Some of Georgia's Best Cut Flowers
By Paul A. Thomas
Georgia Extension Service
Here are just a few of the many wildflowers that produce excellent cut flowers in Georgia:
Bachelor's button (Centaurea cyanus). Also known as cornflower, it's common along roadsides and in fields. The naturalized species is blue, but white, pink and red strains exist. An annual, its short flowering season and five- to six-day vase life are worth it.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.). Several species are common in Georgia, including R. laciniata, R. fulgida and R. hirta. Also known as coneflower, the disk flowers are yellow to gold, sometimes with red at the base. The flower lasts only a few days in a vase, but it's worth the time to grow and cut them.
Bloodflower (Asclepias currisavica). This annual grows tall and attracts butterflies. The flowers arrive in mid- to late summer and last well in a vase. Many colors are available. Cut clusters on a single large stem for best results.
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). The brilliant orange flowers can be seen from far away. The plant has a long taproot and is a bit hard to transplant. A perennial, it flowers only once or twice a summer. But it's worth it. The remaining plant will likely be caterpillar food for monarch butterflies.
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Its brilliant red flower is prized. Plants grow to 4 feet high and do best in moist sites. A perennial, it's a wonderful cut flower in August. Cut when half the flowers are open on the tall stem.
Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.). Most of the many Georgia annual species have yellow to gold flowers. A common road beautification wild flower, Coreopsis tinctoria is outstanding for cut vases. A number of cultivated varieties do well in the wildflower garden.
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus and C. sulphureus). C. bipinnatus ranges to 5 feet high with flowers white to pink to lavender. C. sulphureus grows to 3 feet high with flowers yellow to orange to red. These annual flowers last only a few days, but you'll have hundreds to select from each week.
Fleabane (Erigeron speciosus). Other species and hybrids are cultivated, but this species appears best-suited for direct sowing in meadow gardens. The perennial plants are 2 feet tall with lilac, daisy-like flowers. Cut flowers by selecting major stems and using them as clusters.
Gaillardia (Gaillardia species). Two species in Georgia, G. pulchella and G. aestivalis, are low-growing with yellow flowers tipped with red or purple. G. X grandiflora is commonly cultivated; G. aristata is suitable for direct sowing. Full sun and excellent drainage are essential. Annual and perennial. The more you cut, the better it produces.
Periwinkle (Vinca minor, V. major). This evergreen, perennial groundcover thrives in shade or partial shade. Both species have attractive blue flowers, though there are white ones. V. minor has smaller leaves and is more compact. Cut a lot of stem for best results. Remove most lower leaves before placing in vase.
Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). At 3 to 5 feet high, they bloom all summer. The flowers have high, dark crowns (cones) surrounded by drooping rose-purple petals. Perennial. Nice vase presence. Cut just after the flower opens fully for best results.
Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum species). Used as a cut flower since humans began to appreciate flowers. Easy to grow from seed and very long-lived if watered in drought and fertilized in early spring and late fall. Perennial. Vase life is excellent and if cut back severely, will flush two or three times in a summer.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Sunflower is well-known for its tolerance of sun, heat, drought and poor soils. The species is well-suited for direct sowing. The many varieties range from 2 to 10 feet high. The edible seeds attract birds. Annual. Swamp Sunflower (H. angustifolius), a dependable fall-flowering perennial wildflower. Lasts 5 to 6 days in a vase.
Verbena (Verbena species). V. tenuisecta and V. rigida, low-spreading plants with bluish-purple flowers, are often along roadsides in central and south Georgia. A white-flowering variety is available, too. V. hastata has a stiff, upright habit and may grow several feet high. All are suitable for sowing. Perennial.
Yarrow (Achillea species) Several species and hybrids are cultivated. Many varieties of fernleaf yarrow (A. filipendulina) and common yarrow (A. millefolium) are popular dried flowers. These two species are well-adapted for direct sowing in meadow gardens. Long-lived cut flower if water is changed often. Perennial.
Zinnia (Zinnia species). An old-time favorite that does well with occasional watering and frequent cutting. Spare the clippers, spoil the Zinnia. Very good vase life if cut just after opening.
(Paul Thomas is a horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)