The 10 Cut Flowers All Flower Farmers Should be Growing for Spring
While you may have read my previous post on fall perennials to start from seed, I wanted to go a little bit more in depth about our favorite flowers to grow for spring blooms - and flowers that should be in your repertoire as a flower farmer.
There are a lot of flowers to grow for spring - many delightful and beautiful and delicate blooms explode into color in the late spring/early summer time period, many of which are beloved by brides, floral designers and customers alike.
A solid spring of cut flower material and sales is important to flower farmers - after a long and cold and dark winter without much to cut and sell, you want to be ready to hit the ground running when spring comes around. Customers are ravenously hungry for flowers and color and anything fresh and alive, and if you can supply that demand you will start off the season with a good flush of flower sales.
Spring flowers however, can be difficult. Even with what we know about growing now, we still struggle with spring crops due to how finicky they can be, especially with how tumultuous the weather is now becoming as temperature swings become more and more extreme.
Take campanula for example - finicky and seemingly vulnerable to freezing, sometimes flowering on inch-tall stems and othertimes not flowering at all, it’s a species best left for the master grower.
There’s also Bells of Ireland - depending on who you ask, you should sow it in the fall, or sow it in the spring, or when it snows, or when there’s a full moon and you’ve mixed it with sand and broadcasted in a counterclockwise motion. We’ve only had success by accident, and find it to be a crop not worth our time.
On the other hand, there are some crops that are steadfast, easy, and extremely productive. The type of flowers that you can always depend on, grow easily and can form the bulk of your spring flower production..These are staples of the flower farming trade and are crops that you should at least know how to grow well.
Here are a few of our favorites.
One of the most popular and memorable flowers of spring, sweet peas have an unfair reputation of being very difficult to grow - which they are most certainly not if you know a couple secrets to growing them.
When started and established in the fall, sweet peas are some of the hardiest and easily managed spring flowers. I particularly love how cold hardy the seedlings are - temperatures can drop down to the teens and they are quite happy, growing squat and vigorously in chilly temperatures.
And once the temperatures start warming up and days start getting longer, watch out - sweet peas will rocket upwards, their tendrils and vines wrapping onto their trellis, shooting out long stems with their large ruffled blooms that are as sweetly scented as they are beautiful.
Although not super long-lasting in the vase, sweet peas are a welcome addition to flower arrangements, for floral designers, wedding work and even as single bunches sold at retail prices - their reputation, romance and scent let them practically sell themselves.
2. Bachelor Buttons
The wild and carefree appearance of bachelor buttons are one of my favorite things about spring. Their silvery foliage and stems, perfectly concentric rows of petals, and long and graceful form make them a welcome addition to bouquets and arrangements.
Bachelor buttons are one of the first flowers I ever grew from seed - they were a good first choice since they start easily and readily grow into a large and bushy plant. One of the most productive and longest flowering hardy annuals you can grow, bachelor buttons will continue to bloom for as long as twelve weeks - ours tend to peter out in our extreme heat, but if you live in a cooler climate with a milder summer they will do well.
Since they grow so easily and readily and quickly from seed, we direct sow our bachelor buttons in early spring. They’ll grow slowly at first - seemingly not putting on any growth at all - but as soon as it starts warming up they will shoot up and you’ll be left with more flowers than you know what to do with.
A mainstay of the cottage garden, larkspur is one of my favorite flowers of spring. Although I’m relatively new to the larkspur game (only having started direct sowing it last fall) as soon as I saw their tall spires of colorful open-faced blooms (much appreciated after a long and drab winter) I was hooked!
Larkspur is so easy to grow too. One of the few crops that we direct sow (since it does terribly when grown out as plugs by us for some reason) the alternating freezing and thawing cycles of our falls and winters help to trigger the germination of larkspur out in the field.
Snapdragons are a beautiful and extremely hardy cut flower that can take the worst of winters, yet still come back in the spring. We actually have a perennial snapdragon that is going on four years old - it’s base is woody and hard and its flowers are short and stubby, but it is a survivor so that’s okay with us!
Snapdragons are one of the few flowers that have a vertical form that makes it a great linear design element to use in spring bouquets and arrangements. Especially gorgeous are the open-faced ‘Chantilly’ varieties as well as the azalea flowered ‘Madame Butterfly’ varieties.
If you’re interested in learning more on growing snapdragons for floral design and sales, check out our post on snapdragons here
5. Icelandic Poppies
Our favorite flower of spring, Icelandic poppies are amazingly cold hardy and productive when started in the fall. They take a long time to get going - not blooming until it gets warmer and the days get longer - but once they do, you’ll be cutting armloads of poppies every day.
Their delicate, tissue-paper petals and amazing ephemeral form make them an absolutely fantastic
Although you’ll get the longest and biggest blooms in a hoophouse, you can still grow them out in the field and get decent stem length and quality flowers if you plant them out in fall. We sow ours into cell trays to grow on into plugs for transplanting into the field in fall.
Although not our favorite floral material to grow (since it’s so readily available and so cheap from the local floral wholesaler that it doesn’t make much sense for us to grow for sales to florists or in single bunches) it does well as an early greenery that is both delicate in appearance yet remarkably sturdy in the vase at the same time.
Grown easily from seed, bupleurum is interestingly drought and heat tolerant for us - probably due to its waxy leaves and flowers. It works well into mixed bouquets and wedding work due to its delicate appearance and slim stems, and has filled out many a centerpiece or mason jar for us - a true workhorse.
7. Daucus (Chocolate Lace Flower)
The true Queen Anne’s lace, daucus is actually an ornamental wild carrot. The quintessential British wildflower growing in ditches and meadows, it is a fine and beautifully patterned white flower that makes bouquets gorgeous and works well for wedding work due to its delicate appearance. It’s role in design is unparalleled by any other umbellifer, along with its productivity and hardiness.
Daucus, being similar to its relatives (ammi, fennel, dill, orlaya) re best started in fall and grown in a relatively sheltered environment over the winter - or at least during a long and cool growing period that will allow them to form a nice and large taproot. Daucus is particularly hardy, shrugging off cold conditions easily to come back in the spring with a vengeance.
Although you can start daucus in the spring, overwintered daucus will produce bigger, longer flower stems and will also produce far earlier than their spring-sown counterparts. Daucus is very easy to grow - you can learn more about growing it here
8. Sweet William (Dianthus)
One of the hardiest and easiest of the spring flowers to grow from seed, dianthus are a hardy workhorse of the flower farmer. Their long vase life, sweet scent, and cottage garden esthetic gives them a romantic appearance when added to bouquets and arrangements.
Dianthus are particularly cold-hardy, withstanding even the worst of winter temperatures and conditions with hardly any effect on their growth and performance. Covered in snow or frozen out in the field, they will still stay green and vigorous through it all.
An interesting point - although the more trendy variety ‘Green Ball’ can only be grown from plugs and is usually cultivated in carefully climate-controlled greenhouses, you can still gain the same feathery-green fuzzy esthetic of the flower head by cutting dianthus prior to their blooms opening.
Ranunculus are one of the key flowers to spring for the flower farmer. If you’re lucky and you live in an area with a cool and mild spring (such as the northeastern part of the United States or a Zone 3 in the Midwest) you’ll be able to grow ranunculus for a very long harvest period.
It’s one of the hallmarks of a good flower farmer to be able to grow ranunculus for spring sales, because it bridges the gap between flowering bulbs (such as tulips and narcissus) and spring flowers like peonies and alliums. It’s a very productive flower and is also popular with retail customers and florists alike.
Ranunculus do require some work to grow, since they shouldn’t be allowed to freeze solid, but also need a long and cool establishment period to be productive and grow large - which is why most people do fall planting. This means providing enough shelter and/or warmth through the use of greenhouses, tunnels and frost cloth to keep them from freezing. I’ll be writing a post in the future on growing ranunculus later on to help you have productive, healthy plants for spring.
When grown properly, ranunculus create the bulk of a flower farmer’s blooms (and sales) in the spring due to their easy appeal and productivity and bright colors and ruffled petals and shouldn’t be a crop that is missed out on.
Although everyone is familiar with the large buttery narcissi found in the landscape (usually ‘Yellow Trumpet’) that herald the coming of spring, there are a wide variety of narcissus that can be grown for floral design and sales.
A couple things to note about growing narcissus that are important:
Narcissus are perennial crops that will return year after year. While you may not make money off them the first year - we plant them in hope of just recouping their initial investment - they will continue to come back year after year, providing you with a crop of excellent cut flower material that you don’t have to do anything with.
Unlike tulips, narcissus grow well with minimal chill periods and will still produce nice long stems. Tulips require a long and cold period in order to produce nice long stems that are required for floral design, while narcissus will grow well either way.
Narcissus also aren’t subject to predation like a lot of other bulbs - tulips in particular are prone to being eaten by voles.
It’s important to select the correct varieties of narcissus if you’re planning on selling for cut flowers or to florists. Forget anything that is even remotely yellow - the imported narcissus are so incredibly cheap and plentiful that you’ll lose money if you try and market them. You’ll want to grow the fancy varieties of narcissus instead.
Are you excited for spring yet?
I certainly am after reading this post! If you’re interested in learning more about starting spring flowers from seed (which everything except for the ranunculus and narcissus can be sown from seed) you might be interested in the free seed starting cheat sheet.
I use this every year to see how to start seeds both annual and perennial for fall planting, to remember which need cold treatment, which ones need darkness to germinate and which ones I can direct sow!
You’ll find it useful in starting your seeds this fall and ensure you have plenty of blooms for next year. I hope this helps you in your flower growing endeavors!