Cut Flower Gardens
One of the many joys of gardening is being able to enjoy beautiful flowers in your own backyard. Bringing that splash of color indoors lets you enjoy the sights and scents of your garden while you relax in your home. Remember, some flowers hold up after cutting better than others. Roses often come to mind when people think of cut flowers, but there are many plants that can be grown in Florida gardens that will hold up beautifully in your home. Try any of these five warm-season flowering plants that will look great both in the landscape and a vase.
Salvias aren't just for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds—they're perfect for a cut flower garden as well. An added bonus is that these beauties have no serious pests. With hundreds of annual and perennial species coming in an array of colors and sizes, you can easily find one (or more) to complement your landscape and your decor.
An old favorite that works well in Florida gardens, zinnias are annuals with beautiful flowers that come in vivid colors like red, pink, yellow, and purple. In fact, this heat-loving flower comes in pretty much every color except blue. Zinnias not only provide you with a variety of colors to choose from to fill your vase, but with different forms as well. Some have a simple, single petal layer (looking similar to a daisy), while others have multiple layers, with a few cultivars resembling dahlias.
Gaillardia (Gaillardia pulchella) is a perennial that makes excellent cut flowers and attracts butterflies. Flowers are single, semi-double, double, and even tubular, and grow on long stems above soft, hairy leaves. They are usually reddish purple or orange-red with yellow tips, but can also be solid yellow, orange, or red. Also called blanket flower, gaillardia re-seeds itself, so don't be surprised if you see it year after year.
Gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) have big, long-lasting flowers that come in numerous forms and bright shades of yellow, white, pink, lavender, red, and orange. Depending on where you are located in Florida, this plant will behave as an annual (North Florida) or a perennial (Central and South Florida).
Bird of Paradise
Bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a striking tropical plant known for its eye-catching orange and blue flowers. The uniquely shaped flowers are said to look like a bird in flight. They're long-lasting cut flowers, but some gardeners may be reluctant to cut these flowers since not many are produced at once.
Caladiums? Okay, while not a flower, these plants have stunning leaves that work quite well in a vase. With unique patterns and vibrant colors, the foliage looks lovely alone or paired with flowers. The color combinations for this plant include white, pink, rose, red, burgundy, chartreuse, or green. There are over 48 different cultivars, but the two main types are fancy-leafed, which have large heart-shaped leaves, and lance-leafed, which have narrow, elongated leaves.
Of course, this is just the short list. Other long-lived cutting sources include annuals like snapdragons and coleus, and perennials such as agapanthus, pentas, and gingers. And don't forget the many tropical plants with uniquely textured or colored leaves.
For more information on growing any of these plants or growing other flowers for cutting, contact your local county Extension office.
Long-lasting Cut Flowers
Once you've brought your flowers inside, remove any leaves or blossoms that will end up underwater. Cut one-half to one inch off the stems with a sharp, clean knife. Place them in a clean vase filled with fresh water and, if you have it, flower food. If the water turns yellow and cloudy, wash the vase with soapy water and add fresh water with flower food. Re-cut and rinse the stems before placing them back into the container.