10 Native Plants to Grow for Cut Flowers
Written by Lauren Landers; posted May 3, 2023
Discover the best native plants for homemade bouquets and floral arranging!
Growing your own cut flowers for bouquets, wreath making and other crafts can be an incredibly rewarding process. Many home gardeners grow beds of roses, lilies and cosmos just for this purpose. However, many plants native to Maine make wonderful cut flowers, too! In the list below, you’ll find some of the best native plants to grow for cut flowers. These plants are all local to Maine and perfectly adapted to our climate and weather patterns, which makes them easier to grow than many non-native plants and especially alluring to pollinators!
Tip: Many of these plants will be available for purchase at our annual spring native plant sale!
The best plants for cut flowers have long, sturdy stems and long-lasting, colorful blooms. The native plants listed below all meet these criteria, but you may want to experiment with other native plants to discover the right flowers for you and your garden.
1. Blue iris (Iris versicolor)
If you’ve ever enjoyed a bouquet of irises, you know how stunning these plants can be! Native to Maine, blue irises are easy to keep in home gardens and they make colorful additions to cut flower arrangements. These hardy plants can grow in full sun or part shade and they handle drought and soggy soils too!
2. Cutleaf coneflowers (Rudbeckia laciniata)
Cutleaf coneflowers are happy looking plants with bright yellow petals encircling a greenish-yellow center. Ideal for sunny locations, these flowers bloom throughout summer and into fall, and they coordinate beautifully with other native species, like liatris. If you don’t want to use your coneflowers for bouquet making, wild birds love snacking on coneflower seeds!
3. New England blazing star (Liatris novae-angliae)
Also known as liatris, blazing star produces tall spikes with sprays of pinkish-purple flowers. The flowers are complemented beautifully by the plant’s grass-like leaves, which catch the wind and add texture to garden beds. Sow liatris corms in your garden in spring and enjoy flowers about 70 to 90 days later.
4. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Cardinal flowers are hard to miss. These plants have eye catching, bright red flowers that are highly attractive to hummingbirds and other pollinators. In nature, cardinal flowers generally grow in moist areas and along streambanks. So, if you want to keep these plants in your garden, make sure you water them well. Cardinal flowers are also good choices if you have a rain garden or other water feature!
5. Woodland sunflower (Heliopsis divaricatus)
Woodland sunflowers are a host plant for several types of butterflies, including checkerspot butterflies. Growing between 4 and 6’ tall, woodland sunflowers are excellent backdrop plants, and they make beautiful cut flower arrangements. Just be sure to provide these plants with plenty of room to grow and be prepared to divide them every 3 to 4 years to rejuvenate growth and prevent overcrowding.
6. Scotch bellflower (Campanula rotundifolia)
Also known as harebell, Scotch bellflower has a bit of folklore attached to it. According to legend, witches used these flowers to transform into rabbits! Today, gardeners mostly keep bellflowers as ornamentals and they make charming cut flowers. Despite the delicate appearance of bellflowers, these plants are drought tolerant and they can handle full sun to part shade.
7. Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)
Pearly everlasting is known for its clusters of small, white flowers that look a bit like tiny pearls. While these plant can be used for bouquets, flowers are easy to dry and make lovely additions to preserved displays and homemade wreaths. Plants grow to about 2’ tall and bloom in summer to early fall. A low maintenance plant, pearly everlasting has low water needs and it can grow in part shade or full sun.
8. Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
A staple plant in autumn gardens, goldenrod is famous for its foamy sprays of golden flowers. However, many gardeners are reluctant to grow goldenrod as they assume this plant is responsible for seasonal allergies. In fact, it’s actually the similar looking ragweed that causes allergy symptoms, while goldenrod is a matchless pollinator plant!
9. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)
A top companion plant for goldenrod, asters bloom at around the same time of the year, and their colors complement each other in garden beds and bouquets. As one of the last plants to bloom in autumn, New England asters provide an important food source for bees and other late season pollinators. New England asters can spread vigorously, so if you don’t want more plants, be sure to deadhead spent blooms so they don’t go to seed.
10. Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium spp.)
Joe Pye weed grows between 6' and 8’ tall, which makes it a good plant to sow toward the rear of your garden. Naturally found in moist areas, Joe Pye weed should be watered regularly, especially during the first year of growth. Large, purple flowers are highly fragrant and provide a ready source of nectar and pollen to butterflies.
Tips for picking the best cut flowers
The best time to pick cut flowers is early in the morning, before the sun is high overhead. During this time, plants will be better hydrated due to the morning dew, and stems will be sturdier.
When cutting flowers, use a sharp knife or garden shears, and make your cut at a 45-degree angle. Flower stems cut in this manner will absorb water better and stay fresh longer.
To preserve the look of your flowers, mix 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of sugar together and add them to the water in your flower vase. The vinegar will help keep bacteria in check, while the sugar acts as a natural plant food.
When choosing which flowers to grow, plan for the entire growing season so you’ll always have fresh flowers on hand. That means selecting native plants that bloom in spring, summer and autumn. This will provide you with lots of cut flowers throughout the growing season, and native pollinators will always have flowers to forage from, too!
When picking flowers, leave some behind for native pollinators. To do this, never pick more than 1/3 of a plant’s flowers at a single time!
Keeping native plants has a lot of benefits, especially since native plants tend to be less demanding than non-native species and they make stunning cut flowers! If you’d like to learn more about native plants, browse the Native Gardens of Blue Hill native plant database.
Native Gardens of Blue Hill: Plant Database
Maine.Gov: “Native Perennials: Flowering Plants”
Wild Seed Project: “Native Pollinator Plants by Season of Bloom”
California State University: “3 Pro Tips to Help Your Cut Roses Last Longer”