How To Start A Cut Flower Garden For Beginners (Step By Step Guide!)

Learn how to start a dreamy cut flower garden dripping with colorful blooms right here!

Imagine standing in your kitchen with a warm cup of coffee. The smell of lavender wafts through the window, and gorgeous roses dripping with morning dew smile at you from the garden.

Colorful zinnias brighten the fence line, and a cutting garden greets you with vibrant sunflowers, cosmos, and snapdragons. 

Alright, let’s wake up from that heavenly floral-infused dream. But, did you know a cut flower garden can be yours to enjoy with just a few simple steps?

The good news: you do NOT need a huge backyard or acres of property to enjoy a bountiful cut flower garden. Over the last decade, I have grown cut flowers in the suburbs, on the porch of a condo, on a one-hundred-year-old property, and even from an apartment!  I am here to show you how you can do this, too!

You only need a few basic skills to get started growing cut flowers. Let go of the idea of a perfect flower garden and dive in with these simple steps.

7 Steps To Growing A Cut Flower Garden

Follow these steps to learn how to grow a cutting garden this year:

1. Understand The Light You Are Working With

More than anything, sunlight is the most crucial ingredient to growing cut flowers.  Most flowers thrive in full sun and need at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.  

So before you buy seeds or start to enhance the soil, you must understand the available light you have. Trees, the direction your location is about the sun, and other buildings can increase shade and decrease light. 

Since most flowers thrive in full sun, partial shade area will not work for growing the most popular cut flowers. 

Keep in mind that light can change throughout the seasons. An area with ample sunlight during winter may experience shade from deciduous trees in the summer.  It’s a good idea to watch the light around your home throughout the seasons and take notes.

Gardener’s Tip: If you don’t have a full-sun location immediately available, get creative! You can turn a patch of grass by the sidewalk into a full-blown flower garden, build some raised beds in a sunny spot, or grow your garden in pots on a sunny patio. 

In areas that get full sun in the spring but shade in summer, grow tulips, daffodils and hellebore.

2. Get To Know Your Growing Space

When planning your cut flower garden, you must adjust how many plants you can grow per your unique space. 

Different plants have different growing requirements. You can use general spacing rules to calculate how many plants you can grow in a specific area. 

For example, cosmos flowers need at least 18 inches of space between plants to thrive. 

Adequate spacing prevents disease and allows plants to get enough nutrients from the soil. 

Tip: Look for areas in your flower beds and around your home to tuck in flowering perennials. You can plant dahlias, peonies, and roses in these spots, sneaking in a lot of extra blooming power around your home!

3. Amend Soil As Needed

Soil is one of the most important factors when growing cut flowers.  

Generally speaking, most cut flowers grow well in loose, well-draining soil that is fertile. This soil is often called loamy and features a healthy ratio of organic matter, sand, and clay. 

This type of soil is distinctive: it has a rich brown color and will have the texture of cookie dough when you scoop it up and break it in your hands. 

Unfortunately, most soils are not perfect and will need some help in the form of soil amendments. A soil amendment is an element you add to the soil to improve its nutrients or drainage quality. 

Clay soil is heavy and dense. It holds too much water, and plants have difficulty establishing a healthy root system. You can amend clay soil by adding organic matter such as rotting leaves, compost, and organic matter. These elements break down over time, adding nutrients to the soil and improving drainage. 

Sandy soil is light and dry and lacks enough nutrients for most flowers to thrive. (A few flowers, like lavender, love sandy soil, however!). Improve sandy soil by adding rich organic matter to it. 

Visit your local nursery to purchase soil amendments. 

4. Learn About Your Growing Zone

The USDA growing zone will give you a rough guide for what flowers grow well (and when) in the location you grow in.   This is key for knowing which plants will grow as perennials or annuals in your area.

Some plants, such as dahlias, grow well as perennials in warm zones but need to be dug up and overwintered in colder zones. 

My mom grows hundreds of gorgeous dahlias every year.

In addition to learning about your growing zone, you’ll want to find out the last frost date in your area. While some cut flowers (like snapdragons) can be planted prior to the last frost date, many flowers will die from overnight frosts if planted too early. 

Big box stores and nurseries will set out beautiful plants during the day, but cover them at night. So when purchasing starts, make sure you are past your last frost date if leaving your flowers out overnight. 

Or give these frost-sensitive plants shelter from the cold by pulling them into your garage at night. 

Get my list of the 14 easiest flowers to grow from seed here!

5. Understand Types Of Cut Flowers

Both annuals and perennials can be grown as cut flowers.  Learn about the differences, and take notes on the types of flowers you’d love to grow!

(You can get our list of the seven easiest cut flowers to grow this season here.)

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Annuals

Annuals are typically grown from seed or starts. They grow and bloom for just one season and must be planted yearly. Though you must re sow them, annuals offer several benefits. 

Annuals are a great way to experiment with different flower varieties. You can grow chocolate cosmos one year, and if they are not your favorite flower, choose a different variety next year!

These plants are also fast-growing, full of color, and relatively low maintenance.  

Favorite Cut Flower Annuals: Dwarf sunflowers, cosmos, marigolds, strawflowers, and zinnias are some of our favorite cut flowers to grow. 

Perennials

Perennials come back year after year, boasting beautiful blooms that you can feature in bouquets for decades. 

Peonies, roses, dahlias, and black-eyed susans are popular perennial cutting flowers. You can read all of our suggestions here.

Except for dahlias, perennial cutting flowers take longer to establish than annuals. Many produce only a few blooms in the first few seasons. 

When planting, they also need special care and attention: you want to ensure the soil is fertile and nutrient-dense to support their long life span. 

If you are patient, however, perennial cutting flowers will reward you with beautiful flowers that come back year after year. Once established, many of these plants are low-maintenance and will live for decades!

As a bonus, you can tuck perennial cut flowers into your landscaping. Most bloom for a period and provide lush greenery to enjoy the rest of the season.

Peonies are my favorite example of a perennial cut flower worth investing in. A peony plant will provide you with dozens of gorgeous, fragrant flowers within a few years. If planted correctly, one plant can thrive for up to fifty years!

Some of my favorite cut flower perennials:  roses, dahlias, peonies, rudbekia. 

6. Plan + Design Your Flower Garden

Once you have chosen your planting site and amended the soil, it’s time to start planning. 

Choose your flowers, then research each one to see how much room they need to grow. Group drought tolerant plants like sunflowers and cosmos together.

It can be easy to get excited and overcrowd your plants. All plants, including flowers, need ample space to prevent diseases like powdery mildew. They also need space to grow their roots. 

Here is an example of a cut flower garden layout featuring annual flowers:

7. Maintaining Your Flower Beds

When it comes to maintaining a cut flower garden, you will need to focus on four areas: deadheading, watering, weeding.

Watering

Many plants, such as dwarf sunflowers and zinnias, are drought-resistant once established. 

You will have to hover over them daily, dousing them with water. 

Instead, you’ll want to wait until the soil dries out, then give the plants a deep soak at the roots. This will encourage the plants to develop a deep root system, which is crucial to their health!

A simple way to test the soil for dryness is to just stick your finger right in it, and see if it feels damp or dry.

Check out my complete guide to watering flowers for lots of tips. 

Deadheading

Deadheading flowers will not only keep them healthy but will also encourage the plant to produce more blooms.  This is how you keep those flowers coming all summer long!

Make sure to deadhead in the right spot- you’ll want to follow the stem of the flower down cut at the first set of leaves. 

Learn how to properly deadhead dahlias here.

Weeding

Weeding is a crucial step to maintaining a flower garden. When the plants are young they can be choked out by weeds. Once they are full-sized, weeding will not be as big of an issue.

Laying down mulch and cardboard can suffocate weeds and save a lot of time and energy as your plants grow!

Bonus Tip: Seed Collecting (Save Money!)

You can collect seeds from many flowers at the end of the season, saving you money for next year! Wait for the seed head to dry out completely, then harvest the seeds and save them in an airtight container. 

Seed saving is a great way to save money and become self reliant. Plus it’s very rewarding and fun to do!

Learn how to save seeds from zinnias and marigolds here. 

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