Learn what you need to know about growing annuals for a cutting garden and the ideal cutting varieties for planting.
Growing Annuals for a Cutting Garden
The flower varieties listed below can be planted this spring for summer harvest. All are annuals with tall stems and long vase life.
• Ageratum 'Tall Blaze Horizon' — Like the fuzzy bedding plant, only tall. The electric blue of ageratum contrasts beautifully with summer flowers' hot yellows, oranges and reds.
• Asclepias curassavica — A cultivated form of butterfly weed, it is attractive to butterflies and loves hot weather. The 'Silky' series includes bright gold or red-with-gold petals. They require special handling because of their milky sap. Take a bucket of warm water to the field, and immediately drop cut stems into the water. Leave them in the water for an hour before using them.
• Celosia — Breeders have been going wild with new celosia varieties in the past few years, so there are plenty to choose from. Among the crested types (people always say these flowers look like a brain), a good standard is 'Chief,' which can be purchased in separate colors or as a mix. 'Madras Scarlet' is a clear, bright red. The 'Bombay' series has flat, triangular-shaped heads. 'Hi-Z' has magenta plumes atop red-edged foliage. Amazon' has rose plumes on huge plants. 'Pampas Plume' has fluffy plumes.
• Cosmos — The dainty flowers of cosmos are never seen on the wholesale market, so florists love to buy them locally. They do best in cool regions in summer and can be grown in fall in hot climates.
• Euphorbia marginata — It's the white-edged leaves that make this plant so desirable — its common name is Snow-on-the-Mountain. Be careful cutting it, as the sap irritates the skin.
• Godetia — A great choice for cool climates, where it produces masses of satiny flowers.
• Gomphrena — Its ability to survive even the worst heat and drought make it a perfect flower for hot climates.
• Rudbeckia — Sunflower-like plants in brilliant gold catch the customer's eye and look great in bouquets. 'Indian Summer' has huge blooms with black centers. 'Irish Eyes' has green centers. 'Prairie Sun' is a new variety with pale-yellow petal tips.
• Salvia farinacea — 'Blue Bedder' has tall stems of thick blue spikes with a delicious fragrance.
• Snapdragon — Best in cool climates, though it can be grown in spring in hot climates. Varieties that work well in the garden include 'Rocket' and 'Liberty.' Azalea-flowered varieties such as 'Bright Butterflies' and 'Madame Butterfly' don't grow as fast, big or thick-stemmed, but they're unusual and therefore desirable.
• Sunflower — There are so many varieties to choose from, as breeders have been working extensively with this popular flower. For quick crops, choose single-stemmed varieties. Branching varieties will produce all summer. The floral shop standard is a pollenless hybrid such as 'Sunbright.' Growing them very closely together — 4 inches apart — keeps the flowers small enough for bouquets.
• Zinnia — The best variety is 'Benary's Giant' series. Huge blooms on strong stems produce all summer. 'Envy' has lime-green petals and does best in cool climates. 'Oklahoma' is a smaller flowered but extremely prolific variety. Zinnias can be direct seeded: I use an Earthway Seeder with the beet plate.
Read more about flower farming and selling flowers: Grow Flowers for Profit.