A vase of fresh flowers cut straight from the garden can instantly make a house feel more like a home. So it’s surprisingly that more people don’t try growing their own cut flowers, particularly when you consider the benefits to your purse. There are plenty of cut flowers that you can grow at home, but if you need some inspiration take a look at our top 10 favourites.
You don’t need to be a florist to get the best from your cut flowers either. There are lots of handy tips that you can employ to make your blooms last longer in the vase. Here are a just a few to get you started.
Growing cut flowers at home is easy if you choose the right plants. You don’t need to set aside a special area of your garden - simply mix the plants in among your herbaceous borders, or grow some in containers outside the back door. You can even add a few rows to your vegetable plot. Take some inspiration from our top 10 favourite cut flowers for some of the best cut flowers to grow in your own garden.
The ultimate 'cut and come again' cut flower! Once a popular glasshouse cut flower, these beautiful blooms are mainly garden grown nowadays. There are plenty of colours to choose from, but a good mix of shades makes the prettiest posies. Old fashioned Grandiflora types often have the best scent such as Sweet Pea ‘Heirloom Mixed’. But the popular modern ‘Spencer’ varieties such as Sweet Pea ‘Alan Titchmarsh’ combine fragrance, larger blooms and longer stems that are ideal for flower arrangements.
Sue’s Top Tip: It’s important to cut Sweet Peas regularly to encourage more blooms. Cut the flowers just as the lowest bloom is opening and put them in water immediately for a longer vase life.
You’ll only need a few lily stems to make a dramatic and exotic-looking cut flower display. There are lots of different lily species that you can grow as a cut flower, but oriental Lilies are the most popular for their fragrance and glamorous trumpet shaped blooms. To avoid problematic pollen stains on clothes and furniture, try gently removing the stamens from lilies as they open. You can solve this problem entirely by growing sterile double varieties such as Tree Lily ‘Crystal Collection’ which are completely pollen free.
Sue’s Top Tip: When cutting lily stems from the garden it’s important to leave a third of the stem intact in order to feed the bulb for the following year.
Sunflowers make the cheeriest cut flowers and never fail to raise a smile. They’re very easy to grow and won’t require any special attention - simply sow them directly into the ground where you want them to flower. For cutting it’s best to choose multi-headed varieties such as Sunflower ‘Harlequin’ to give you lots of blooms. Cut the stems just before the flowers fully open, and strip the lower foliage from the stem leaving just a few leaves at the top to help fill out your bouquet.
Sue’s Top Tip: Sunflowers are best cut with sharp secateurs early in the morning or late in the evening while temperatures are cool.
Tulips are among the earliest flowers for cutting in the garden. They come in such a range of colours that you’ll be spoiled for choice. Try our popular Tulip 'Everlasting' Mixture or Tulip ‘Red Impression’ for a stunning mix of shades. You can help your tulips to last longer in the vase by cutting their stems underwater to prevent air entering the stems. Tulips are thirsty cut flowers so you’ll need to keep their water topped up on a daily basis.
Sue’s Top Tip: Although they may come into flower at the same time, never be tempted to mix Tulips in a vase with Daffodils. Narcissus species exude a substance that prevents your tulips (and other cut flowers) from taking up water.
The flamboyant, tall stems of Gladioli are superb for adding height and drama to flower arrangements. There are plenty to choose from and modern hybrids such as Gladiolus ‘Tango’ and Gladiolus ‘Green Star’ bring a really fresh palette of contemporary colours to your vase. Cut gladiolus flowers just as the lowest two or three florets begin to open, but try to leave as many leaves as possible to feed the bulb for next year. Gladiolus flowers will generally all reach maturity at about the same time, but if you want to prolong the cutting season then try to stagger planting at two week intervals so that they mature at different times.
Sue’s Top Tip: When growing Gladiolus specifically for cutting, plant them in rows in the vegetable patch. This makes them much easier to harvest.
What list of cut flowers would be complete without the quintessential rose. Growing roses for cut flowers takes a little more work than growing them as garden shrubs, but the results are well worth the effort. Choose varieties carefully to ensure the nicest forma and longest stems. Try hybrid tea rose ‘The One and Only’ or the delightful trailing rose ’Waterfall Collection’ for hanging baskets. For informal clusters of flowers grow repeat flowering floribunda roses for a longer cutting period and a more relaxed feel to your bouquets. Roses grown as cut flowers will require heavy feeding to produce the best results. It is worth noting for the benefit of organic gardeners that protecting roses against blackspot may well require spraying with fungicides.
Sue’s Top Tip: When growing roses as cut flowers, be ruthless and remove any poorly placed flower buds that are unlikely to make good cut flowers to direct energy into the best blooms.
The silvery-blue foliage of eucalyptus gunnii makes fantastic filler for vases, bouquets and larger flower arrangements. Its attractive rounded leaves provide shape and texture that blends well with both formal and more relaxed displays. Eucalyptus has a sensational vase life, easily lasting more than 3 weeks, and is often the ‘last man standing’ in floral displays!
Sue’s Top Tip: Florists use the juvenile foliage of Eucalyptus which is more rounded and attractive than that found on mature plants. Grow your Eucalyptus as a coppiced plant, pruning hard each year to encourage a constant supply of immature stems for cutting.
Dianthus (including Carnations, Pinks and Sweet Williams) are some of the best known of all cut flowers. Carnations such as ’Ever-blooming Mixed’ provide traditional Carnation flowers, but it’s worth trying something different if you are growing your own flowers for cutting. How about Dianthus 'Purple Rain' for its unusual colouring or the extraordinary blooms of Dianthus 'Green Trick' which have taken the cut flower world by storm? And don’t forget the lovely fragrance of Pinks which make superb posies. Regular cutting will help to ensure a long flowering season to give you an ongoing supply of blooms.
Sue’s Top Tip: Avoid standing carnation arrangements in direct light as they will quickly fade.
Peonies are prized for their beautiful, large blooms. Just a few stems are enough to create a stunning arrangement with a big impact. Herbaceous Peonies such as 'Eden's Perfume' are a great choice although they do have a relatively short flowering season. Double varieties should be cut when the buds feel soft between your finger and thumb, just before they open. Cutting double peonies too early may prevent the buds from opening so it’s worth being patient with them. Single flowered peonies can be cut at a slightly less advanced stage if necessary, while the buds are swollen but still firm.
Sue’s Top Tip: Use restraint when growing peonies as cut flowers. Take just a few blooms from each plant and avoid cutting stems from plants that are less than three years old.
Gypsophila makes particularly useful filler for softening bouquets and adding a frothy haze of tiny flowers to your cut flower arrangements. This well loved cut flower can be sown outdoors each spring where they are to flower. Stagger the sowings to prolong the flowering season and provide you with plenty of blooms. Before cutting each stem it’s best to wait until most of the flowers on the stem have opened.
Sue’s Top Tip: Keep vases away from fruit bowls. Gypsophila like many flowers is particularly sensitive to ethylene given off by fruit and vegetables which causes cut flowers to deteriorate faster.
Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.