Starting a Cut Flower Garden in Iowa

Growing a garden for cut flowers is becoming more and more popular each year. I began planning my first cutting garden over four years ago and here are some of the things I’ve learned along the way. Check out a prior blog post on the top flowers for cutting here.


  1. Sunlight. You’ll want to pick a location with a lot of sunlight. Most cut and come again flowers love sunlight and do better when in direct sun.
  2. Water. You might get lucky and not need to add a lot of extra water but most of the time you will have stretches without rain in our Iowa summers. To keep your flowers looking their best, water regularly. For my big beds, I’ve installed drip tubing but you can also water with a regular hose as well.
  3. Seeds. I’ve tried to start flowers from seed in my house for several years, some more successful than others. However, I’ve decided that until I get a greenhouse, direct sowing is for me. There are plenty of wonderful cut flowers that you can grow directly from seed including: cosmos, celosia, zinnias and more.
  4. Weeds. If you don’t want to spend all of your time weeding, consider laying down landscape fabric and burning round holes in the fabric every 9″ for excellent plant spacing and to keep the weeds down. A few months in into the season, the weeds won’t be able to compete and weeding is minimal.
  5. Topping off. Several cut flowers will benefit from pinching off their growth point early in the year. This promotes bushier plants with more blooms and stems.
  6. Staking/Netting. Some cut flowers are top heavy and could benefit from staking or netting. These flowers include dahlias and sweet peas, among others.
  7. Fertilizing. There are different methods to fertilize. I’ve found in Iowa, we have great soil but do add compost and fish fertilizer when possible.
  8. Bugs. You’ll have to decide what your tolerance is for insect damage on your blooms. Some people swear by hand-picking Japanese Beetles and dunking them in soapy water, others by netting, etc. Master Gardeners preach for an integrated pest management solution and only use pesticides when necessary.
  9. Dead-heading. Most cut and come again flowers actually do better when they constantly dead-headed. As soon as a flower is spent, pinch it off right above a leaf node. Typically, they will shoot two new flowers in its place.
  10. Saving seeds. One great thing about a lot of cut flowers is that you can save seed from year to year. I typically save seed from celosia and amaranth along with others.

A few pictures of my cutting garden:IMG_8603IMG_0644Zinnias. IMG_0734

Amaranth. IMG_0777

Cosmos. IMG_0746


A bucket of dahlia blooms. IMG_8255

Do you have tips on starting your own cut flower garden? Please comment below!IMG_8211




2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jane says:

    Great post! Your photos are lovely and inspirational. Is there a link for laying your drip lines? What did you use to burn holes in the weed barrier? Thanks, Melissa! Always look forward to your next gardening adventure.


    1. Melissa Peterson says:

      Thanks Jane! I use a company called Drip Depot for my drip line. I use a torch to burn the holes in landscape fabric. Great questions!


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