Perennials for a Cutting Garden
While nearly any flower can be cut and brought indoors, some last longer in the vase, or have shapes and stems that make them easier to arrange. Below are some of the best perennials for cutting.
All prefer full sun but will take a little shade unless otherwise noted. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are excellent for drying.
Allium (Allium) Also called ornamental onion, these lollipop-like flowers are gorgeous in the garden and vase alike. Purple balls form on slender stalks, rising anywhere from 6 inches to 4 feet for the appropriately named Allium giganteum. Last 1-2 weeks in the vase. Zones 4-9 for most types.
Aster (Aster) This native flower blooms in fall with wonderful star-like flowers in pinks, purples, blues, and whites. Ranges in height from 1-6 feet, depending on the type. Prone to mildew, so plant in absolute full sun and consider using an organic or chemical fungicide in early spring to prevent it. Lasts up to 1 week in the vase. Zones 4-8 for most.
Baby’s breath* (Gypsophila) Classic clouds of white or pink flowers are great fresh or to dry right in the vase. Blooms in summer, reaching about 2 feet high. Demands excellent drainage but dislikes extreme heat. Often needs light staking. Lasts 5-8 days in the vase. Zones 3-9.
Bear’s breeches (Acanthus) Striking spires of purple flowers rise above dark, spiny, glossy leaves. Blooms late summer and grows 2-5 feet high. Can be invasive if given ideal conditions. Lasts up to 2 weeks in the vase. Zones 6-10.
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia) Growing perennial black-eyed Susans blooms in late summer, just as everything else looks tired, with a blast of golden color. Grows 1-2 feet tall and spreads quickly. ‘Goldsturm’ is a great type and is very disease-resistant. Lasts 1-2 weeks in the vase. Zones 3-9.
Blazing star (Liatris) This prairie native sends up magenta or cream spikes of flowers that rise 1-2 feet in summer with strappy green leaves at the base. Lasts up to 2 weeks in a vase. Zones 4-9, dislikes extreme heat and humidity.
Boltonia (Boltonia asteroides) This wonderful fall bloomer and native wildflower is often mistaken for a tall baby’s-breath. It grows 4-6 feet, so be sure to stake. The pink or white tiny daisy-like flowers last several days in the vase. Zones 4-8.
Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum) Growing this fall-blooming perennial classic produces beautiful reds, purples, pinks, whites, and oranges with many different flower shapes. Plants are 1-3 feet high. Root systems are shallow, so mulch well each fall for winter protection. For largest, showiest flowers, once the plant is a few inches high in spring, pinch back the tips of the plants every few weeks until the Fourth of July. Flowers last up to 2 weeks in the vase. Zones 4-9 for most types.
Coreopsis (Coreopsis) Sometimes called tickseed, coreopsis is available in several types, but it’s the Coreopsis lanceolata that’s best for cutting. Sunshine-yellow flowers bloom atop wiry, strong stems in summer. Flowers last 5 or so days. Zones 3-10.
Delphinium (Delphinium) Regal flowers available in gorgeous blues, purples, white, and pinks grow 2 to 7 feet tall in summer, depending on the type. ‘Pacific Giants’ is the most showy. Needs rich, well-drained moist soil and extended periods of mild, cool weather. Doesn’t like extremely cold winters or hot or dry weather. Most need staking. Flowers last 5-8 days in a flower vase. Zones 3-8, as long as summers are cool and mild, as in the Pacific Northwest.
Foxglove (Digitalis) These story-book pretty flowers bloom in light shade in cooler, moist conditions, growing 2-6 feet depending on the type with spires of tubular flowers, often with attractive spots, in pink, white, lilac, or yellow.Digitalis grandiflora often will behave like a perennial, but others are biennials, that is, they grow a little bit their first year and then the second year flower beautifully and die shortly after. Cut flowers last 5-7 days. Zones 3-8.
Globe thistle* (Echinops) Unusual purple-gray balls atop green spikey foliage make an interesting accent to arrangements. The tough plants grow 2-5 feet tall with flowers in summer or fall. The cut flowers last 7-10 days. Zones 3-9.
Goldenrod* (Solidago) This feathery autumn native flower incorrectly is accused of aggravating allergies. Wild types are invasive; hybrid types from garden centers are better behaved. Grows 2-6 feet, depending on the type. Lasts 7-10 days in the vase. Zones 3-9.
Iris (Iris) There are several types of iris, and all are lovely in arrangements. However, the German bearded iris (Iris x germanica) and Siberian (Iris sibirica) types are the easiest to grow. German bearded is prone to blights and borers; Siberian is nearly bulletproof. Grow 1-3 feet tall, depending on the type. Lasts 3-4 days in the vase. Zones 4-9, depending on the type.
Lavender* (Lavandula) This delightful herb carries its fragrance everywhere with white or purple flowers atop gray-green foliage. Cut just flowers or both flowers and foliage, if desired. Needs excellent drainage and is very drought-tolerant. Grows 1-3 feet, depending on the type. Flowers last about 1 week fresh. Zones 5-9, depending on the type.
Lily (Lilium) Technically a bulb, this wildly showy flower behaves like a perennial. There are several different types, but Asiatic hybrids are outstanding cut flowers and come in a wide variety of colors. Oriental lilies also are excellent and are richly fragrant to boot. Taller types need staking. Pinch off the yellow anthers to prevent the pollen from brushing off on furniture, skin, or fabrics. Lasts about 1 week in a vase. Zones 4-9, depending on the type.
Lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus orientalis) Wonderful blue or white flowers bloom atop long stalks up to 3 feet tall in summer. Needs excellent drainage but also ample moisture. Cut flowers last up to 2 weeks. Zones 8-11.
Oxeye or false sunflower (Heliopsis) This native wildflower soars up to 6 feet and covers itself yellow or gold flowers in late summer. It’s prone to powdery mildew, so consider spraying with an organic or chemical fungicide in early spring to prevent it. Cut flowers last up to 7 days. Zones 4-9.
Peony (Paeonia) Fabulously lush flowers bloom in pinks, whites, red, creams, and even yellow on low-maintenance plants in late spring. Tree peonies grow 4-7 feet tall; herbaceous peonies grow up 2-4 feet tall. Some have excellent fragrance. Install with tomato-cage like supports in early spring to prevent flopping later on. Cut flowers 4-7 days. Zones 4-8.
Pink (Dianthus pulmonaris) Also called carnations, perennial pinks often are very fragrant. Some types grow just a few inches tall, so choose taller types for cutting. Needs excellent drainage. Cut flowers last 5-10 days. Zones 3-9
Poppy (Papaver) The delicate, blowsy beauty of poppies in early summer is memorable, but short-lived. Flowers have delicate papery petals that are easily destroyed by hard rain or wind. Bring indoors to enjoy for just 3 or so days. Perennial poppies are most commonly orange, but beautiful cream, salmon, pink, and red types are also available. Plants grow 2-3 feet tall. Zones 3-8.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea) This prairie native is renown for its health-giving properties, but the flower, which blooms in summer, is popular for cutting. Plants grow 2-4 feet high and are very disease-resistant and tolerant of extremes of heat and cold. Flowers last up to 1 week in the vase. Don’t deadhead the flowers on the plant and use the seedheads in autumn (or allow goldfinches to feast on them). Zones 3-8.
Red-hot poker (Kniphofia) This eye-catching plant is named well, with bristle-like flowers in sunset colors rising 2-6 feet, depending on the type. Needs excellent drainage. Flowers last 6-8 days. Zones 6-9.
Salvia (Salvia) A type of sage, perennial salvia (Salvia x sylvestris) produces beautiful blue or white flower spikes. Plants flower in late spring and grow 1-3 feet tall. Lasts 5-10 days in a vase. Zones 4-9. Cut flowers last about 1 week. Zones 4-8.
Sunflower (Helianthus) There are annual and perennial types of sunflowers, both great for cutting. The perennial types have smaller flowers and grow 2 to 5 feet tall, depending on the type. Zones 4-9.
Yarrow (Achillea) This easy-to-grow plant produces florets of tiny yellow, pink, or cream flowers in summer atop ferny foliage that hits 2-4 feet, depending on the type. Cut flowers last about 1 week. Zones 3-8.