We are more and more starting to catch our first glimpses of spring here in Michigan. This week the brown hued grass is peeping out, matted from being under inches of snow the past few months. Bit by bit February is giving way to March and soon the April showers will bring us the much longed for May flowers. Last fall I planted hundreds of Tulip and Daffodil bulbs and I am so hopeful that they made it through their first winter. It should be about one more month before they break through the ground if they have survived. Following that the trees get delivered and then the rose bushes and before you know it, it’s summer. I have been busy organizing my seeds figuring out which ones I want to grow for 2021 and what to include in the flower garden for the stand. I have bought so many incredible varieties and have once again gone a bit overboard.
There are so many types of flowers for your cutting garden and if you are a beginner there are a lot of simple and easy flowers to grow from seed.
The benefits of starting flowers from seed including;
- Rare and special varieties that you cannot find at the greenhouses
- Supporting local farms and seed companies
- Growing exactly the amount you need rather than buying an entire flat of one variety.
Seed starting does not have to be complicated. Over time I have invested in things like these bio domes which were a huge game changer. This year I purchased a better grow light and also a seed warming mat. Before that though I used peat pots and simple florescent grow lights from the home depot. For soil, I now use the plugs that come with the bio domes but previously and also for dahlia bulbs I use Miracle Grow seed starting mix.
If you are a beginner flower gardener looking to start with the basics I believe that three flowers will be your best bet to get continuous blooms all season long. The three flowers listed below were selected because;
- If dead headed, will continue to produce flowers from start until first frost.
- Grow easily from seed
- Are hearty to withstand a tiny bit of neglect from water and weeding.
Cosmos are the perfect cottage garden cut flower. They grow large and profusely and are so simple to grow from seed that I have had new plants sprout within my compost pile from the head headed flowers I’ve tossed aside.
Cosmos do well in full sun, and slightly acidic soil. However, they will still do well even in the poorest of soil conditions with adequate watering. One plant can grow up to three feet tall and about two feet wide.
Dead heading is a task for sure and when I grew an entire row of these last year it took quite a few hours to keep them in top top shape because they were so large.
My three favorite sources to purchase cosmo seeds are
My three favorite varieties to grow are
Starting Cosmos from seed is incredible easy and they have an excellent germination rate especially if the seed packets are newer. If you do not have the space to start the seeds indoors they do grow straight from the ground just fine after the last frost but they do take about two weeks until they reach maturity.
Deadheading (cutting off the spent blooms just over the first set of healthy leaves) will prolong the blooms of your plant. If you get overwhelmed or fall behind cut down the cosmos about 1/3 of their total height. It might take a bit but you will get a nice second flush of blooms.
I planted cosmos in both my raised bed and covered rows last year and both performed extremely well. The plants do grow very large though and tended to overwhelm their neighbors so this year I will be planting them directly into the ground to make more room fo vegetables in the raised beds.
Zinnias are the flower that will most always offer you forgiveness. With a little but of water and decent dirt, Zinnias will grow and flourish making them one of the flower gardens must have plants and perfect for anyone just starting out in their garden journey.
For the beginner gardener with a smaller garden, Zinnias are a great place to start because they produce continuous blooms from just one plant. Over the years I have grown so many different types of Zinnias that it’s hard to pick a favorite. They are all so different. There is everything from the large state fair Zinnias to the small button Zinnias. Each unique and beautiful in their own way.
Best part? Zinnias are incredibly easy to grow from seed. In fact like cosmos, I have had Zinnias grow from my weed pile after tossing aside the dead headed flowers. They are very resilient and an absolute delight to grow.
I love a big bouquet of zinnias but buyer beware. Zinnias are considered a “dirty flower” and may make your fresh cut flower arrangement fade sooner than it needs to. One to two small drops of bleach should remedy that problem. Zinnias by themselves in a vase will last quite a while. Even dried the blooms are still beautiful.
When you are cutting Zinnias for bouquets gently pinch the stem underneath the flower. If it is firm to the touch it is ready to cut. If the stem collapses and feels almost hollow it needs just a bit more time.
Some of my favorite varieties of Zinnias to grow are
- Pink Senorita Zinnia
- Giant Salmon Rose Zinnia
- Oklahoma Pink Zinnia
- Queen Lime Zinnia
- Zinderella Lilac Zinnia
- Benary’s Giant White Zinnia
- Zinderealla Peach Zinnia
The seeds might seem small but one Zinnia plant can grow up to 4 feet tall. The closer I plant mine together the taller the plants seem to grow. If you continuously dead head the Zinnia’s they will continue to fork and branch out producing beautiful new blooms. If you are buying Zinnias from a greenhouse make sure you are not buying a shorter boarder variety. I find State Fair’s to be the most common cutting varieties available at the local greenhouses.
Celosia might be the lesser known of the three flowers I would suggest for beginner gardeners but it could very well be the easiest cut flower of all time to grow. While they don’t bloom until mid to late summer they are one of the most unique flowers in the garden and one that I cannot miss in the garden. Some regions may refer to these as cockscomb or wool flower. There are taller varieties or dwarf varieties. For the sake of cut flower gardens avoid the dwarf varieties as the stems and blooms are very short.
Celosia is considered a perennial in zones 9 – 10 but here in zone 5/6 I have had a lot of luck with my Celosia reseeding itself and coming back year after year. One bloom like the one pictured below will release THOUSANDS of tiny black seeds. My first year growing them I thought they were bugs. I would have the large plums in my arrangement and every now and then a handful of black dots would be on the table beneath. A quick google taught me they were flowers and now at the end of the season I shake them over the dirt and if they pop back up the next spring they get to grow.
Celosia is a double bonus plant because while they may not bloom until later in the season they are incredible for dried flowers. I mixed a bunch into my mantle this year at Christmas time and I wish I would have saved more. They make incredible dried arrangements as well as additions to fresh flower bouquets.
Celosia is prone to root rot so water delicately. They can handle a bit of a drought more than other cut flower varieties. Keeping the plant trimmed and tidy will continue growth. Once the first frost hits the plants, Harvest for dried flowers. If you are drying the celosia flowers hang them upside down with a tray underneath to catch the tiny black seeds. These can be used for next years planting.
Some of my favorite Celosia varieties include:
- Pink Champagne Celosia
- Rainbow Sherbert Celosia
- Celosia Texas Plume
- Orange Peach Cockscomb Celosia
- Pampas Plume Celosia
- Chief Rose Cockscomb Celosia
The Celosia in the picture below is a plant that popped up from where Celosia was planted the previous year. These plants do not bush out as much as the zinnia or cosmos tend to which make them a nice compact plant for a garden bed.
Gardening requires patience and trial and error. That is all part of the fun. It’s hard to narrow down which plants you want to begin with but starting small and learning something new every year will make your first garden so much easier and more manageable.
I have a few different posts about starting a garden if you would like to read more. I have How to start a flower garden as well as How to start a flower garden with a greenhouse. Perhaps the most important is how to have a low maintenance garden.
Do you have favorite flowers you find simple to grow? Please share in the comments.
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