Cut Flower Gardening Program Recap

Thank you to Margaret Pickoff from the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County for a wonderful and information-packed presentation on cut flower gardening  There are many things to consider when planting and tending a cut flower garden that will help ensure that you have healthy and beautiful flowers for your arrangements and vases.

When starting out, look around to see where flowers are already growing.  This can give you a good indication of fertile areas of your yard and where there is enough sunlight to promote a cut flower garden.   When determining where to plant your cut flower garden, keep in mind these factors:

    • Sunlight requirements
      • Full sun = more than 6 hours of direct sunlight
      • Partial sun = 4-6 hours
      • Partial shade = 2-4 hours
    • Low wind
    • Low perennial weed pressure
    • Fertile, well-drained soil
      • Can cause root rot
    • pH of 6.2-6.5
      • get soil tested
    • Soil Conditions
      • Ensure enough soil aggregates – soil particles that bind together
      • Working soil too often or when too went can damage soil structure

Also, it is important to determine what types of flowers/plants you want and learn the major differences between them:

  • Annuals
    • Flower, set seed, and die in one flowering season
    • Blood over a long period
    • Used to add bursts of color to garden
  • Biennials
    • Vegetative growth inn first year, flower and set seed in second
    • Require cold stratification if sown in spring
  • Perennials
    • Roots live, stems die
    • Less labor-intensive
    • Reproduce by seed, divisions, cuttings
    • Shorter blood period
  • Flowering vines
    • Vigorous growers
    • Often require winter pruning
    • Interesting tendrils and foliage for arrangements
  • Flowering trees and shrubs
    • Pruning needs and maintenance depend on species
    • Flowers, foliage, and fruit for arrangements
    • Upfront investment, longer to maturity
  • Spring flowering bulbs
    • Food storage structure underground

Here are some examples of common plants found in cut flower gardens:

  • High producing annual flowers like zinnia, cosmos, rudbeckia, and gomphrena
  • Medium producers like snapdragon, love-lies-bleeding, and sunflowers
  • Foliage plants and ornamental grasses like bells of Ireland and eucalyptus
  • Filler flowers like statice, celosia, and yarrow

Once you have your location picked out and the types of flowers you want to grow, you can begin by planting seeds indoors in March and April.  Use soil-less potting mix in seedling trays with drainage holes.  You want to time seeding with the frost-free date for your area as well as the planting date you had in mind.  Cover the seeds lightly with soil and keep warm and moist.  You can even use a plastic covering to help for water circulation.

As your seedlings grow, watch for the types of leaves.  When the plant has sprouted 2 true leaves (look like normal leaves), the plant is ready to be transplanted outside.  Be sure to “harden off” for two weeks before planting, which means a gradual introduction to outdoor conditions.  Once in the ground, water within an hour of planting and be mindful to include enough spacing between your plants as indicated on the seed packaging.

If you are going to plant your seeds directly into the garden, make sure to read the seed pack for information regarding when to plant, planting depth, and spacing.  Also pay attention to any special germination instructions, such as cold stratification, and check the date of the package to ensure the seeds are still healthy.

Once you have your plants in the ground, be mindful of these maintenance and care tips:

  • Watering
    • 1 inch per week
    • Deep, infrequent watering rather than repeated shallow watering
    • Morning or early afternoon
    • Soaker hose, mulch
  • Physical barriers and mulches
    • Organic or synthetic mulches
  • Pinching Back – Annuals
    • When 4 sets of leaves, remove upper most growth at node
    • Create bushier plants, more flowering stems and greater floral production
  • Deadheading
    • Cut below spent flower, above healthy leaves
    • Longer blood period
  • Ongoing care
    • Thinning, weeding, trellising and staking, fertilizing, dividing perennials
  • Deer damage
    • Avoid preferred species
    • Apply repellents
    • Exclusion fencing
  • Diseases and pests
    • Purchase high-quality, disease free plants
    • Check for obvious insect issues at point of purchase
    • Choose resistant varieties
    • Remove sickly plants as soon as possible

Once your flowers bloom, you are ready to harvest them.  Make sure to harvest using sharp, clean tools to prevent any damage or illness to the plant.  When to harvest depends on the species so be sure to time it properly.  If you plan to put the flowers in a vase, be sure to keep long stems and strip the foliage.  Make sure you use tepid water in your vase and floral preservatives to keep them fresh and long-lasting.

If you have specific questions, please visit the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County at https://mgofmc.org/ or email Margaret at mpickoff@mercercounty.org.  To download a copy of the presentation, please visit https://www.njstatelib.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Cut-Flower-Gardening.pdf.  To view a recording of the webinar, please visit https://youtu.be/MjBqsRA_IMw.

About Andrew Dauphinee

Education and learning are passions of mine. Lifelong learning is a core part of who I am and I strive to pass that desire for information on to everyone I meet. As the Instruction and Outreach Librarian, it is my goal to provide quality, informative, and relevant programming to meet the diverse needs of our patrons. Please contact me regarding programming at adauphinee@njstatelib.org.