While the farmer was once responsible for simply putting food on the table, many farmers are now finding themselves in a new role as floral artists, as the market for cut flowers continues to take deeper roots, grow taller, and bloom quickly. Cut flowers are one of the most profitable “crops” per square acre than nearly any other undertaking, luring even the most macho farmers into the business. Whether you are looking to take flowers to market or simply pluck your own centerpiece from your front yard, you’ll never cease to please when including these eye-catching blossoms in your arrangements.
Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)
Zinnias are by far one of the easiest flowers to grow, and the diversity of varieties amongst zinnias are beyond plentiful. Amongst the extensive list of varieties out there, you can find this flower in nearly any color with many varieties multi-colored. These focal flowers also come in an an assortment of shapes and sizes, all with long stems most suitable for bouquet-building. Zinnias thrive in heat and can often withstand drought conditions once established. Not only do they grow quickly and require little on the side of fertilizer or amendments, most zinnias serve as “cut-and-come again” flowers, meaning you’ll only have to plant once to harvest throughout the entire season.
Dahlias (Dahlia spp.)
Dahlias are one of the most sought-after flowers by florists as these stunning blooms are often featured in weddings and serve as a darling centerpiece for any bouquet. Dahlias come in different size varieties from the medium-sized 4 inch blooms, like the Cornel or Critchon Honey varieties, to the 8 to 10 inch dinner plate varieties. The diversity of colors amongst dahlias are unmatched amongst its cut flower friends, ranging from hues of soft whites, pinks, yellows, and oranges to shades of bright red to deep maroon.
Purchase dahlias as tubers and plant them horizontally 6-8 inches deep in a moist, but not saturated soil. The bud should be facing upwards. Be sure the ground temperatures have reached at least 60 degrees before planting, often late April or early May for most places. Wait to water until the dahlias sprout above the soil surface! Stake tall varieties when planting as to not disturb the delicate tubers later on.
Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)
Who doesn’t love sunflowers? Sunflowers are iconic to those good summertime-feels, supplying bright color to a home garden or to a market bouquet. There are two main types of sunflowers that are actually quite different from one another. Single-stem varieties, such as the Sunrich or the ProCut series, will produce one flower for each planted seed. Single-stemmed sunflowers have long, sturdy stems and come to bloom quickly, often about 60 days. Spacing between single-stemmed varieties will determine the bloom size; the more room for each plant, the larger the bloom.
Single-stemmed varieties are pollenless, prized for their durability in bouquets. For a steady flow of flowers throughout the season, you will need to succession plant these sunflowers about every two weeks. Branching varieties, on the other hand, will bloom multiple times throughout the season from a single plant. The stems are shorter, and each plant will need a considerable amount of space, blooming typically around 90 days. Branching varieties can make a great addition to a home garden for an endless supply of blooms throughout the summer. Whether you choose to grow single-stemmed or branching sunflowers, these resilient flowers will last up to 10 days in a vase.