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Great Cut Flowers from your Home Garden

Vases full of fresh cut flowers add a beautiful and positive touch to almost any space. Having great cut flowers in your home all through the local growing season is within the reach of every gardener if you will just follow a few simple rules.
  • While some bedding plants make decent cut flowers, using varieties that are specifically bred for cutting will increase your success many fold. Some flower varieties are too short for most vases and many simply will not hold their looks once cut.
  • Cut flowers require sufficient water for their stems to stretch. One of the best ways to grow dwarf cut flowers is to withhold water at the critical time when they are getting tall. Using soaker hose or an irrigation system is the simplest way to get plenty of water to your flowers roots. See, “Building and Operating a Home Fruit and Vegetable Garden Irrigation System” for more information.
  • Every other year, test your soil fertility. Proper plant nutrition will result in more flowers that last longer once cut.
  • Finally, know the best growth stage (partially open or fully open) to cut each flower.

Since 1998, Penn State Extension in cooperation with the Department of Horticulture at the University Park Campus in State College have been trialing cut flowers at multiple sites across Pennsylvania. Through these trials, we have begun to build a list of those cut flowers that are best suited for Pennsylvania growers. With the huge number of flower varieties available, there are many that have yet to be tested. Your gardening friends and neighbors can probably add to the list of flowers offered in this publication.

Cut Flowers Worth Consideration - Perennials
Flower Variety Notes
Black-eyed Susan Indian Summer
Cherokee Sunset
Autumn Leaves
Cut when fully open
Columbine Heidi
Ruby Port
McKana’s Giants
Tower Series
Cut when 1/2 of the flowers are fully open
Bellfower Champion Series
Telham Beauty
Tall Single Series
Cut when 1-2 flowers are open and others are swelled
Wild Indigo
Baptisia tinctoria
B. bracteata
Cut when 1/3 flowers are open
Yarrow Summer Pastels Mix
Colorado
Silver Queen
Cut when fully open
Shasta Daisy Giant Marconi Cut when 2/3 open
Cornflower / Bachelors Button Centaurea macrocephala
C. dealbata
Aloha Rose
Cut when open, but flower centers are still tight
Cut Flowers Worth Consideration - Annuals
Flower Variety Notes
Ageratum Blue Horizon
White Bouquet
RedTop
Cut with some buds fully open with more just starting to open
Calendula Indian Prince
& most cutting mixes
Cut when the flowers are fully open
Celosia Cramer’s Amazon
Flamingo Feather
Sparkler Series
Chief Mix
Cut when the flowers are fully open
China Asters
Matsumoto Mix
Serenade Mix
Benary’s Princess Formula Mix
Cut when the flowers are just fully opened
Cosmos Versailles Series
Picotee
Sensation Mix
Cut when the petals are just open
Dahlia Karma Dahlias Most dahlia have very short vase life
Karma series last somewhat longer
Ornamental Peppers Black Pearl
2005 AAS winner
Cut once fruit have colored. Most varieties will hold fruit but not leaves once cut
Statice Sunset Mix
Pacific Strains Mix
and many others
Cut when 2/3 of the flowers are open.
Salvia Marble Arch Mix
Salvia farinacea reference
Blue Bedder
Cut when several of the lower flowers are fully open
Snapdragons Rocket Mix Cut these when they are 50% open
Strawflower Salsa Mix Cut when fully open. These can also be dried easily and most others strawflowers are great cut flowers
Sunflower
  • Autumn Beauty
  • Brilliance
  • Double Quick Orange
  • Full Sun
  • Golden Cheer
  • Joker
  • Moonbright
  • Premier Lite Yellow
  • Sunbright Supreme
  • Soraya & Sunbeam
Cut when just fully open. Avoid giant types as they tend to get weather damaged
Zinnia
  • Benary’s Giant Mix
  • Oklahoma Mix
  • State Fair Mix and others
The new Profusion Series are wonderful bedding plants as they are nearly mildew free, but they do not make the grade as cuts due to very short stems.
Cut when fully open

In general, if you look for the scissors icon in your seed catalogs or on seed packets you’ll have varieties that are better suited to a cutting garden. These varieties have stems long enough to make cutting them useful. They should also have better vase life than bedding types. Most flowers will continue to push additional blooms from healthy plants if you keep cutting them. The best method to apply water is by using drip, trickle or soaker hose to the plants root system. Not only do you get more water where it is actually needed and waste very little, but your flowers will be look better when kept dry as much as possible.

The last step to great cut flowers is in knowing how to handle your flowers once they are cut. Try to cut them after the morning dew is dried off but before the heat of the day has soaked in. This will prevent mildewing of the flowers and stems while avoiding unnecessary cooking of the blossoms. Be sure to immediately place the cut flowers into clean water in clean buckets. Use a solution of one part household bleach to nine parts water to clean your buckets and prevent disease buildup between uses. The water that the flowers actually go into should be acidified. Recut flower stems as you prepare them for a vase in order to insure that they have fresh tissue exposed to take up water. You can either use floral preservative (follow label directions) or add citric acid. 1 Tablespoon of powdered citric acid (available from bulk food suppliers) will acidify 4 gallons of water enough to greatly improve vase life. Floral preservatives have the added benefit of supplying a little carbohydrate (sugar) which will help unopened buds to open along with bactericides which will help to keep the water clear. There are many home recipes available to make your own floral preservative; none work as well as the commercial preparations when mixed properly. Do not be tempted to stretch a floral preservative by adding extra water. This usually results in substantially shorter vase life as there is enough carbohydrate present to feed the bacteria, but not enough bactericide to control them.

Additional information

  • Kansas State
  • Franklin County Extension. Call 717-263-9226 and request: Field Grown Cut Flowers, Sources of Horticultural Information and Cut Flower Resources. These three handouts are free of charge and will get you going in the right direction.

by Steve Bogash, former extension educator

 

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Great Cut Flowers from your Home Garden

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