Flowers improve emotional health by bringing happiness, according to research conducted by Rutgers University.
My mother knows this benefit of flowers. Her kitchen table always has a fresh-cut arrangement on the table from her garden and landscape. Even Dad will cut flowers for the vase if she is too busy.
Some annual flowers are easy to grow from seed in the garden. By selecting different types of annuals, flowers become available throughout the growing season to create easy, beautiful arrangements.
Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) provide many round flower heads which range in size from 1.5 to 6 inches across, depending on the cultivar. “Cut and Come Again” and “Oklahoma” have small flowers which are great to use as fillers. “State Fair” and “Giant Cactus” have large flowers which serve as focal points in an arrangement. The flower colors range from tints and tones of red, scarlet, pink, yellow, chartreuse, coral, salmon, and orange. White zinnias will blend well with other flowers. Bicolor flowers are also available. “Peppermint Stick” has red streaks on the petals. Even the petal shape may be different. For example, the cactus flowered varieties have quilled petals.
Zinnias grow best in full sun. To have them throughout the season, stagger several plantings. Remove the plants after they begin looking old and tired. New flowers will be blooming on the next planting.
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) always bring a smile. Colors include yellow, golden yellow, light yellow, red, and bronze. Flower size of 4 to 8 inches across can be found, depending on the cultivar. Well-branched plants help supply flowers for several weeks. Sunflowers grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. Depending on the cultivar, plant height ranges from 4 to 8 feet.
Pollenless sunflowers are not as messy. “Double Dandy,” with its double red flowers, and “Teddy Bear,” with fully double yellow flowers, are pollen-free. “Sunbright” has a golden yellow, 4-inch, pollenless flower.
The upright, spike-shaped flowers of the plume or feathery celosia (Celosia argentea plumosa) add height and shape to an arrangement. Flower colors include cream, orange, red, and yellow. The plumes can reach up to 13 inches long. “Celosia Fresh Look” is available with red or yellow flowers. “Asian Garden” celosia”s bright pink spikes add height to an arrangement and works as a filler. Celosia prefers full sun and well-drained soil. It is easy to grow from seed with little care.
Globe amaranth (Gomphrena) has a spectacular flower that can be used fresh or dried. The 1- to 1.5-inch, globe-shaped flowers are nice accents and fillers in an arrangement. The plant forms many branches, so the flowers may be arranged in groups. The flower colors include purple, pink, white, red and white, and rose bicolor.
The plant height of globe amaranth varies from 18- to 32-inches, depending on the cultivar. The plants will bloom in the heat and through drought conditions. Full sun and well-drained soil are important for this plant.
Lace cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) are simple and pretty. The blossoms are 2 to 3 inches wide. Flower color varies with the cultivar but may include white, pink, carmine, and rose-red. Some cultivars are bicolor with magenta and white. All of them have yellow centers. Cultivars are also available with many rows of petals called double and semi-double blossoms.
The lace cosmos has very fine narrow leaves. The plants may reach 18-inches to 3-feet tall. This species produces long stems which make the flower easier to use in arrangements. The cosmos plant will bloom all season. Full sun is required for best performance.
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) has a tall spike filled with little 1- to 2-inch flowers that children like holding on the sides and squeezing together to make them snap or open and close. The flower colors include red, pink, rose, scarlet, yellow, orange, violet, purple, orchid, and white.
Plant height of snapdragon ranges from 8- to 30-inches tall including the flower spike. The taller cultivars will need staking to hold the flower spikes up. Snapdragon is a cool season flower, so look for heat-tolerant cultivars. Otherwise, grow them in early spring or start in August for fall flowering.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is an annual for full sun with 2- to 4-inch wide flowers. The center is usually brown or black, except for cultivars like “Prairie Sun” and “Irish Spring,” which have a green center. Petal colors range from yellow or gold to orange, and may also be bi-colored with mahogany. “Indian Summer” has beautiful 6-inch wide flowers, and plants reach 24 to 36 inches tall.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum), used as a filler, adds color if using a cultivar like “Purple Ruffles,” with dark purple leaves. The flowers, which are pink, can be used, but the foliage is the main reason to use this basil. The plant reaches 18 to 24 inches tall. It grows in full sun and requires well-drained soil. Green basil can also be used as a filler.
For more information about growing cut flowers, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service at (270) 685-8480 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
When arranging cut flowers, remove excess foliage that may be submerged in water within the vase since it will begin to decay and start microbial growth. It is best to use a flower preservative in the water. This material provides food for the flowers and preservatives that inhibit bacteria and fungi. Change the water frequently. Aspirin or copper pennies placed in the vase water do not extend the life of the flowers.
Annette Meyer Heisdorffer, PhD, is the horticulture extension agent with the Daviess County Extension Office. She can be reached by calling 270-685-8480.