When to Plant Cut Flowers in Utah

The bipolar weather here in Utah makes it hard to feel confident about planting schedules.

One day it seems as if we are on the verge of spring, the temps are mild, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. The next day it is a white-out blizzard and we are scraping an inch of ice off the car windshields.

This weather messes with my mind and I start second guessing my planting schedule, before firmly reminding myself not to jump the gun.

Knowing when to start planting depends on two things: your frost dates and the hardiness of the plant or crop.

First, Google your first and last frost dates and mark them in your calendar.

Next, you will need to identify if the crop is a cool hardy annual, tender annual or perennial.

Identifying a plant’s hardiness is as simple as giving it a quick Google.

Below you will find my planting schedule for cut flowers. Remember that the planting dates are for direct seeding or planting transplants. If you want to transplant a cool hardy plant in March, then you need to start it indoors about 6 weeks sooner in February.

*Note: Some varieties prefer to be direct seeded into the garden and others do better as transplants. Read up on your specific plant to know which it prefers.

When to Plant Cut Flowers in Utah (based on the Lehi area):

Hardy Annuals: 

Cool hardy annuals are the plants that can handle the freeze and shake it off. In fact, many of these plants prefer a long cool establishment period to grow a robust root system and will produce more abundantly as a result.

These cool hardy plants are planted either in the fall (if they overwinter in your zone) or 6-8 weeks before the last spring frost date.

I transplant or directly seed hardy annuals in the fall 6 weeks before my first frost date. For Lehi that is around October 26th, so I plant mid September. If I miss that window (or want to plant a succession crop to extend the harvest) then I plant 6-8 weeks before my last frost date. My last frost is around April 22nd so I aim to plant around mid to late March. Below are some of the hardy annuals I plant at these times in my zone 7 climate:

Snapdragons

Icelandic Poppies

Orlaya

Bupluerum

Foxglove

Bee Balm

Delphinium

Larkspur

Queen Anne’s Lace

Honeywort

Pincushion

Stock (late winter planting only)

*Note: Flower Farmers also plant annual bulbs/corms in the fall (these cannot be planted in late winter unless you buy pre-chilled bulbs), such as tulips or ranunculus (in my zone ranuncs need overwintering protection in a low tunnel). Certain perennials also do best planted in the fall such as peonies or daffodils.

Tender Annuals:

Tender annual plants will not tolerate a freeze and must be planted after the danger of frost has passed.

I transplant or directly seed my tender annuals around Mothers’ Day (mid May), just to be safe. Most of these can continue to be planted in successions throughout about mid July (to know for sure, you must look at the “days to maturity” on the seed packet and count back that number from your first fall frost date). Below are some of the tender annuals I plant in my zone 7 climate:

Sunflowers

Zinnias

Amaranth

Cosmos

Dahlias

Ornamental Grasses (bunny tails, frosted explosion etc.)

*Note: Dahlias are a tuber crop that are planted at the same time as the tender annuals because they do not tolerate a freeze in my zone. In milder regions, the can be overwintered.

Perennials:

Perennials are pretty simple. You plant them when the ground is not frozen. However, certain perennials like peonies or daffodils perform best when fall planted.

I hope you noticed that most cut flowers are actually planted as hardy annuals in the fall. I like to call fall the “second spring” for most of Utah.

Mastering hardy annuals in the fall is key to an abundant spring cut flower harvest in Utah!

Of course, some growers have taken it a step further and use season extension devices to plant at earlier times. I use a low tunnel (think mini greenhouse) to overwinter ranunculus and anemones.

I also use frost cloth tunnels to plant some of the semi-hardy annuals under (these are hardy annuals that just need a smidgen of winter protection to perform better come spring).

If you are interested in companion planting fruits/vegetables then I recommend looking at this planting guide. (That guide also touches on micro climates to consider.)

For cool hardy plants specifically, I recommend reading Lisa Ziegler’s book Cool Flowers.

If this guide was useful to you then please leave me a comment below and share! I would love to hear from you! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Vase Life Hacks for Your Locally Grown Flowers

Your locally grown cut flowers are a little different in the vase than your grocery store bouquets.

They are not bred for shipping across seas. This means your local blooms will  smell wonderful and last longer….IF you treat them like locally grown flowers.

What?! I demand flowers with minimal effort! I know, but unfortunately this is reality. And in reality, flowers are living things that need food, water and some TLC.

Here are 5 Vase Life Hacks for your Locally Grown Flowers:

  1. Keep the water clean enough: How clean you ask? If you wouldn’t drink out of the vase yourself, then don’t let your flowers! Why? Flowers are drinking that water up the stems and the tiniest debris can clog the stem. Think of it like a tiny coffee straw, but smaller. Wash your vases and buckets (if you are harvesting) before every use. Then check your vase regularly to be sure it stays that clean and FULL. Fun fact: Overseas blooms are bred to drink less water so they survive shipping. Your local blooms will drink a LOT more water and you will need to keep an eye on it.
  2. Give your flowers a haircut and condition: If you just bought local flowers, then recut the bottom inch or two of the stem and strip any leaves off that will sit below the water line. Flowers will benefit from having the bottom 2/3 of their stem leaf free. It will allow the plant to focus more energy on keeping that bloom healthy and hydrated. Don’t play with your flowers until you condition them! Put them in a cool, clean vase of water (with flower food) out of direct sunlight for a few hours first. They have been through a lot and need time to bounce back before you start arranging them and moving them around. Mess with your flowers before they get enough TLC and you will notice blooms and leaves falling off.
  3. Feed them: I wondered if feeding flowers those little packets was really necessary. Does it really help? Yes. Yes it does. This thrifty gal now uses flower food religiously. Your plants cannot survive on water alone. They used to be rooted into the richest of soil that provided a constant supply of nutrients. They are now on a major diet that is limited to flower food packets. Feed your flowers and you will lengthen their vase life PLUS the flower food packets keep the water clean! Without the flower food, you will be changing the water every day to keep it clean enough. Dirty water = bacteria. Bacteria = dead flowers. I ask nicely for a flower food packet while grocery shopping and the kind employees always give me a handful. You can also buy them in bulk on Amazon.
  4. Don’t roast your flowers: This should be a duh, but unfortunately, it needs to be said. Don’t leave your flowers in a hot car (or hot window). Crank that AC up and place your flowers out of direct sunlight for the ride home. If your blooms do wilt, don’t give up! I have had blooms look totally limp that I brought back to vitality. Recut the stem an inch or two, place in boiling water for a few seconds and then place in cool water with flower food for a few hours. Its like magic watching a limp “dead” flower rehydrate into a beautiful straight stem. “Have you ever made anything happen? Anything you couldn’t explain when you were angry or scared?” #potterhead
  5. Harvest with good habits: If you are harvesting from your own garden, do so during the coolest part of the day (early morning or late evening). Flowers cut in the hot part of the day will wilt. Also learn when the best harvestable stage is for each flower variety. Some blooms stop dead in their tracks once cut, while others continue to open. Harvest with a clean bucket of water on hand if you will be out for a long time. Some flowers even need the ends seared in boiling water before they are set in cool water to condition. Other flowers like Daffodils leak a sap that is poisonous to other flowers and will need to rest for a few hours before mixing with other varieties. And still other flowers with woody stems (like lilacs) need a vertical cut up the stem post harvest. Learn a little more about your flowers and their individual quirks so you can set them up for success in the vase. Always harvest with clean, sharp shears so you don’t blunt their stems (making it harder for them to drink up water and flower food). As you harvest, clean 2/3 of the leaves off the stem. This will save the flower the effort of keeping all those leaves hydrated and instead it can focus more energy on the bloom. After harvest, bring them inside and let them rest in a cool place outside of direct sunlight before you play with them. It is also a good idea to boost them with some flower food after the trauma of being cut.

As always, each post is a labor of love and the result of hours, sometimes days, of work. I would love it if you commented below. I like hearing from you (and knowing someone is out there), plus it boosts my website in the Google servers. Happy Flower Farming!

5 Reasons Flowers Are Good for Mental Health

Besides being good for the bees, did you know flowers are good for your your mental health too?

Some months ago, a friend posted a picture of flowers she recieved anonymously with the caption, “Every time I walk in the kitchen, I remember someone loves me.”

I think of that story whenever someone says flowers are not worth the money “because they die.”

It is my beleif that giving a little kindness to yourself and/or others is never a waste. Keep reading to find out why.

Here are 5 Mental Health Benefits of Flowers:

  1. Flowers ease recovery of hospital patients: Research shows that patients recovering in the hospital benefit from fresh flowers in their room. Patients were less likely to need additional pain medication, they also had less anxiety and feelings of fatigue. The same study also noted better blood pressure readings and heart rates thanks to the bedside blooms.
  2. Flowers have a long-lasting impact on happiness: “One study reported that 80% of people who received flowers had a positive change to their mood that lasted for days.” So not only, are you making someone’s day by giving them flowers, you are making their whole week. And yes, the flowers will fade, but the memory will last forever. That doesn’t mean you have to wait to receive flowers to enjoy the benefits of improved mood. Another “study showed that when frequently exposed to flowers, people reported lower levels of depression and anxiety and lower stress levels, with higher enjoyment levels and a stronger sense of life satisfaction.” (Source FlowerFox.com)
  3. Flowers in the home reduce depression and anxiety: Want those good moods to stick around? A Harvard study revealed that flowers feed compassion and chase away anxiety and worries. “The research participants lived with fresh flowers for just a few days and reported increases in feelings of compassion and kindness for others. Overall, people simply felt less negative after being around flowers.” (Society of American Florists) Psychologists also noted that “flower moods” are contagious. Basically, the lucky people that have fresh flowers, spread the good vibes around. They are more compassionate and considerate to others.
  4. Flowers get the creative juices flowing: Green work spaces that have plants or flowers are known to reduce stress levels and in one study increased creative ideas by 30%. Another study, concluded that green spaces in the workplace resulted in more good ideas, innovative thinking and better problem-solving abilities.
  5. Flowers make the giver happy too: This comes as no surprise to me. Studies show that those that those that give flowers are happier. You send a bouquet to brighten someones day and you brighten your own! That’s what I call a win-win situation.

The next time you contemplate getting yourself or a loved one some blooms, just do it!