How to Grow Your Own Cutting Garden

Plant a Cutting Garden

Marie Iannotti

It’s such a delight to see flowers blooming in the garden, it’s often hard to cut them to bring indoors. That’s the beauty of a designated cutting garden. Find an out of the way sunny spot in your yard, somewhere that guests won’t notice, and fill it with plants that are grown to be cut. Then treat your cutting garden as your own 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. Let’s get started.

Preparing the Site for Your Cutting Garden

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 a 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.

Prepare the soil for planting
Maarigard / Getty Images

Planting Your Cutting Garden

Planning the layout of your cutting garden will make for a more enjoyable experience later on once flowers start to bloom. Here are some factors to consider:

  • 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 move in and work. You’ll be carrying a bucket of water to hold your flowers, so give yourself space to navigate.
  • Plant Needs - 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 plants that are growing near plants with completely different likes and dislikes.
  • Height - 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.
  • Sequence of Bloom - 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 to cover dying leaves.
  • 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. Be strong. If a group of plants is fading, rip them out, freshen the soil with compost, and replant something new.
  • Mulch - 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.
Plan your cutting garden
Stephen Robson / Getty Images

Maintaining 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. Isn’t that wonderful?

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.
cut flowers on wooden table with scissors
ingwervanille / Getty Images

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:

  1. You will probably prefer flowers with long stems, since you will be cutting and displaying them.
  2. If you love fragrance, make sure you include some scented flowers.
  3. Include some filler plants, like baby’s breath or coral bells.
  4. Plants with attractive foliage, like artemisia and coleus, will also be handy for arrangements.
  5. Planting flowers that dry well will extend your bouquets into winter.
  6. Grow what you love. If you want sunflowers all summer, give them top priority in your cutting garden.

Below are lists of plant suggestions for your cutting garden. It is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you some inspiration. Consider ordering some specialty seed and plant catalogs for exotic or old-fashioned varieties that might not be available at the local garden center.

Flowers in a garden
Purple and white garden flowers including catmint, white bellflower, peonies and larkspur. Ron Evans / Getty Images

Annuals for a Cutting Garden

Below are some favorite annual flowers to include in your cutting garden. 

  • Ageratum (perennial zone 10-11)
  • Ammi majus (Bishop's Flower)
  • Bells of Ireland
  • Blue Lace Flower (Trachymene coerulea)
  • Calendula (Pot Marigold)
  • Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)
  • Celosia, cristata (Cockscomb)✺
  • Celosia, plumosa (Feather)✺
  • Celosia, spicata (Wheat)✺
  • Centaurea (Bachelor's' Button)
  • China aster (Callistephus chinensis)
  • Cleome (Spider Flower)
  • Cosmos
  • Dill
  • Dimorphotheca sinuata (Cape Marigold)
  • Drumstick Flower (Craspedia globosa)
  • Everlasting (Helipterum)
  • Geranium
  • Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate (Polygonum orientale)
  • Larkspur (Consolida ambigua)✺
  • Love Lies Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus)
  • Marigold
  • Mignonette (Reseda Odorata)❀
  • Nicotiana❀
  • Nigella damascena (Love In A Mist)
  • Painted Tongue (Salpiglossis)
  • Pansy
  • Petunia
  • Poppy, Shirley
  • Snapdragon
  • Statice✺ ❀
  • Stock (Matthiola)
  • Strawflower (Helichrysum)✺
  • Sunflower
  • Sweet Annie (Artemisia annua)✺
  • Sweet Pea
  • Zinnia

[✺ - Dries Well, ❀ - Fragrant]

Yellow antirrhinums
Yellow snapdragons (antirrhinums) are a colorful choice for a cutting garden. Image Bank / Getty Images

Perennials for a Cutting Garden

Perennial flowers also work well in a cutting garden. Choose a favorite variety that you won't tire of seeing year after year.

  • Anemone
  • Aster
  • Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila)✺
  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Bell Flower (Campanula)
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Carnation❀
  • Campanula
  • Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi)✺
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris)
  • Coreopsis
  • Coral Bells (Heuchera)
  • Delphinium
  • Dianthus (Pinks)❀
  • Echinacea (Purple Coneflower)
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii)✺
  • Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis sylvatica)
  • Foxglove (Digitalis)
  • Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)
  • Globe Thistle (Echinops exaltatus)✺
  • Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)✺ (USDA zone 9-11)
  • (Solidago)
  • Heliopsis helianthoides (Smooth ox-eye)
  • Iris sibirica
  • Jewels of Opar (Talinum) (USDA zone 9-11)
  • Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)
  • Lavender✺❀
  • Lilies
  • Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) (USDA zone 7-11)
  • Lobelia
  • Lupine
  • Peony (Paeonia)❀
  • Phlox
  • Poppy, Iceland
  • Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia )
  • Sages
  • Salvia farinacea (USDA zone 7-11)
  • Scabiosa (Pincushion flower)
  • Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum)
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Veronica
  • Yarrow (Achillea)✺
Foxglove in a cutting garden.
Lisa Hubbard / Getty Images

Foliage for a Cutting Garden

Don't forget foliage! Bouquets look loveliest with bits of greenery or texture between the blooms. Some popular options to consider include:

Dusty Miller
Dusty Miller has eye-catching silvery, fuzzy leaves. Duaa Awchi / EyeEm / Getty Images
Article Sources
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  1. Plan Now for a Beautiful Flower Cutting Garden. Michigan State University Extension Website