a bright summer bouquet of zinnias, dahlias, marigolds, basil, yarrow, gomphrena,

Summer Annuals For a Cut Flower Garden

by | Jan 22, 2024

Welcome friends to my Summer cut flower series! This series is devoted to home gardeners that want to grow a cut flower garden but need help narrowing down what flowers to grow in Summer. I’ll be focusing on cut flowers that I have experience growing myself here in Southern California, but also cut flowers that are more beginner-friendly and can be combined into gorgeous homegrown bouquets!

Now, it’s January at the moment, but that’s why I think it’s the perfect time for this cut flower series. Seed catalogues are starting to show up in our mailboxes and there’s still plenty of time to shop for seeds, plan your spaces, and not feel crunched for time! Today I’ll be focusing on annual flowers for Summer—essentially flowers that need to be re-planted each year because they don’t return on their own—but next week I’ll be sharing my favorite perennial flowers for cutting.

Some Notes on Annual Flowers

In general, annual flowers need to be planted each year (aka annually) in the garden because they die back at the end of the season and won’t return. While that may seem like more work, the annual flowers listed here are all incredible powerhouses that will keep your vases full and pollinators happy!

Another thing to consider, especially in mild climates,  is that some annual flowers can self seed in the garden and sprout up when they are ready again—so, you technically get free plants! For instance, strawflowers are great at self-seeding or “volunteering” in the garden. I’ve written before about self-seeding annual flowers so you can check out some of my favorites and be prepared to watch the magic happen in your own gardens.

Summer Annuals For a Cut Flower Garden

Alright friends, below is my personal list of annual flowers for Summer that I won’t go without! I’ve provided links to the flower seeds for your convenience, but I do want to let you know that those are my affiliate links so your purchase using those links will also support me and this blog. The links are split between two great companies—Botanical Interests and High Mowing. The reason for that is because neither company had ALL the specific flower varieties I wanted….they either had “out of stock” issues or weren’t quite the ones I wanted. But if you’d like to keep your order to one company, you can easily make your own substitutions. Remember, choose colors you like together because these are for your bouquets!

This blogpost isn’t so much about how to start seeds (you can find the basics of seed starting here), but more about getting our seeds purchases compiled and ready. Have fun!

vibrant zinnia cut flower garden

Zinnias are having a moment in the gardening world. Currently, there is a lot of zinnia breeding going on for very unique colors. Zinnias make an amazing cut flower because they will bloom the more you cut and also look great on their own or in an arrangement. I took this photo on a visit to Sonoma.


Zinnias are an amazing annual flower for Summer that have demonstrated amazing heat-tolerance in my garden! Additionally, zinnias are beloved by pollinators and have a pretty long vase-life compared to other summer blooms. Lastly, zinnias are a flower that you can sow seeds for very late and still have a bloom here in Southern California. I’ve sowed zinnias from Spring (indoors) to Summer (outdoors) and had cut flowers for months and months!


There’s something about cosmos that adds an airy or whimsical touch to homegrown bouquets! Again, this is a flower that you can actually wait until it is warm outside and direct sow if you’d like—-no fiddling with indoor seed setups. Although, I plan to start my cosmos seeds early indoors to get some earlier blooms and then will sow another batch about a month or two later for a continuous harvest. Cosmos are magical! Their leaves are feathery and light, and this is one flower that can tolerate poorer quality soils! In fact, too much nitrogen can result in bushy plants with less blooming.


Amaranth is an extremely heat-tolerant annual flower for Summer! If this name sounds familiar, it might be because there are certain varieties/types of amaranth that provide edible leaves and also a grain (like quinoa). Truthfully, I’ve never been much into eating amaranth, so I can’t vouch for edible varieties, but this is one flower that will always be in my garden! Amaranth adds a wonderful, textural quality to bouquets, but this year I’ve even found beauty in displaying amaranth on its own in a vase. Additionally, amaranth can tied into bunches and dried upside down for Fall or Winter arrangements of dried flowers. It doesn’t keep its color quite like some of my favorite everlasting flowers, but it definitely doesn’t fade completely.

Another thing to know before purchasing amaranth seeds is that it comes in a few different forms. For example, there are varieties of amaranth that drape and hang down naturally. There are varieties of amaranth that remain upright and tall. There are even amaranth flowers that are upright but wider and more bushy! Therefore, if you’re looking to grow amaranth in your cut flower garden this Summer, think about the growth habit that might compliment the rest of your flowers and vision. Personally, I prefer an upright amaranthus that is less bushy as a filler in bouquets.


If you’re looking for a resilient, easy to grow, colorful, and heat-loving annual flower for Summer, look no further than strawflower! Strawflowers also happen to be one of the best everlasting flowers (which means they don’t lose their color as they dry) so that you can enjoy them indoors for months after the Summer garden has died. Because strawflowers dry so well, they also have an incredibly long vase life.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t list sunflowers. They are truly one of the most iconic annual flowers for Summer, but also look gorgeous in a vase (hello van gogh)! But….yes, there’s a but….sunflowers aren’t the most generous flowers for cutting. Unlike a lot of the annuals listed here, the majority of sunflowers are kind of a “one time” thing. Meaning, they only grow one main stem and the flowers on that stem are all you get. One the other hand, when I cut zinnias for a bouquet for example, the plant sends out more shoots and buds and flowers. This is not the case for sunflowers. The best way to grow more sunflowers in a small space is to grow a multi-branching variety. Multi-branching sunflowers give you so many flowers on one plant and can be extremely prolific! Look for this terminology when buying seeds. For more information, I do have a sunflower grow guide you can check out as well.


A staple in most Summer gardens as a companion plant to tomatoes, marigolds also make amazing cut flowers. Grow miniature-flowering varieties (referring to the size of the flower, not the plant) if you’re looking for a more textural addition to bouquets. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a statement flower, check out varieties of marigolds with larger heads.

Last year, I used homegrown marigolds to create naturally dyed linen napkins (see that project here) and was astounded by their color. Marigolds are great for natural dyeing, cut flowers, and companion planting—a multi-use flower!

garden basil with purple foliage being visited by bee

This is an example of how gorgeous basil can be as a cut flower. Those flower spikes look so pretty in arrangements. Also, can you see the sweet bee hovering? Planting basil is also great for pollinators.


While not traditionally thought of for a cut flower garden, basil packs quite a punch! This summer-loving annual herb is super versatile. Of course we know that basil is edible, but the foliage is gorgeous as a filler to round out a homegrown bouquet. Furthermore, once basil blooms, the flower spikes are wonderful as a cut flower.

I like to grow varieties of basil with purple foliage for bouquets because I don’t love eating the purple varieties but truly enjoy their appearance! Did I mention that the bees will thank you for growing basil too?


Although there are annual and perennial types of scabiosa, I’m going to grow an annual variety because that’s what I’ve grown before. Great for pollinators too, scabiosa is a wonderful annual for a Summer cut flower garden. For me, scabiosa is intriguing because it can be used at various flowering stages to create different textures for your bouquets. For instance, the younger stage of scabiosa flowers have really interesting collars, the flowers of course are beautiful, and the seed pods on some varieties also make amazing cut flowers! If you plan on growing scabiosa for the decorative pods, be sure to check the seed packet and see that it makes nice pods. One of my favorite dried accents is a scabiosa pod, seriously!


Celosia may be the most unique looking flower on this list. Some varieties of celosia look like fuzzy brain coral to me! Also known as cockscomb, celosia is a wonderful annual flower for Summer gardens because it has a long vase life and can also be dried. When growing celosia, make sure to cut stems before it starts to develop seeds—or else you’ll have seed everywhere! From experience, I’ve learned that celosia is quite heat-tolerant too!


These cute little flowers are also great everlastings. Also known as “globe amaranth,” gomphrena feels a lot like strawflower petals–dry and straw-like. Their globular shape makes them an excellent filler flower for bouquets. Furthermore, gomphrena tolerates heat well (which is vital here in Southern California).

Final Notes & Garden Reminders

You might be wondering ‘when am I supposed to start these seeds?’ Well, if you are in Southern California, zone 10, it’s too early. If you stick around here, I’ll be sharing when I start seeds and my seed setup coming soon! For others, you’ll probably want to look up your last frost date (which I explain in this post) and count backwards according to the info on the seed packet.  Additionally, all the annual flowers on this Summer list grow generally fast compared to other flowers. They also are relatively beginner-friendly. Therefore, it’s most beneficial to wait and not start too early. As I said, some can even be direct sown as soon as the garden is warm enough.

Next week, to continue to Summer cut flower series, I’ll be sharing my favorite Summer perennials for a cut flower garden. Perennials are some of my favorite plants because they can be left in the ground and just pop back up each year! In fact, if you’re looking for some great edible perennials for your vegetable garden please check out artichokes, asparagus, and strawberries!


  1. George Britton

    Love your blog – great info on seeds. Gardening in North Santa Ana and looking forward to sharing photos of summer flowers.

    • FreckledCalifornian

      Santa Ana! We used to live there! Thanks for the kind words. Happy flower growing!


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Meet Randi

Urban gardening is my jam. I’m Randi, California girl who obsessively gardens to grow food and flowers around my urban home. Seasonal, simple living is what inspires me~ I hope it will inspire you too. Join me in crafting a life and home connected to the garden Read More>>>>

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