Plants for a Fall Cutting Garden

Welcome autumn with a bouquet of fall favorites. Make room for these easy-growing beauties.
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©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Dahlia (Dahlia hybrids)

Dahlias are the divas of the fall garden, bringing explosive color to autumn bouquets. For longest vase life, pick blooms when they’re three-quarters to fully open—but before any outer petals start to fade. Take water to the garden and plunge stems into it immediately after cutting. Research shows that professional floral preservative in the vase is the secret to long life. Packets are available from any florist. Average vase life: 5 to 11 days.

Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)

Count on Russian sage to bring an airy touch to arrangements, the perfect balance to chunky dahlia, mum or hydrangea blooms. Flowers open up the stem on this perennial. Snip stems when lower flowers are open and upper buds are plump. Or use stems where flowers have faded but purple bracts are present. Average vase life: 3 to 5 days.

Chinese Lantern (Physalis alkekengi)

Savor hues of the season with brightly colored Chinese lanterns. These plants are related to tomatoes and can’t stand too much autumn chill. Cut stems when the papery seed pod is brightly colored. Use stems immediately in fall displays, or hang them upside to dry and use later. Average vase life: 7 to 21 days.

Fall Asters (Aster or Symphyotrichum)

Plant a few clumps of asters to provide pretty filler for your fall bouquets—or use them solo for a lush, full vase. Flowers form along stems in small groupings. Cut stems when two to four flowers in a group are open. Average vase life: 5 to 7 days in plain water; up to 2 weeks in floral preservative.

Goldenrod (Solidago)

Add goldenrod to arrangements for a cheery pop of filler color. Use a wide mouth vase or Mason-type jar to counterbalance the strong horizontal flower form. Harvest stems when half of the blooms on the entire flower stalk are open. Average vase life: 7 to 10 days.

Garden Mum (Chrysanthemum hybrids)

Few flowers signal fall like pretty garden mums. Plant a variety of types in a rainbow of bold hues for easy-to-create bouquets. Cut daisy-type mums (shown) when flowers are fully open but before petals start to fade. The center disk should be tight when you harvest. Average vase life: 7 to 21 days.

Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris x clandonensis)

Slip a few stems of blue mist spirea into arrangements for a bold purple-blue hue with an airy personality. Clip entire branches of this woody shrub, or snip individual stems. Cut stems when buds are colored or when the lower whorl of flowers on a stem are open. Average vase life: 7-plus days.

Swamp Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)

You’ll have bouquets for sharing when you include swamp sunflower in your cutting garden. This perennial opens blossoms all autumn long. Pick stems as long as you want, but aim to harvest flowers just as they’re almost fully open—but before pollen grains appear in centers. Average vase life: 6 to 14 days—or more.

Giraldii Profusion Bears Violet Berries in Fall

Profusion has an upright, slender branches providing interest from bronze-green leaves spring. Summer brings pink flowers followed by long-lasting violet berries in the fall.

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’)

Clip a few blooms of beautiful oakleaf hydrangea for a spectacular floral show indoors. Harvest stems when half of the blooms on the entire flower head are open. Take water to the garden to submerge stems immediately after cutting. After bringing stems indoors, boil water and dip stems into it for 30 seconds. Return to room temperature water and arrange. Average vase life: 7 to 14 days.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Look for autumn colored sunflowers you can easily grow from seed, like ‘Shock-O-Lat’. Pollen-free sunflowers are best for bouquets—they don’t make a mess indoors with pollen dropping from blooms. Harvest when flowers are just newly fully opened. Average vase life: 7 to 14 days.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii)

Butterfly bush pumps out sweetly fragrant flowers until frost. Cut stems when half the blooms on a flower head are open. After harvest, cut the base of stems vertically 1 inch, plunge into 3-inch-deep boiling water for 30 seconds, then place into buckets with deep water for 8 hours. Average vase life: 5 to 8 days; light colored blooms (pink, white) last longer than dark purple ones.

Rudbeckia (Rudbeckia)

Continue to clip these bright-faced bloomers until frost. Cut individual blooms or sprays of stems, depending on your arrangement. Snip stems when blossoms are fully open, but before pollen appears in flower centers. Average vase life: 10 to 21 days.

Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’)

Fall bouquets come to life with the fuzzy seedheads of purple fountain grass. Snip seedheads at any stage, although older seedheads tend to shatter indoors and make a bit of a mess. Cut stems as long as you need them. Seedheads are eye-catching arching up through and above arrangements. Average vase life: Seedheads outlast any flower.