The Top 6 Annual Flowers for Beautiful Summer Bouquets

Are you wondering what to plant in your cutting garden for gorgeous summer bouquets? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares some must-have flowers that look great in the garden and floral arrangements.

annual flower bouquets. View of a summer flower arrangement in a wicker basket on a wooden decorative barrel in a summer garden. The floral arrangement consists of Common Tansy, Zinnia, Chamomile, Yarrow and Ammi. Next to the basket there is a decorative glass candle holder with white metal frilly frames.

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Starting a cutting garden is one of the most gratifying projects I’ve taken on as a gardener. I love seeing the joy that comes from receiving a bouquet of fresh summer flowers. It is especially lovely to bring someone a bouquet of flowers that you’ve grown in your garden. There’s just something special and personal about it.

Summertime can be tricky when it comes to cut flowers. A lot of the lovely flowers we plant in these gardens tend to wilt in the heat of summer. Fortunately, there are some great flower options that thrive in hot weather. Many of these flowers are drought-tolerant as well. 

The best annual flowers to grow for making bouquets have a few specific traits. One of the most important attributes of these flowers is its long, strong stems. Vase life is also important, as are attractiveness and scent. Here are my top 6 annual flowers for the summer cutting garden.

Zinnia

Giant Purple Zinnia Seeds

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Giant Purple Zinnia Seeds

Sunflower

Goldy Honey Bear Sunflower Seeds

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Goldy Honey Bear Sunflower Seeds

Dahlia

Cactus Flowered Blend Dahlia Seeds

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Cactus Flowered Blend Dahlia Seeds

Zinnia

Close-up of colorful zinnias blooming in a sunny garden. Zinnias are vibrant annual flowers known for their diverse colors and forms. They are semi-double, with several layers of petals. Their stems are sturdy and branching, supporting clusters of flowers in hues of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and white. The leaves of zinnias are lance-shaped and arranged alternately along the stems, showing a deep green color and a slightly rough texture.
Discover the joy of growing vibrant zinnias effortlessly.
botanical-name botanical name Zinnia elegans
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height up to 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Zinnias are flowers that most gardeners feel one of two ways about. Either you love them and plant them yearly, or you think they’re overrated. I was the latter until just a few years ago. On the advice of a friend, I decided to just throw a handful of zinnia seeds in some soil. The results were so wonderful that I don’t think I’ll ever skip over these colorful flowers again. 

In terms of ease of care, it doesn’t get much simpler than zinnias. Their heat and drought tolerance are great, and they are not picky about soil. If you really want them to take off, you can mix some compost in when you plant them. They are likely to grow fine without that assistance, though.

Plant your zinnias in full sun one to two weeks after your last expected frost date. Loosen the soil in your chosen area and plant your seeds. You can make a small indention and sprinkle two or three seeds in each hole. I’ve also had success broadcast sowing zinnia seeds.

Zinnias take about 60 days from germinating until they begin to flower. They are a cut-and-come-again type of flower, so the more you cut them, the more flowers they produce. This makes them an excellent choice for the cutting garden. They have a moderate to long vase life, lasting up to 10 days with good care. 

Sunflower

Close-up of blooming Helianthus, commonly known as sunflowers, in a sunny garden against a backdrop of green foliage. Helianthus are iconic plants recognized for their towering stems crowned with large, daisy-like flower heads. The flowers boast vibrant yellow petals surrounding a dark central disk filled with tiny florets. The stems of sunflowers are tall, sturdy, and covered in fine hairs, providing support for the massive flower heads. The leaves are large, lance-shaped, and arranged alternately along the stems, showing a deep green color and a coarse texture.
Embrace the charm of sunflowers, perfect for joyful arrangements.
botanical-name botanical name Helianthus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 25’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

Sunflowers are the ultimate summer classic for floral arrangements. Their big, bold flowers bring so much joy, and pollinators love them! I’m sure I don’t need to extol the virtues of these extremely popular flowers, but I will anyway.

 Sunflowers grow quickly, and they produce large, attractive flowers. Their extra strong stems make them ideal for cutting and floral arranging. A bouquet made entirely of sunflowers is a complete arrangement in many cases. They also make a major statement when combined with other flowers. One or two sunflowers can elevate a bouquet.

As their name suggests, sunflowers like a lot of sunlight. They will be happy with as much sun as you can give them. Direct sowing is the ideal way to plant these seeds. Starting them inside means disturbing their roots, and they aren’t fond of that. Plant your sunflowers a week or two after the possibility of frost. 

Sunflowers do take a little longer to bloom than many smaller flowers. Depending on the variety and size, they can take anywhere from 70-100 days from germination to bloom. Start them as early as possible for mid-summer blooms. 

Yarrow

Close-up of blooming colorful Yarrow plants (Achillea millefolium) in a sunny garden. Yarrow is a hardy perennial herbaceous plant featuring clusters of small, tightly-packed flowers atop slender stems. The flowers come in a variety of colors including white, yellow, pink, and red, and are arranged in flat-topped clusters known as umbels. Yarrow's fern-like leaves are deeply lobed with a feathery appearance.
Enjoy charming yarrow flowers in various colors for delightful bouquets.
botanical-name botanical name Achillea millefolium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 1′-3′
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Yarrow is such a sweet and unassuming little flower. It has a vintage vibe that I simply love to add to bouquets. It’s nice as a standalone in a large quantity, but it also makes a nice filler flower. The soft, fern-like foliage is pretty in the garden and even nicer up close in a bouquet. They spread readily, so they’re ideal in a space where you need a flowering ground cover.

White is the most common color associated with yarrow. However, it comes in a wide variety of shades, including white, pink, red, yellow, and peach. The stems are long with flower umbels on top, making them ideal for the cutting garden. They have a vase life of about ten days with proper care.

Yarrow seeds need warm soil to germinate, so wait until a month after your expected frost date to plant them. You can plant them in the fall if you fall within Zones 3-9, and they will germinate as soon as the temperature is right. 

If you prefer to start your seeds indoors, start early. Start these seeds up to 10 weeks before you intend to transplant them. Yarrow takes about 120 days to bloom after germination. They are perennial in Zones 3-9, so expect them to come back next year!

Ammi

Close-up of flowering Daucus carota plants in a garden. Daucus carota, commonly known as wild carrot, is a biennial plant distinguished by its delicate, lacy white flowers arranged in flat-topped umbels atop slender, branching stems. The flowers are surrounded by a ring of small, greenish-white bracts.
Embrace charming ammi flowers for long-lasting summer bouquets.
botanical-name botanical name Daucus carota
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-11

Ammi is the annual flower I am most excited to add to my summer bouquet garden this year. Also known as false Queen Anne’s lace, ammi has a very similar appearance. The soft, lacy flower umbels make a wonderful addition to bouquets. In addition to white, these flowers come in shades of lavender, purple, and green. 

This plant is related to carrots, we do not recommend starting indoors. This will lead to disturbing the substantial tap root. Instead, directly sow these seeds a week to two weeks before your last anticipated frost date. 

Ammi is not a cut-and-come-again flower. If you’d like to have these flowers blooming all summer, you can sow seeds every two to three weeks in succession. The flowers take about 12 weeks to bloom after germination. They have a 10-12 day vase life which is significantly longer than Queen Anne’s lace. 

Dahlia

Close-up of flowering Dahlia pinnata plants in a sunny garden against a blurred green garden background. The flowers are characterized by their intricate, layered petals of bright orange that form a pompom-like shape. The leaves of Dahlia pinnata are dark green and toothed, with a smooth texture.
Admire stunning dahlias in the garden and the vase.
botanical-name botanical name Dahlia pinnata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

Dahlias have many characteristics that should get them kicked off this list, but the heart wants what it wants. Dahlias have seen a recent surge in popularity with cut flower growers. The reason is simple enough to see. Dahlias are some of the most stunning annual flowers out there and are breathtaking in a floral bouquet. 

Now, as pretty as they are, they have a very short vase life. They also require digging up tubers in the fall and storing them for the winter. Low maintenance is not a word associated with these plants. They need a lot of attention and dedication from their growers

Even with these factors considered, I will still plant them every year. The sheer variety of flower colors, sizes, and forms fascinates me. They also look positively wonderful in a bouquet, if only for a few days. 

Dahlia seeds won’t bloom in the first year, so unless you are in Zones 8-11, it’s better to start with tubers. In warmer climates, they will overwinter, so seeds are a great and economical way to go. Whatever way you go about it, you won’t regret adding Dahlias to your garden. 

Starflower

Close-up of Scabiosa stellata, commonly known as starflower pincushion, is a striking annual plant renowned for its unique and captivating appearance. Its wiry stems bear clusters of intricate, star-shaped flowers with pointed petals, resembling celestial bodies in a galaxy. The flowers come in lavender and white with contrasting dark centers. The foliage consists of deeply lobed, lance-shaped leaves arranged alternately along the stems.
Delight in starflowers for stunning bouquets with unique seed heads.
botanical-name botanical name Lomelosia stellata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12″-18″
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Another great annual flower I’m adding to my bouquet garden this year is starflower. This relative of scabiosa is a stunning addition to any floral arrangement. Starflower has long thin stems, which are great for adding to bouquets. They also have small blue flowers that, while pretty, pale in comparison to the seed heads they leave behind. 

The seed heads are large and globe-shaped with papery bracts that form small circles all the way around. I think these bracts resemble cupcake wrappers. They dry nicely and look great in both fresh and dried flower arrangements. 

We recommend starting these seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before your last frost date. You can plant your starflowers in full sun or partial shade. They typically have a good germination rate and are not difficult to grow. 

Leave the flower heads on the plant after blooming and allow them to mature. As they mature, the star-shaped centers of the bracts will deepen in color. 

Final Thoughts

There are so many wonderful annual summer flowers that are ideal for floral bouquets. Growing a cutting garden is a truly gratifying garden hobby. Plant some of these stunning flowers for summer bouquets that are sure to impress. 

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