From garden to table

Planting perennials for cut flowers

Who doesn't love a freshly cut bouquet from the garden? By planting perennials that are best suited for cut flowers, you can enjoy these flowering machines both in the garden and indoors too. Here are a few favorites of Alaskan gardeners, chosen for their long bloom times, tall stems and ample vase life.


Clematis is known primarily for its showy beauty as a climbing vine, but don’t overlook its ability to grace your dining room table as well. As cut flowers, they can often last two weeks or longer. Shown here, the feminine beauty “Andromeda” bears large, white flowers with rose pink bars twice during the growing season.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 4-8

WHEN TO CUT: Pick flowers when they are about half to 3/4 open to allow for the longest bloom.


Blazing star bears stiff spikes of white, rose or purple flowers that attract butterflies. Not only is this an excellent plant for adding great height to the perennial garden (growing 1½–3’ tall), but the blooms are ideal for cutting and drying.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-9

WHEN TO CUT: Harvest when top florets are open.


Lilies are among the most beautiful and most rewarding perennials to grow in Alaska. For summer-long blooms, consider growing several different types of lilies, each blooming at a different time during the summer. Asiatics, for example, start blooming in late June. LA Hybrids, which combine the hardiness of the asiatics with the delicious fragrance of the Easter lily, bloom in late July and August. LA Hybrids grow to 30 inches high and come in a range of clear, bright colors from cream through pink, peach, yellow, orange and red. Lilies make exquisite cut flowers, lasting nearly two weeks in water.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-10

WHEN TO CUT: Try not to cut off more than a third of the stem, which can reduce the plant's vigor and longevity.


The steel blue sea holly is an outstanding Old World perennial that blooms in summer with tall stems of spiny, glistening flowers. A European-bred plant for the cut flower trade (fresh and dried), it is a profuse bloomer that attracts bees and butterflies.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 4-8

WHEN TO CUT: Pick when color is bright and tiny stamens begin to show, giving the flower head a fuzzy appearance.


The columbine plant (aquilegia) is an easy-to-grow perennial. They come in a variety of colors, including yellow, red, purple, pink and white. The Swan Series of columbine are known for their abundant large flowers and long blooming period. Excellent as cut flowers, these beauties can last up to two weeks in a vase.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-9

WHEN TO CUT: Harvest when flowers are just opening.


Salvia, also known as meadow sage, is a vibrant long bloomer, deliciously fragrant, and great for attracting butterflies. It starts flowering in early summer and continues through early fall if you keep cutting the faded flowers off. It's also a strong per­former in all types of soils, including difficult clay, and one of the most carefree perennials you can grow. The perennial species come in an array of colors, including blue, lavender, red and white, so you can easily find one (or more) to complement your landscape and your décor.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 4-8

WHEN TO CUT: Flowers with multiple buds on each stem, such as salvia, should have at least one bud showing color and one bud starting to open before being cut.


For sheer garden drama, few flowers steal the show like dahlias. A big part of the flower’s allure is the seemingly infinite variety of blooms available – from giant “dinner plate” blooms (up to 14 inches across) to the pretty and profuse blossoms of the smaller varieties (some as tiny as a button). The flowers also come in a huge variety of colors – from winter white to crimson red, pale lavender to deep bronze. Dahlias, with their strong stems, long-lasting blooms, and substantial, attractive foliage, make striking and long-lasting cut flowers. The bonus? The more you cut them, the more flowers they produce.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 8-10

WHEN TO CUT: Choose flowers that are fully open or close to it, with firm, well-filled centers. Make your cut above a set of leaves and above the side buds to encourage reblooming on the plant, leaving as much length of the stem as you can for ease in arranging. Recut the dahlia stems under lukewarm water.


Peony is a standard in Alaska’s cut flower trade due to its gorgeous buds, extremely large blossoms, long vase life and romantic fragrance. It’s also a very long-lived plant (up to 50 years!) that forms 2- to 4-foot-tall clumps in shrublike bunches. Its numerous varieties offer a wide range of colors (pinks, reds, yellow, whites and coral), and if you choose the right mix of varietals, you can have an amazing show until August. The ever popular Sarah Bernhardt, one of the best and easiest species to grow in Alaska, produces huge and fragrant dark rose pink blossoms. Peonies are outstanding as fresh-cut flowers – a half dozen fully opened blossoms will easily fill a vase with long lasting color – even up to four weeks if harvested properly.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-8

WHEN TO CUT: Harvest buds while in the “marshmallow” stage, just beginning to show a slit of color. Cut the stems long but leave at least two leaves on the plant below the cut. Flowers will continue to open when placed in floral preservative and water.


One of the most popular and best performing perennial cut flowers is the delphinium. Every summer, the light purple and blue flowers can reach 6 feet tall or more. Delphiniums bring stature and elegance to any flower arrangement because of their striking clear colors and upright habit. Filler flowers can be added in and around the delphiniums for an outstanding effect in vases.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-7

WHEN TO CUT: Pick when majority of florets on the flowering stem are open. The blooms will continue to open in floral preservative and water. Make your cut at ground level.


For nearly three months, Shasta daisy (Alaska variety) explodes in a burst of pure white petals that radiate from the soft yellow centers. The long-lasting blossoms make great cut flowers too. In arrangements, Shasta daisies have a sturdy stem and blooms that last several days. Whether alone or mixed with other flowers, these cheerful daisies add old-fashioned charm and beauty inside your home too.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 5-8

WHEN TO CUT: Cut the flowers in the morning when the plants are well-hydrated. Place the stems in cool water immediately, and replace the water every other day. Remove any leaves that are under water.


Glossy and elegant, astrantia make great cut and dried flowers. The plant does best in cooler zones and prefers moist soil. The long-lasting flowers actually look like they hold countless pins in a pin cushion. As cut flowers, astrantia has a vase life of up to 14 days.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-9

WHEN TO CUT: Cut the stems before the seed sets, then turn the flowers upside down to dry in a cool, airy place.


Great in containers, rock gardens and edging pathways, dianthus are often planted in a carpeted mass for a “wow” appearance. All perennial dianthus have pretty silvery-blue foliage that looks terrific paired with their sweet fragrant pink, white, rose, yellow, red, or bi-colored flowers. “Pinks” are easy to grow from summer to fall for fancy, fragrant cut flowers.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-8

WHEN TO CUT: Harvest when the first 2-3 small flowers that make up the flower head are open. Will continue to open in floral preservative and water. Make your cut at ground level


Astilbe is a long-lived, hardy perennial which thrives in Alaska. Depending on the variety, the colorful, feathery plumes can reach up to five feet in height. This showy plant emerges with bright chartreuse yellow foliage with a tinge of red pigment, adding interest to semi-shady spots in a garden. Stocks of astilbe can be cut for fresh arrangements or dried to enjoy year round.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 4-8

WHEN TO CUT: Harvest when flowers are half open.

GLOBE Thistle

These distinctive flowers rise above the showy silvery green foliage. Though they look prickly, they are not as rough to the touch as you might expect. Echinops makes a great cut flower or dried. They add a unique element to any arrangement and are becoming more popular with florists each year.

WHERE TO GROW: Zones 3-8

WHEN TO CUT: Pick as soon as central globes are gray-blue and before the tiny flowers appear. .