutting these flowers regularly doesn’t mean you can skimp on the soil. For the most prolific, healthy flowers, amend your soil to ensure the plants have the nutrients they need to grow and bloom well.
Make sure the area is weed-free. Although this garden doesn’t have to look pretty, you still don’t want your plants to have to compete with weeds for nutrients and water.
Your cutting flowers will need soil that is rich in organic matter to improve water retention and drainage. Work in several inches of compost or leaf mold before planting.
Incorporate a dose of a balanced, slow-acting, granular, organic fertilizer at the start of the season. This, plus a healthy dose of fresh compost, is usually enough to keep the plants healthy and growing throughout the season. If you notice blooms diminishing, you can always give them a hit of liquid fertilizer during the summer if needed. Make sure you check the growing needs of your flowers first. Some flowers, like coreopsis, actually bloom better in poor soil.
Plan the Layout
Ease of access is very important in a cutting garden. Wide rows are the traditional approach. You won’t have to reach as far to cut stems. Be sure to leave paths between them that are wide enough for you to move in and work. You’ll be carrying a bucket of water for them or a basket to hold your cut flowers, so give yourself space to navigate.
Determine What the Plants Need
Determine what the growing conditions are for each of the flowers you choose to grow, and then group those with like needs together. Grouping plants with similar growing requirements will help you give them all exactly what they need with minimal effort on your part. It will also prevent you from unintentionally over- or under-watering the plants that are growing near other plants with completely different likes and dislikes.
Consider the Height of the Plants
Once you have your plants grouped by their cultural needs, divide them again by their mature height. You don’t want the shorter plants to be engulfed by the tall ones. They won’t get enough sunshine and it will be more difficult to reach them for cutting.
Arrange Flowers Based on Bloom Sequence
Flowers don’t all bloom at the same time. Consider laying out your plants in the order they are expected to bloom; early season, mid-season, or later in the season. Or, if you want to avoid dead patches in your cutting garden and keep it looking lovely all season, intersperse flowers with different bloom times within the same beds. As spring bulbs fade, for instance, early summer annuals cover the bulbs' fading foliage.
Spread More Seeds Throughout the Growing Season
Annuals often don’t last an entire growing season. Make sure you pick up extra seed packets in the spring, so you can reseed when one batch starts to fade. If a group of plants is fading, rip them out, freshen the soil with compost, and replant something new.
Yes, even in a cutting garden, mulch is necessary. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. You can mulch with shredded leaves or straw. The mulch helps deter weeds from moving in while also retaining soil moisture. The last thing you need is another garden to weed. If the mulch decomposes to less than 1 inch of covering, it’s time to top it off with some fresh mulch.
Maintain Your Cutting Garden
The most important thing you can do is keep cutting. Many plants will set new flowers after cutting the first flush of blooms.
Otherwise, maintenance will be much like any other flower border. Keep an eye out for pests and disease and remove affected plants before the problems have a chance to spread. Make sure your flowers get water at least weekly, more if you’re having a particularly hot, dry summer.
What is a cutting garden?
A cutting garden is designed specifically for growing flowers to then cut for floral arrangements. Ideal plants to include are ones with visually appealing and prolific flowers that can be pruned off without impacting the plant’s overall health.
What flowers should you plant for a cutting garden?
Some good options for flowers that keep producing even after you cut some for floral arrangements include asters, dahlias, snapdragons, zinnias, cosmos, roses, marigolds, and phlox. Ultimately, what you plant comes down to your taste and what grows well in your climate.
How much sun does a cutting garden need?
In many cases, a cutting garden should receive full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. However, this can vary depending on the individual needs of the plant species you choose.
Plan Now for a Beautiful Flower Cutting Garden. Michigan State University Extension Website.