Tips for Planting Your Cutting Garden

While we all love our gardens and spend a lot of time in them, one thing perhaps we are reluctant to do is cut flowers for the house. Why? Because it leaves blank spaces in the garden. We worked to get the mix just right and it seems a shame to the cut the flowers or foliage and ruin it. Luckily there is an easy solution. A cutting garden!

Cutting gardens are a time-honored part of landscapes. Simply put, they are a garden generally tucked away where plants are grown specifically to be cut and used in arrangements. Because they are usually tucked away having bare spots doesn’t matter. But success with a cutting garden means approaching layout and plant selection with that in mind.

The layout for a cutting garden will be quite different from that of a mixed border. Since these plants are meant to be “harvested”, approach them like you would a vegetable garden for example. Plant multiple plants in rows. Leave enough room between the rows for you to easily access the plants. This also means making sure the rows are not too wide. You need to be able to constantly reach into the plants to cut them. Not to mention water, feed, and regularly plant new perennials or sow seeds of annuals.


Raised beds also make excellent cuttings gardens. If you make the beds high and sturdy enough, you can sit on the edges while you work. If you keep the width to under four feet you can easily access the beds from both sides. Narrower raised beds will also work.

For any style of cutting garden the basics of good soil preparation, mulching, and weeding should be observed.

When you plan where your plants or annual seeds will go keep a few things in mind.

  1. Try to group them into flowering times. Early, mid-summer and late summer/fall. This allows you to cut from specific areas while letting new plants or seeds grow in the areas that are done. This cycling of plants means you will always have fresh flowers to cut. Constantly replanting your cutting garden is a key to keeping it fresh. Seeds of annuals are perfect for this.
  2. Further separate them into taller and shorter plants. Make sure the taller plants don’t shade the shorter ones or the areas where you will sow seeds that need the sun.
  3. Take into account what kind of conditions the plants need. Sun vs shade. Lots of water vs less water. Group them accordingly so you are not overwatering plants like lavender that don’t like that.


Lots of perennials and annuals make good cutting plants. That being said, there are some basic criteria.

  • You will likely want flowers with longer stems since you will be putting them in vases. Echinacea, agastache, foxgloves, salvias, lilies, and achillea are some examples.
  • Fragrant flowers will perfume the house. Don’t overlook fragrant foliage as well like lavender.
  • Include some plants for accents in arrangements like baby’s breath or artemisia.
  • Think about shrubs as well. Hydrangeas and of course roses. The shrubs can be used as a hedge around the cutting garden to make it less noticeable.

There are many plants that can be used in cutting gardens. Keeping in mind the above criteria will be helpful as well as your growing zone.

Plants to include in your cutting garden.

  • Shrubs. Roses, hydrangea, caryopteris, forsythia, viburnum, spirea.
  • Perennials. Lavender, shasta daisy, allium, delphinium, peony, lilies, baby’s breath, achillea, anemone, catmint, echinacea, astilbe, veronica, salvia, phlox, perovskia, penstemon, dianthus.
  • Annuals. Calendula, bachelor’s button, larkspur, foxglove (technically a bi-annual), gladiolas, sunflower, sweet pea, zinnia, cosmos.

These are just a few examples to get you started. But feel free to try anything. The nice thing about a cutting garden is that it is transitory. If something doesn’t work, simply try something else!

Written by Paul Zimmerman, rose consultant and garden designer.