Favorite flowers for cutting, farmer's market, etc

I have seen a few folks mention they grow flowers to cut for market. I would really appreciate some input from you all as to your time investment, relative difficulty or ease in growing for market, how you chose what to plant, etc.

@northof53, I love this photo you posted from back in August of 2017!!


So I was wondering, what are some of your favorite flowers to grow? Which flowers are the easiest to grow, most prolific, most profitable, most popular, etc?

I recently spoke with the owner of our local florist shop in the town nearest to me. She mentioned how frustrated she gets with her supplier, an hour away, sending inconsistent quality flowers. She often orders double what she thinks she will need, just so she will have have enough useable flowers for her arrangements.
She said she would be very interested in purchasing fresh flowers from me anytime I had some available She doesn’t do a huge volume, I don’t think. We talked about sunflowers, snaps, zinnias, Bells of Ireland, dahlias and others. She was really open to any flowers that were fresh, blossums opened, and still had all of their petals!

Currently I just grow random flowers for fun. I like to grow flowers in and amongst my vegetable garden and have a couple of very small flower beds. I could expand my garden for growing cut flowers if it was profitable. But I don’t know much about it. I started reading a few Extension pubs on the fresh flower market, but that’s as far as I have gotten.

I would be very grateful for tips, ideas, pitfalls to avoid, reasource links, etc. Or maybe just information on how you got started, where you went for ideas and resources.

This may be too much information to ask for on the forum, so I understand if you all are too busy to go into detail! But Thank you in advance anway…


I am a member of the Rockbridge Area Master Gardener’s Group. We recently sponsored a workshop with Lisa Ziegler from Norfolk Virginia. She has a cut flower business, and raises all manner of flowers. Here is one of the books I bought from her. She goes through the flowers that she favors, including those that keep their look the longest, best sellers, and more unusual plants she uses as fillers. She also talks about flowers she plants in the fall that overwinter and hit the ground running in the spring. I thought you might enjoy taking a look at the books. One speaks to companion planting, and the other about those winter hardy plants.


The picture is gorgeous!!


The books sound great! Thanks so much for the links, I am checking them out. I think a workshop like that would be very informative and fun. It’s so neat when you can learn hands-on from someone very experienced in your area of interest!

We grow Benery Giant Zinnas, daffodils, dahlias, potted lily and hostas, sunflowers, statice, snapdragons, and many others. The flowers are a pita for sure, and need lots of fert., water and weed free to get nice blooms. Don.t forget hanging baskets and annuals like petunias and marigolds, xxl plants in 4pks. Harris Seed has plugs and liners with webinars to educate you. We do plugs and liners for the hard to germ stuff, petunias, begonias, calibrachoa. They also have mixed seed pellets to get good color mixes. All of the hanging baskets are contracted and are sold as delivered hangers($$$). We always use the latest and newest varieties and they are all get sprayed to keep pests out. We have a 30’x60’ greenhouse for hangers and other slow growers. A lot of work!!


Wow! Is this your main business or is it a supplement to selling orchard fruit?
How intesive are your pesticide sprays, and what products do you use?

I won’t be putting up a greenhouse for sure. I am just considering expanding planting area for cut flowers. The local florist doesn’t want to contract anything, but she is interested in a fresh, higher quality product, probably also interested in quicker and cheaper delivery too! :wink: We have a summer farmer’s market in the same town, but I don’t know if anyone sells cut flowers there. It has been quite awhile since I have been by to check it out.

Thanks so much for the Harris Seed info. I will look into them. I first started thinking about growing some cut flowers when I was looking through Johnny’s Seeds catalog several years ago. So many gorgeous flowers that most people around here don’t grow. And I thought, “I can grow that!” Bells of Ireland, different colored sunflowers, big snaps, unusual colored double zins, and old fashioned hollyhocks have been some of my favorites so far. I grow hollyhocks like crazy. Is there any market for those fresh cut? I have never tried to cut and vase them, don’t know if they last long at all.

If you’re selling horticultural products make sure they are sold before you plant them!
We don’t sell much, started as a fun income supplement. The hanging baskets started when one of my custom beekeeping customers saw some baskets made for a church friend, all of her fancy friends needed baskets then. I strictly limit them and the Harris plugs work well for them.
When we grew for florists, snaps, small sunflowers, zinnas, glads, and statice, only the easiest. We spray as needed and weather dependent, 4-6 days. We also spray pre-emerge for weeds. Tall plants like Zinnas need support too.

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Nothing like zinnias for cut flowers. Tons of colors and sizes, quick growing, long stems, re-bloom as fast as you can cut them, and very long-lasting after cutting.


Great tips, thank you! I hadn’t considered doing baskets until I read your post. It is way too windy where I live (up on a hill) to hang baskets, so I don’t even make them for myself anymore. They are super pricey at the local nursery too.

@PatapscoMike, yep, love the zinnias. so many colors and sizes. They have got to be the easiest flower I have ever grown!

Hi KSpraire, I grew cut flowers for 16 years and it was always a joy, hard work, but still I enjoyed it.
If you are serious I suggest that the first year you start putting in a few of the perennial types. You don’t have to put in lots but they take time to get to cutting size so if you have the space and a little extra cash you will be glad you did.

Second I suggest you contact wholesale companies, many will sell to small cut flower farmers, and I could buy packages of sunflower seeds, snaps, bells of Ireland etc. for one tenth the price. The packages are large but I have kept them for at least 5 years with no loss in germination. I can help you with some company names if you PM me.

Third, start a binder. Mine is a 4 inch one and is packed full, you will not be able to remember start dates, germination times, how much you planted so the next year you can do more or less, and if you like the variety or not. You will come to love your binder as it will hold more information valuable to you than any book.

Perennials I would never do without
Peony- but then I am a peony root grower, I had 1000 roots in for fall root sales. The corals fetch a premium price and the local people all grow the regular pink, white and red doubles so they snap up any other one. Cytheria, Coral Sunset, Mrs. FDR, Red Charm and Raspberry Sundae are the top sellers that I grow. Pictures don’t do them justice they are absolutely stunning.
Echinops- the round blue allium in the front picture

Annuals, easy to grow.
With annuals it is important to select seed that is specifically bred for cut flower production. Why? Because it makes your life easier. They are bred so the stems are as long as they can be. Anything less than a 14 inch stems means that once you cut it, the florist trims it when she gets it, and then it is re-trimmed for a bouquet there is not enough stem left. Also, cut flower breeds are specific to long vase life so one snap dragon variety is not like the other. Cut flower varieties are just as easy to grow as non cut varieties, so increase you chance of success with a good quality flower.

Sunflower- Mine are Pro-Cut Orange, there are others that are good as well. With sunflowers it is important to get the ones rated for cut flower use, this is not the same as the ones that are generally listed as a cut flower, but a cut flower specific variety. These sunflowers are bred so the heads don’t droop when cut.
Dianthus- Amazon neon duo, the pink flowers on the left. Not all dianthus is equal, again a cut flower specific variety as the stems are long enough. The Sweet Series is also great as you get coral, deep red and whites.
Pannicum- an annual grass that is stellar in bouquets, it is way at the back against the door. It is the best ‘filler’ I have found and the public loves it. Violacium is the pink droopy one in the front on the left, another lovely grass.
Statice- another must- that is the blue and pink on the right. I do the QIS Series but the Seeker is easier to cut as the stems are thinner and not so unwieldy in a vase. It comes in wonderful shades of pink, white, orange, coral, blue and sky blue. It is easy to grow and dries wonderfully.
Snaps- another must, but again, go for the tallest variety you can get. Once you grow something other than Rocket you will notice the quality difference. Opus and Ovature come to mind.
Zinnias- Benary’s Giant were my go to, they never disappoint, and come in the most wonderful pinks, purples.
Those are my staple annual cuts and I make sure I have lots of them planted. I add other annuals every year to experiment and make the bouquets look interesting but these flowers will always perform so I can rely on having something good.

Dahlias- but be careful with these, you definitely need cut flower ones, they can be picky when assessing vase life.

Others planted in small amounts
Bells of Ireland- hard to germinate and small picking window
to name a few.

Difficult to grow, picky and need special care
Lisianthus- florists love these and they are a premium, but they are very difficult
Stocks- beautiful easy to grow but they need cool temps to do well
Aster- only difficult because they can be a disease and bug magnet
Celosia- I just find it picky up here

I know this is a lot of info, but it is not rocket science and if you love flowers you will learn what grows best for you. My season is short, you may get to take advantage of many flowers I could not grow. I did buy some books but there is so much info on the net that I find that most books don’t cover enough varieties.

Start with about 6 staple annual flowers, that is plenty of variety and experiment with others as you progress. Put in 4 or 5 perennials, Lillies can be considered but the more you cut the more they decrease in quality and amount, many growers cut and throw away the bulb, planting fresh every spring. But that can get expensive for a first time grower.

PM me any time you like, I love to help, and my binder, since I have retired from the cut flower market, needs to be opened and shared.


Oh my goodness! Thank you SO much for taking the time to share so much information! I need to reread and process all of this. You helped so much already. Starting small, having a half-dozen staples of annuals and perennials is such great advice, and I think is do-able for me. I really appreciate the description of what plants you use as staples!! That is a great place to start.

I definitely need to emphasize making my life easier! I didn’t even realize that there were varieties of flowers grown specifically for cut flower production until a few years ago. I would see these flower descriptions in my seed catalogs but wonder why they exactly they were special. Very helpful to know you need 14"+ stems!! Retrimming more than once by florists hadn’t occurred to me either.
I will undoubtedly have some more questions. Thank you for offering advice… I will certainly PM you after I try organize my thoughts a bit better! :grin:

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I sell a few premade bouquets with my veggies and pumpkins. But I plan my flowers with the KISS principle, ‘keep it simple stupid’. I just grow a few more of the flowers I already enjoyed growing in my garden, procut sunflowers, zinnias, snaps, and marigolds. I pick a bunch, stick them in a quart Mason jar, and charge $10. Easy and cheap. I have no interest in expanding to weddings, or larger bouquets, since flower selling isn’t my main priority.

I second the recommendation for the book, Vegetables Love Flowers. It has all the info you’ll need.

So I would stick with the stuff you’re already growing, and make sure you get the cut flower varieties. At the end of the season maybe ask your florist if there is anything else they would like to purchase from you.


Thank you barndog. I appreciate the advice. I was wondering where or how you market your vegetables? Flowers in a Mason jar might go over pretty well here during our touristy season, if I started selling at the farmer’s market.

I live on a fairly busy road and just sell from a little farm stand beside my driveway. I stay small enough so everything I harvest and put out there sells. I have a 40 hr job, so it’s all bonus.


Gotcha. That’s nice! We used to live in a few areas where there were small little “on your honor” produce stands in peoples’ yards. We are pretty rural and don’t live on a paved road, or even on a well traveled road, so that’s not an option for me here. That’s neat that works for you. Several others post here that they are able to sell their produce on site. That’s pretty cool. No commuting costs or time spent sitting at a market trying to sell your things!!

Great advice Barndog56. I do up some bouquets and the rest of the flowers I bring in pails. For a bouquet I would let them pick and watch as I made it up. They would get a main flower, peony, lilly, sunflower, zinnias or a glad ( for example) and then filler of choice, some statice, a couple of pannicum or whatever I had for the day. That way I did not have to anticipate how many would sell and people love to watch you make their bouquet, and they appreciate being able to chose their colours. I would hold the flowers together with an elastic, wrap the bottom in a little paper towel, put the end in a small plastic bag ( the kind used for candy) pour in a little water and wrap the top tight with another elastic. That way they could take them home without getting wet.

I was not a large cut flower operation ( other than the peonies) , it is amazing how many you can pack into a small garden.

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What a great idea! Having a few premade bouquets available and also having the option to make one up for a customer according to their color choices is very creative!
Would you venture a guess as to how much garden space you allocate for your flowers?

So she wants fresher AND cheaper? Growing high quality flowers is a lot of work. Don’t sell yourself short. :wink:


I understand what you mean.
I think that the florist would get flowers cheaper from me, in the sense that she wouldn’t have to purchase as many if I could deliver 100% usable flowers. For example, she said if she needs say, 10 sunflowers, she has to order 20, because half of them will be wilted or missing too many petals to use, etc. She doesn’t even order glads anymore, because they come with buds so tight, they may never open before she needs them, so none of them can be used. She got so frustrated with them, she just doesn’t order them at all anymore. So she could save money if everything I delivered was in good condition and she didn’t have to throw half of them away.
I question whether or not I could raise ‘florist quality’ flowers and fillers. We have a lot of bugs around. I don’t mind spraying in my orchard and veg garden, but never really thought about the different bug species that take up residence on my flowers. I don’t worry about them for my own use. Growing specifically for someone else is different.

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My goodness, take her up on the offer, suns and glads are simple. Suns don’t transport well, petals drop easily but you are local so she will love the suns you could produce. I would try a few fillers and see how they do, some don’t get much bug pressure, grasses come to mind.


Thanks for the encouragement! I PM’d you with a few more questions. :wink:
The only bulbs I have grown are tulips and daffodils. I need to start some glads! I have always liked them! Large, full, and beautiful color choices. I just assumed they were kinda fussy to grow. I will definitely look into them.
I agree, I think the sunflowers would go over really well. A few different colors would be eye catching. I would also like to try one of the fully double sunflowers - Teddy Bear, Double Quick Orange or Goldy Double, or something similar. Those are very unique looking and not something they sell around here.
You know as far as fillers go, I read an article on Johnny’s Seeds blog, Getting Started in Cut Flowers. One of the fillers they mention is ‘Bouquet’ dill. Like most gardeners, I grow dill like crazy! Can’t get rid of it. It comes up everywhere. I grow the Mammoth variety. I also grow the Cinnamon and Lemon Basils the article mentions. I can see that dill and basil might not be fore everyone, for fillers, but since they are so easy to grow, and I love the smell, I could certainly see if the florist is interested.
I will look into a few easy grasses too. We have so much native stuff around here, that many of the recommended filler grasses have a counterpart growing in my pastures! Special cultivars I suppose, but it sometimes makes me chuckle. What we consider just grass - cattle food, or some of the invasive weedy types we don’t care for- well those are ones florists actually find interesting and unique. That’s multi-use for you!