1 | Cutting Flowers

5 Sep 2020
by Francois

OVERVIEW

In this Cutting section you will learn the correct way to cut flowers like a pro, how to care for them post cutting and how to set yourself up for the following year’s growing.

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GOALS / OUTCOMES

  1. Understand the basic principles of cutting flowers
  2. Understand the importance of post cutting flower care

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” ― Georgia O’Keeffe

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LET’S DIVE RIGHT IN!

Over the last couple of months you have learned a lot about plants and how to care for them. You followed all the steps, kept a watchful eye over your plants and now, finally, you will be rewarded with the most gorgeous flowers! You may now officially consider yourself a master of gardening! And yet we still have a few more aspects to cover to ensure your plants keep producing the best flowers. After all, even masters can still learn a thing or two, right?

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Why

Firstly, why cut flowers? Other than wanting to have a gorgeous bunch of flowers in your home, you also want to extend the flowering time of your plants to their maximum. In the previous guide we spoke about the purpose of a seed, which is to grow and reproduce. This is of course where flowers come in; they ensure genetic diversity and then create seed for offspring. That is, the plant sends all its energy into producing flowers and then seeds. When we remove the flowers from the plants, we remove their way of ensuring their reproduction and in essence we force them to create more flowers. So by cutting flowers before they are spent (and go to seed), we can ensure that we will get a continuous supply of flowers. 

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When

Flowering stage – Knowing the correct cutting stage of each of your flowers will ensure that you get the longest possible vase life out of them. Cut too early and they might not open up any further in the vase, although some flowers will continue to open up completely. On the other hand, if you cut too late, you will only get a couple of days at most out of them before they start to drop their petals. A good rule of thumb is to cut flowers when they are about a third to halfway open. There are exceptions to this rule, but more on that later. 

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Time of day – During the day your plants (and flowers) lose a lot of water, especially when the weather is hot. Cutting in the heat of the day will result in your flowers drooping and they may not recover well or at all. Always cut your flowers when their hydration status is high, i.e. when they are receiving less sunlight and the weather is cool. This is usually early morning and early in the evening. 

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Where

When you are standing in front of your flowering plant, ready to snip away, you might find yourself thinking how far down the stem should I cut?  That is a good question and also one with a bit of a counter-intuitive answer. Your first thought might be to take your scissors down until you reach the first branch and then make the cut just above that. While you are correct in cutting just above a branch (or node), most often you will do well to cut much deeper than the first node. In general, tall branching plants respond very well to having a tall branch removed from lower down on the plant. The goal is to stimulate the plant to produce another side shoot from just below where you have made the cut and when it does this from lower down on the plant, you will end up with another tall branch including a couple of side branches (and flowers!) on it. Now, using only sharp cutting shears, make your cut at a 45 degree angle. This will ensure that there is more stem surface for your flower to take up water and nutrients. 

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How often

Thinking back to the productivity categories of plants, it will make sense that while  regular deep cutting does not suit single producers, medium and heavy producers will respond well to often and deep cutting. Just be sure to not cut all the branches at once, but rather stagger your cutting while giving the plant time to grow back.

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Another reason to not leave flowers on the plants to get spent is that old / damaged flowers are much more prone to attack by insects and diseases, which can spread to the rest of the plant and possibly neighboring plants. This is why we always remove spent flowers – this process is called deadheading.

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GOAL 1 | KEY TAKEAWAYS
* Keep flowers harvested before they go to seed to ensure your plant keeps producing more flowers
* Different flowers have different optimal cutting stages. Cutting at the correct stage means they will have the longest possible vase life
* Always cut in the cool of the day, usually early morning or early evening
* Cutting just above an existing node will ensure you get the longest stem length. New branches will emerge just below where you made the cut.
* How often and how deep you cut is guided by the productivity category of each plant. Medium and heavy producers often respond well to regular and deep cutting.
* Removing spent flowers is called deadheading. Keeping on top of this task will mean more flowers for longer and healthy, happy plants.

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Now that you know the basics of cutting flowers, let’s have a look at how best to care for them after they have been cut, over at the Post Cutting Care entry.

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