Spring, summer, and fall are a great time to bring the garden indoors with cut flowers. No prior experience is necessary to harvest flowers for bouquets.
If you cut flowers from your own garden, there are several things that can be done to condition those flowers to ensure they stay fresh, colorful, and vibrant for as long as possible.
Harvest & Conditioning | Care | Good Species from the Garden for Cut Flowers | More Information
Harvesting and Conditioning Cut Flowers
Use these tips to get the most out of flowers harvested from your garden.
Keep it Sharp and Clean
Use a sharp, clean knife or shears when cutting flowers. You want to cut the stems cleanly without crushing them.
Harvest at the Right Time
Cut flowers at the proper stage of development and when they are most turgid (fully hydrated). The appropriate time to cut flowers depends on the species of plant. Some flowers should be cut in the bud stage, while others should be fully open. Flowers are most turgid in the morning before the heat and stress of the day. Many cut flower growers harvest early in the morning – near sunrise – for best blooms.
Get Them in Water.....Fast!
Place the flowers in water as quickly as possible. If you are cutting flowers from your garden – take a vase or bucket of water with you. The faster the stems are hydrated, the longer they will last.
Store in Cool Place
Keeping blooms as cool as possible (without freezing) will extend their vase life. If they will not be used or arranged right away, store cut flowers in temperatures between 40° and 60°F. If it will be more than a day or two, cooler temperatures will be even better. For longer-term storage, 33° to 35°F is the ideal temperature. A refrigerator can work well for short-term storage of many cut flowers.
Some Species Need Special Care
Certain plant species involve special treatment. Stems that exude a milky sap, may need to be singed or burned slightly to prevent excess sap loss. Simply hold the cut end over a candle flame for a few seconds until the flow of sap stops. Stems of woody plants like lilac may need to be cut twice to ensure adequate water uptake. After removing the stem from the plant, cut the bottom inch of the stem again, crosswise this time, prior to placing it in the vase.
Care of Cut Flowers
Use a Floral Preservative
Purchase a floral preservative from a florist or garden center. Floral preservatives are designed to help keep the water clean, provide carbohydrates or sugars to the developing flowers, and generally extend the vase-life of almost all flowers. Sugar, aspirin, tea, pennies, rusty nails, bleach, citric acid, and other ingredients do not work as well as a floral preservative. In fact, some of these materials can shorten the vase life of cut flowers. If you don't have a floral preservative – skip it – clean water without additives is second best.
Keep the Foliage Out of the Water
Remove the lower leaves on flower stems. Leaves that are submerged in water will likely rot and quickly discolor the water. This means you will need to change the water more frequently.
Use a Clean Vase
Arrange the flowers as you see fit in a sturdy, clean vase. Make sure all flower stems have access to water. Almost anything will suffice as a vase, as long as it holds enough water for several days for the flowers.
Check and Change the Water Regularly
Change the water as needed. When the water level gets low or it starts to get cloudy, simply dump it out and replace with clean, fresh water. More floral preservative will be needed when you replace the water. No need to recut stems as long as you are reasonably quick. Re-cutting stems under water is ideal, but sometimes difficult to manage – especially after you have already arranged the flowers in the vase.
Species in the Garden That Make Good Cut Flowers
There are many flowers in the home garden that also make excellent cut flowers. With a few notable exceptions (like hosta and lily-of-the-valley) most flowers grown for cut flowers prefer full sun and well-drained soils.
Perennials | Annuals & Tender Perennials | Woody Plants | Foliage
Perennials for Good Cut Flowers
|Common Name||Genus||Season of Bloom|
|Asiatic & Oriental Lily||Lilium||Summer|
|Russian Sage||Salvia (syn: Perovskia)||Fall|
|Northern Sea Oats||Chasmanthium||Fall|
Annuals & Tender Perennials
Annuals & Tender Perennials for Good Cut Flowers
|Bells of Ireland||Moluccella|
|Sweet Pea||Sweet Pea|
Trees and Shrubs for Good Cut Flowers
|Common Name||Genus||Season of Bloom|
|Seven Sons Flower||Heptacodium||Fall|
Plants with Good Foliage to Use in Cut Flower Arrangements
Good Foliage Plants
|Common Name||Genus||Type of Plant|
|Japanese Painted Fern||Athyrium||Perennial|
|Elephant's Ear||Colocasia||Tender Perennial|