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Planting winter bulbs for cut flowers

Planting winter bulbs for cut flowers

A blooming lovely bunch! 

For decades, Hadeco has had the pleasure of delighting home owners with an extensive range of glorious winter and summer bulbs. Another way of bringing the joy of gardening to our gardening fans is through growing cut flowers from bulbs, primarily Lilium, Polianthes, amaryllis (Hippeastrum), Ranunculus, Gladiolus and Ornithogalum. Each stem is prized for its unique characteristics and beauty that blooms from it.

As we head into the autumn months, getting prepared for planting out winter/spring-flowering bulbs is a must and with cut flowers as inspiration, you can grow a few bulbs for this delightful purpose. Of all the wonderful varieties in store, the top picks for cut flowers are Ranunculus, Ornithogalum, Anemone, Freesia, Narcissus (daffodils), Dutch irises, Sparaxis, Tritonia and Lilium

If you put thought into planning out your own cut flower garden, you will have blooms popping through from winter through till late spring. Whoever thought nothing blooms in winter, didn’t know what to plant!

Here are our top suggestions in order of flowering times, to ensure your cut flower garden will bring you more than a few blooming bouquets to brighten up your home. 

Cheerful daffodils

Most people’s thoughts immediately turn to daffodils when it comes to bright, cheerful flower displays. These nodding beauties are one of the most recognised bulbs worldwide. Cut the stem as close to the base of the leaves as possible, taking care not to cut the leaves off. Place them in lukewarm water with a floral preservative, and move them to a cool, dark location overnight. Don’t put daffs in with other flowers as they exude a gooey sap which will damage other cut flowers.

Flowering time: July - September

Remarkable ranunculus 

Ranunculus with their large, double flowers in an amazing array of bright colours are really easy to grow in full sun, preferably in an open situation, to ensure good airflow around the foliage. To ensure that your stems look their best, keep an eye out for powdery mildew growing on the leaves as the plant develops. If you do spot some, remove the affected leaves and thin out the lower leaves. Once the buds have appeared, only cut once they have started showing colour, but are still closed. When cutting, firstly wrap the stem with string before cutting just below, about 2 – 3cm from the bottom of the stem on a diagonal, which will make it easier for the flower to draw up water. You will want to use a sharp knife, as if it isn’t sharp enough, you may end up damaging the stem and decreasing their vase life. Don’t use scissors, as they tend to squash the stems, making it difficult for the flower to draw up water.

Flowering time: July - September

Alluring anemones

Low growing anemones pack a big punch despite their short stems. With flowers in shades of red, pink, white and purple, they’re excellent for the vase. Allow the flowers on the plant to open and close for a couple of days before cutting them as this will prolong their time in the vase (the more you pick, the more they bloom). Pick the blooms early in the morning when it’s still a bit cold and the flowers are closed, then immerse them in room-temperature water, away from direct sunlight until they start to open. 

Flowering time: July - September

Fragranced freesias 

If you’re going for a heady scent, freesias are your go-to, with a bouquet of colour and fragrance. The double or single flowers in a range of mixed or separate colours last well. Once you’ve cut them off the plant – only when the buds are starting to open and show colour - cut the stem ends at a 45 degree angle underwater to create a fresh surface to absorb water.  Make sure you remove all foliage below the water line. The vase life of yellow, white and blue freesias is longer compared to the pinks and reds, with most lasting no longer than three weeks if cut in the budding period. Give these delicate delights extra TLC by keeping it away from direct sunlight, overly cold or hot drafts, as well as away from fruit and veg as these produce ethylene which the flowers don’t like at all.

Flowering time: August - September

Dazzling Dutch iris

Dutch irises make a huge impact not only in the garden, but also in the vase. The flowers of these really easy-to-grow bulbs come in a range of colours, including pale blue and lemon, through deep purple, bronze, gold and rose, so you’re bound to find one that complements your décor scheme. Once you see flower buds peeking about halfway out of their green sheathes, and the bloom is slightly unfurled at the tip, it’s time to pick. Cut the stems close to the ground, making sure you don’t cut into the leaves.

Flowering time: September - October 

Splendid Tritonia 

With a lovely range of spring colours – think bright orange through salmon, creams and whites – Tritonia, also known as blazing star, make for a great display in the vase. Make sure they’re planted in well-drained soil in the sun or semi-shade. The cup-shaped flowers sit delicately on thin elegant stems and although they look rather dainty, they are really hardy. Cut their rod-shaped stems – which get to around 30 – 50cm in height – as low down as possible, once the small buds that are at the top of the stem have opened slightly. The rest will follow suit.  

Flowering time: September - October

Striking Sparaxis 

Sparaxis (harlequin flowers) have striking flowers that are often marked with a contrasting dark colour in their centre. Reaching to around 30cm in height, they do well in the garden in a full sun position, and are also excellent container plants. They will last 3 – 4 days in the vase. 

Flowering time: October

Long-lasting Ornithogalum 

Ornithogalum (chincherinchee) is a stunning, flowering plant with bright white flowers sporting prominent yellow centres. Their long-lasting flowers which will remain for up to six weeks in the vase make them ideally suitable for use as cut flowers. It is best to cut them when the lowest first buds in the inflorescence open.

Flowering time: October - November

Lovely Lilium

Another variety that has a sensationally sweet scent and large trumpet flowers in pure white is Lilium longiflorum (St. Joseph’s lily). When placed in a vase, its long stems can really fill up a room, with minimal effort. Nutrition being a key factor to beautiful blooms, it’s also important to bear in mind that when cutting your trumpet blooms for the vase, you should cut the stems 30cm above the ground in order to retain some leaves for photosynthesis to continue.

Flowering time: November - January

Care checklist for the best cut flowers

  • Clean your vase or vessel well before using it.
  • Bear in mind that most flowers last better when picked in the early morning or in the evening when temperatures are cooler and the plant isn’t stressed for water. 
  • Remove all leaves below the water line. Failing to do so will cause rot and bacteria to build up in the water. 
  • Plunge your freshly cut stems into water as soon as possible after picking.
  • For all your cut flowers, use the specially formulated Chrysal flower food, to give them the nourishment they need to remain in bloom. The food will also help to regulate the vase water, keeping it clean from contaminants. 
  • Remember, beautiful cut flowers are the result of proper nutrition. Feed your bulbs with Hadeco Bulb Food twice a week in the growing season. 
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