When you first start considering growing cut flowers, you quickly realize that there is a lot of seed starting involved. If you’re a new gardener or someone who’s been growing vegetables for years, and you aren’t used to a giant amount of seed starting, you might not be willing to commit so much time and effort into seed starting.
The good news: there are many cut flowers that don’t require any seed starting at all.
You might have read the term “direct seed” in gardening literature or heard it thrown around in conversations online. All this means is that you don’t have to seed start. As soon as your last frost date is over or, in some cases even earlier, you can put these seeds in the ground. As long as you water them and care for them, you don’t have to do anything.
Now, on with the list. Here are 10+ direct sow flowers for your cut flower garden. If you’d rather watch than read, check out my video (and others like it) on my YouTube channel:
Amaranth is probably one of my favourite direct-sow cut flowers. However, if you’re in a spot where Amaranth really loves your soil, it will self-seed like crazy. Then you might start to hate Amaranth. Until that happens, I love Amaranth. I think it’s a great option, especially if you can save your own seeds. Those seeds become very affordable and they’re extremely easy to direct sow.
Bachelor’s Buttons are such a classic flower in the garden. Did you know they’re even edible? Definitely plant these ones, as they’re also really easy to seed save. If you plant them once, you probably won’t have to plant them again. As long as you let a few of your flowers go to seed, you’ll have Bachelor’s Buttons in your cut flower garden for years to come.
3. BELLS OF IRELAND
These are flowers that definitely prefer to be direct-seeded. However, for some of us in cold growing seasons, sometimes we have to start our Bells of Ireland indoors. If you do direct seed, they bloom so late that this is actually a really good candidate for winter sewing. Bells of Ireland really like that cold stratification. The flower itself is so beautiful and unusual that the extra effort, or having to wait for a long time if you direct sow, is totally worth it.
Calendula is a fantastic flower to grow. It’s great for beneficial insects, and, if you follow companion planting, Calendula is one of those companion plants you can put in tinctures, bath products, and more. My favourite thing about Calendula is that it self seeds the following year and is easy to collect seeds from. You can basically plant Calendula once and it almost feels like a perennial.
Looking to buy cut flower seeds? THE BEST COMPANIES TO PURCHASE CUT FLOWER SEEDS FOR YOUR BACKYARD FLOWER FARM
Cosmos are one of those flowers that you can seed start or direct sow. If you’re going to direct sow Cosmos, you probably want to stick with the Sonata variety. I have not had as much success with fancier varieties like the Double Click.
Another cool thing about Cosmos is you can actually grow them with winter sowing. This means that before it’s time to plant, you can put them in a little milk jug, leave them there, and basically do nothing except water them. Once the snow melts, you’ll get really tough seedlings.
You can find out more about the winter sowing process in this video:
Related: The Best Vegetables & Flowers to Start with Winter Sowing, How to Start Seeds When Your Home Has no Light or Space
You can direct sow Forget-Me-Nots and a lot of other flowers that bloom a little bit earlier in the season that like the cold. In fact, I have a whole bunch of Forget-Me-Nots already sewn into my garden in the dead of winter (I am writing this in January 2022). I’m hoping that once the snow melts, it will water the soil, get that process going, and I will have some lovely winter-sown Forget-Me-Nots in my garden.
Depending on where you live, Queen Anne’s Lace might be a perennial and can also go by the name Dara (something slightly different but related). This is a beautiful filler flower. You can get it in the classic white, which is the Queen Anne’s Lace, or you can get the Dara in more purples and chocolatey brown tones. A wonderful addition to your direct sow garden.
Sunflowers are a classic, and they actually tend to do better if you direct sow them rather than seed start them. My Sunflowers always seem to get eaten (I must have some very active mice or something that live outdoors), so I will seed them out and later on in the season I will find one sunflower that somehow was missed.
Long story short, I have to seed start mine.
But, if you don’t have that problem, I highly recommend direct sowing. Sunflowers also have a short date to maturity, so you can start them and then do another succession in two weeks or so and keep that going for a couple of successions. This way you can have Sunflowers all summer long (or as close as possible).
9. SWEET PEAS
Sweet Peas can basically be started as soon as the soil can be worked, and they actually do better if they have some cold soil. If you can get them out early enough, they are so easy to grow!
It seems like Sweet Peas bloom a lot earlier for most of the flower farmers I follow in warmer climates. However, in my Zone 3 climate, my Sweet Peas seem to regularly bloom in August and even well into September.
Sweet Peas have such a heavenly scent and are an easy flower to add to your cut flower garden, so definitely give them a try.
Zinnias are one of my absolute favourites in the garden. You can direct sow them, though if you do they won’t bloom until later in the season. They’re also not frost-tolerant in the slightest, so they will be one of the first things to die. I personally prefer to start my Zinnias at the 2-4 week point before the last frost date. Especially if you live somewhere warmer than my cold climate gardening Zone 3, I think you should definitely direct seed them.
I know I said 10, but there are also a few extras I want to tell you about. Baby’s Breath and Nigella are always great options. Baby’s Breath is really popular right now and is one of those fillers that is always useful in an arrangement and goes with everything. The thing I like about Nigella is that it looks beautiful in the flower form and also dry as a pod.
Larkspur can also be direct sown and it’s another good candidate for winter sowing.
One thing that’s absent from this list that I really love in my cut flower garden is Snapdragons. Unfortunately in Zone 3 we just don’t have a long enough season to direct sow them.
What you can do is go to your local garden center and find cutting varieties like the Rocket variety or the Madame Butterfly variety of Snapdragons. These are a little more expensive because you’re not direct sowing seeds but this way you can still have some Snapdragons even if you’re not willing to do a whole bunch of seed starting this year.
I also have a pre-done plan that involves direct sowing and things you can easily find at a gardening center in my ebook Cut Flowers Made Simple. If you need a little bit of help taking the confusion out of cut flowers, you’ll definitely want to check that out.
I hope this list has been helpful and that it will inspire you to grow more cut flowers in your garden. If you’d like more easy, actionable gardening tips, especially for cold climates and short growing seasons, you can always check me out on Instagram and Facebook. I show up there every day with helpful, real-time gardening tips.