The Perfect Cut Flower Guide
Use this cut flower wall chart to plan perfect arrangements!
What is a…
Hardy Annual (HA)? An annual grows from seed and then blooms, sets seed and dies in just one growing season. Calendula and Sunflowers are examples of flowers widely grown as annuals. Annuals need to be re-sown each spring. Many can be sown direct outside. Most annuals bloom continuously from spring through to autumn and are great for new gardeners who are learning what they would like to grow, as they are inexpensive to buy and you can always start again if the colours or textures are wrong for you.
Half Hardy Annual (HHA)? These plants can be categorized with annuals because they will bloom the first year from seed. They are termed half hardy because although they can handle light frost, they can’t survive extremely cold weather. In most areas of the UK, you would need to sow them indoors with a little gentle heat and plant outside in spring or summer.
Hardy Biennial (HB)? A biennial grows foliage during its first year, lives over the winter, and then finally blooms in the second season. Once it has bloomed and set seed, it dies. Foxgloves and Hollyhocks are usually biennial.
Hardy Perennial (HP)? A perennial flower lives for a number of seasons. It may or may not be mature enough to bloom the first year from seed. (Hint: P is for Permanent and for Perennial). Perennials will need periodic rejuvenation and/or replacement, typically every three to five years. Most perennials bloom for only a short period – between 1-3 weeks – once a year.
Half Hardy Perennial (HHP)? You may see this term used on Suttons Packets to indicate a perennial plant grown as an annual because it will be killed by winter frosts if not given protection. If you live in a frost-free climate, this plant would be perennial for you.
Tip! – Extend the life of your flowers by making your own flower food with sugar, bleach and lemon juice or vinegar.
|Achillea||HP||Jan – Mar||Aug – Oct||Dries easily, lasting bright & pastel shades.|
|Ageratum||HHA||Feb – Mar||All summer||Compact flowers, good for posie vases.|
|Alstromeria||HP||May – June||June – Aug||Following year Excellent cut flower that has an amazing vase life.|
|Amaranthus||HA||Mar – May||July – Sept||Great for cutting and drying, very dramatic blooms.|
|Anemone||HP||Jan – June||Spring – early summer||Bright and cheerful, superb cut flower.|
|Antirrhinum||HHP||Jan – Mar||All summer||Gives height to any floral display and very pretty.|
|Aquilegia||HP||Jan – Mar||May – July||Following year Cottage garden favourite that will give height to a floral display.|
|Aster||HHA||Apr – Mar||Late summer to autumn||An excellent cut flower with superb vase life.|
|Basil (foliage)||HHA||Apr – May||Throughout summer||As with most herbs, great for foliage and dries well.|
|Calendula||HA||Mar – June||May – Aug||Long flowering and good cut flower.|
|Carthamus||HA||Mid Mar-May||July – Sept||Thornless – makes a great cut flower either fresh or dried.|
|Catananche||HP||Feb – June||Mid April Following year||Good for cutting and drying as an everlasting flower.|
|Celosia||HHA||Feb – April||Throughout summer||Fiery plumes of flowers.|
|Christmas Rose||HP||Mar – June||Nov – Dec||Attractive winter flowers with evergreen foliage.|
|Chrysanthemum||HA||April – July||Aug – Oct||Long lasting filler flowers.|
|Cineraria (foliage)||HHA||Jan – Mar||Throughout summer||Silvery background for smaller displays and posies.|
|Clarkia||HA||Mar – May||May – July||Very pretty clusters – easy to grow.|
|Coreopsis||HA/HP||Feb – Mar||July – Oct||Ideal for mixed borders and cutting.|
|Cornflower||HA||Mar – May||June – Sept||Cottage garden favourite with long wiry stems.|
|Cosmos||HHA||Mar – May||Late summer||Great for in borders or as a cut flower.|
|Dahlia||HHP||Jan – Mid||April July – Sept||Interesting blooms, invaluable for autumn floral arrangements.|
|Delphinium||HP||Mid Jan – Mar||Aug – Sept||Spectacular cut flowers for height and texture.|
|Dianthus||HHA||Jan – Mar||July – Sept||Fragrant and colourful, good for small posies.|
|Digitalis (Foxglove)||HB||April – Mid||July June – Mid Aug Following year||Sturdy cottage flower gives height to both formal and informal displays.|
|Emilia||HA||April – May||July – Sept||Fluffy bright flower heads held in clusters on long, slender stems.|
|Eryngium||HA||March – May||July – Sept||Pineapple – Ideal for cutting and drying.|
|Freesia||HHP||Mar – June||Nov – Mar||Very fragrant and a popular choice for floral displays.|
|Gaillardia||HP||May – July||July – Sept||Spectacular daisy like blooms that are great for cutting.|
|Gazania||HHP||Feb – April||June – Sept||Vibrant flowers that are an attractive focal flower.|
|Geum||HP||Jan – Feb||June – Oct||Luminous orange and yellow flowers on upright stems.|
|Godetia||HA/HHA||March – May||July – Sept||Pretty blooms – good filler for informal displays.|
|Grasses||HA/HP||Mid Mar – May||Mid June – Mid Sept||Lovely textured foliage filler – good dried for winter displays.|
|Gypsophila||HA||Mar – May||June – Sept||Delicate froths of tiny flowers – a must for floral arrangements.|
|Helichrysum||HA||March – May||July – Oct||Colourful winter dried flowers, to dry – cut when just open.|
|Heuchera||HP||April – July||June – Aug (Year 2)||Subtly scented blooms that can be cut for indoor decoration.|
|Hollyhock||HP||April – June||June – Aug||Magnificent summer flower- dries well for winter colour.|
|Kingfisher Daisy||HHA||March – May||June – Sept||Pretty chrysanthemum-like flowers – for posies.|
|Kochia||HA||Mar – April||Summer – autumn||Stunning foliage, pale green in summer – copper in autumn|
|Larkspur||HA||Mar – May||Throughout summer||Long splendid stems of flower – useful for height and depth, dries well.|
|Lavatera||HA||Mid Mar – May||July – Sept||A stunning filler for larger displays.|
|Lavender||HP||Jan – June||June – Sept||Beautifully scented, good colour and dries well.|
|Linaria||HA||Mar – May||Throughout summer||Easy to grow, flowers like little snapdragons in bright colours.|
|Linum||HA||Mar – April||June – Sept||Pretty filler flowers.|
|Love-Lies-Bleeding||HA||Mar – May||July – Sept||Stunning tassel like flowers – adding rich texture to larger displays.|
|Lupin||HP||Mid Mar – May||June – Sept||Following year Ideal for cutting – gives a cottage garden feel to taller displays.|
|Malope||HA||Mid Mar – May||July – Sept||Pretty open blooms – useful for smaller posies.|
|Marigolds||HHA||Feb – Mid May||July – Sept||Great for informal displays – dries well.|
|Michaelmas Daisy||HP||May – July||June – Oct||Following year Cheerful daisies – good for informal summer displays.|
|Mignonette||HA||Mar – May||July – Sept||Pretty small headed flowers – ideal fillers for smaller displays.|
|Moluccella||HHA||Feb – Mar||May – June||Green graceful stems – excellent for all displays.|
|Nasturtium||HA||Mar – May||Mid June – Sept||A riot of colour – great for informal small displays and posies.|
|Nicotiana||HHA||Mid Mar – May||Mid June – Sept||Fragrant and charming, good for informal arrangements.|
|Nigella||HA||Mid Mar – May||July – Sept||Delicate flowers – lovely for informal displays – pods and flowers dry well.|
|Penstemon||HHP||Feb – Mar||May – Sept||Pretty summer spires that add substance to larger displays.|
|Phlox||HHA||Feb – April||June – Sept||Dainty heads of flowers – lovely in summer informal displays.|
|Poppy||HA||Jan – Mar||June – Oct||Not long lasting however blooms make beautiful focal flowers – pods dry well for winter decoration.|
|Pyrethrum||HP||May – July||May – June||Following year Lovely long stemmed daisy flowers – ideal for informal fillers.|
|Rudbeckia||HHA/HP||Feb – Mid||April July – Sept||Superb daisy like flowers – great long lasting focal flowers.|
|Salvia||HHA||Jan – Mar||July – Sept||Wonderful filler flowers that provide shape and texture.|
|Scabious||HP||Mid Mar – May||July – Sept||A superb traditional flower that will add grace to any display.|
|Statice||HHA||Feb – April||July – Sept||One of the best plants for cut/dried flowers.|
|Stock||HHA||Feb – April||June – Sept||Fragrant classic flower – stunning in formal and informal displays|
|Sunflower||HA||Mar – May||July – Sept||Easy to grow – a must for flower arranging – dries well.|
|Swan River Daisy||HHA/HA||Mar – May||June- Sept||Easy to grow – fragrant, lavender blue flowers.|
|Sweet Pea||HA||Jan – May||June – Sept||Popular cottage garden flowers that look stunning in a floral arrangement.|
|Sweet William||HB||May – July||June – July||Following year Scented cottage garden flower – classic focal flower.|
|Wallflower||HB||May – Mid July||April – May||Following year Cheerful scented flowers – lovely in informal displays.|
|Zinnia||HA||Mar – May||July – Sept||Stunning blooms that provide excellent focal interest and texture – dry well.|
How to pick your cut flowers
- Do not pick flowers in the heat of the day as they will wilt. Pick last thing at night or first thing in the morning.
- Do not try to arrange your flowers straight away. To increase vase life – cut and plunge straight into a bucket of tepid water and allow them to recover for a few hours or overnight.
- Find a shady spot for them to rest. Do not leave them in direct sun even though they are in water.
- Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem as you pick, you do not want any leaves left below water level as these will rot when transferred to the vase. If there are fewer leaves there is less demand on the stem and the flower is less likely to flop.
- When you pick annuals and biennials, don’t cut them down to the ground. To encourage more flowers, take out the leading shoot, cutting just above a side branch with a bud. Remember that you can cut the stem as long as you like but always make sure that you leave buds below the cut.
Tips to help your flowers last longer
Add flower food to the water. You can buy it in sachets to sprinkle in the vase or you can make your own from sugar bleach and lemon juice or vinegar.
This will help prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria that can affect the vase life of your flowers.
If you have a vase that is 30cm (1′) high – use the proportions as follows: one tablespoon of sugar, one teaspoon of bleach, and one tablespoon of clear malt vinegar or lemon juice.
There are many ways that you can creatively arrange flowers but for the beginner, a favourite vase of beautiful flowers can look stunning. Place the flowers in the vase stem by stem and vary the heights.
You will need some tall – which are two or three times the height of your vase and some shorter stems for support.
Don’t be tempted to overfill the vase as this may make the arrangement look cramped; add foliage such as an ornamental grass for an interesting contrast.
Why grow flowers for cutting?
Growing your own flowers provides a creative opportunity to grow just what you want, and avoid the uninspiring and garish choices that are often found in the supermarkets, where they may have travelled miles (often globally) to reach the shelves.
You do not need a huge garden to grow your own flowers; you could even grow some in your veg patch or along borders. Just check the height of the flowers that you have chosen and grow tall ones at the back and shorter ones near the front of the border. Containers will also provide suitable vessels for growing cut flowers as will small raised beds, or you can even grow shorter stemmed flowers on a window ledge.
When deciding what you would like to grow it is important to assess the growing conditions that you are able to provide. Most cut flowers will prefer a sunny spot that is sheltered from the wind, and the soil moist but well-drained.
Do not water flowers overhead in the heat of the day as it may cause the leaves to scorch and turn brown. The best time for watering is in the evening.
- All tall flowers for cutting need to be supported by garden canes.
- You will need to feed, water and remove dead flower heads regularly.
- Annuals and biennials are easy to grow flowers.
- Perenials will flower year after year.
- When picking from plants that will flower again, do not cut the flowering stem to the ground. Leave a few side branches, or auxiliary buds (a bud between the stem and leaf) below your cut. These will grow on and develop into your next flowers.
- Grow some foliage plants that will enhance your floral arrangements.
- Hardy annuals are great to grow as most are not fussy about the soil, but prefer a warm sunny spot to grow in. All you need to get them growing is some bare soil, seeds, a spade and a rake!
- Don’t forget to pull out any weeds.
Monthly Cut Flower Growing Guide
Not a lot that we can see happening in the garden this month, however, here are jobs that you can do. It is a good time to walk around the garden for a spot check on any plants that may have been left in the ground. Make sure they are still well anchored in the ground if you want to keep them. Re–firm them by heeling in (just like it says – use the heel of your boot to firm the soil around the base of the plant.) Start getting ideas for your spring planting area and order your seeds for spring sowing.
Sow Half Hardy Annuals (HHA) indoors (a propagator is ideal for this, or in pots on a sunny frost free windowsill). Prepare your outdoor soil by digging it over so the soil is very fine (no hard clumps of mud). The term used for very fine soil is tilth, and this is perfect preparation for sowing seeds direct into the soil.
In most areas you can now sow Hardy Annuals (HA) when all risk of frost has passed. These can be scattered in informal drifts or sow them into drills made by drawing a rake through the soil – this will not be very deep. Cover lightly with soil and water well. Examples: Nigella, Cornflower and Larkspur. Seeds of Tender Annuals (TA) can now be sown in a greenhouse or on a warm windowsill out of direct sunlight. Examples: Aster, Antirrhinum and Cleome.
Continue to sow seeds of Hardy Annuals where you want them to grow. The Hardy Annuals that were previously sown can now be thinned by removing the weaker plants and putting on the compost heap – this allows the stronger plants to develop into fine strong flowers.
Sow seeds of Tender Annuals, such as Sunflowers and Cosmos, in the position they are to flower and keep them well watered. Tender Perennials (TP) that have been growing in an indoor environment can now be hardened off (allowed to get used to the change of climate gradually), by moving them outside on warm sunny days.
Sow seeds of Hardy Biennials (HB) in trays in a heated greenhouse. The seedlings can be potted individually and grown on ready for planting out next spring. Pick Sweet Peas regularly just as the flowers open – this will prevent seed pods forming and encourages more flowers. Cut the stalks at the base where they join the main stem.
Keep plants well-watered in dry spells. The best time to water is in the evening allowing the plant to soak up what it needs overnight. Thin Biennials sown last month to give a final spacing of about 30cm (12″) so that they will grow into sturdy plants.
Bring the outdoors indoors!
All Suttons Seeds packets provide height and full growing information.