Growbag Blog

10 of our favourite plants for cutting

Some flowers are just horrible in a vase, aren’t they! For a start off, some smell AWFUL – flowering currant (Ribes) smells of cat’s pee, crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis) smell of foxes, and sea hollies (Eryngium) smell of …..poo!  

But there are some blooms that are perfect for a vase indoors and we 3Growbags have our own cutting-garden favourites. Lots of them are a cinch to grow too… 


Yes, it’s not just the niff you have to consider, when looking for flowers to bring indoors. Some have hopelessly short stems, unless you’re putting them in an inkwell.  Some are just too thin and droopy once cut (most tobacco plants (Nicotiana) and most hellebores, anemones etc.), or are not good mixers: (daffodils (Narcissi) and euphorbias need their own vase because their sap poisons the water for their vase-mates.

Nicotiana – just lovely in a garden, but pretty hopeless indoors

Enough of the no-no’s!  There ARE some great candidates for cutting, and here are my choices:

  1. Zinnias. These are flowers with a lot of street swagger, and they last really well in a vase. Flower farmers love them because they are easy to grow from seed, have brilliant colours and look amazing in the house. Like Cosmos, if you keep cutting them, they will keep producing more flowers. They are even great for pollinators. No-brainer.
Zinnias make the most wonderful vase-inhabitants, and the more you pick, the more the flowers come!

2. Roses. These are the archetypal flowers to bring indoors – fragrant (hopefully), colourful, long-lasting – they represent the Judi Dench of the floristry world. The Hybrid Teas last the longest, though to my mind they don’t always have the prettiest shapes – I love a big, fat cabbage rose, myself, loaded with petals and scent. If they start to droop, try re-cutting the stems and changing the water; you can even plunge the whole lot (flowers, leaves, stems) in a bath of cold water for 30 minutes to revive them – rather them than me, TBH.

Rosa ‘The Pilgrim’ – a gorgeous rose for a vase indoors

3. Marigolds. By marigolds, I mean Calendulas, not Tagetes (French or African marigolds) which smell awful, I think. Calendulas have edible petals – they look lovely in a salad! – and will last a good week inside. Pick them just as the flower is beginning to open. They do tend to have rather short stems, so cut the stem right at base, and take off all the foliage which turns very miserable-looking before the flower fades.

Calendulas will make a gloriously bright display indoors

4. Ammi. This lovely annual is smashing for creating a contrast of form in a vase of flowers, with its flat white umbels of tiny blooms very reminiscent of cow parsley. The stems are long and slender, and complement the prettiness. It should last a good week indoors, and there is a variety called ‘Graceland’ which will apparently last even longer.

Ammi major – the flat airy heads contrast superbly with more solid blooms


Hmmm, there are cut flowers, and then there are cut flowers ..I know that whenever I pop in for a coffee with Louise there will be a refined little vase on the kitchen table with some dainty, ephemeral sprigs of an unusual flower, leaf or seedhead that has caught her eye on her morning perambulation and earned some closer inspection. This is at the plantswoman end of the cut-flower spectrum, a million miles from the primary-coloured, plastic wrapped, flown-in-from-Africa other end, found mostly on garage forecourts.

But Elaine is right there is a middle ground of flowers that are easily grown in our gardens which pack enough punch and stamina to brighten a room. Life is too short to bother with all those ice-baths and water-changing though – here are three absolute stalwarts that should last a good couple of weeks with no pampering or motivational talks.

5. Alstroemeria Avoiding the ghastly colour clash by the name of ‘Indian Summer’ that Caroline grows and go for some of the subtler coloured ones like Sarah Raven’s ‘Peaches and Cream’. Pull the stems like you would with rhubarb rather than cutting them and you could easily get three weeks vase life from them. No wonder you see them so often in supermarket bunches.

Why spend your money buying Alstromeria when for a one-off investment you can have free ones for the rest of your life

6. Proteas Risking the accusations from my sisters of weird, elitist proclivities for growing them in the first place, the South African proteacae family have an inbuilt resilience to environmental extremes that make them eye catching and extremely long-lasting cut flowers. You really only need one flower surrounded by some tough foliage to make an arrangement with architectural presence.

King protea
You only need one of these beauties to make a wonderful display with other wiry foliage like heather. They actually just dry out over time rather than rot so you can keep them Miss Haversham-like for years.

7. Chrysanthemums Another flower family you can’t beat for longevity, and before the sisterhood starting muttering that they need glasshouse protection I grow many hardy cultivars outside that happily flower right through November and would give you cut flower material with that unique carbolic scent almost until Christmas.

Chrysanthemum Empress of China
The Empress of China, despite her aristocratic ancestry, living quite happily in a sheltered bed under the kitchen window – no glass house needed.

Just a word of warning about scent – it can be a case of one man’s meat is another man’s poison. I once put a modest sprig of Christmas box on the bedside table of our guest room when Caroline visited – by the morning it had been dumped in the corridor as ‘it was making me feel sick ’ ….


8. Sweet peas. Laura’s making me sound unreasonable as usual. I simply have a delicate snout. It’s why, as soon as we started discussing this post, I ‘bag-sied’ sweet peas. Well, wouldn’t you? Cheap to sow or buy; easy to grow; great colours, long-lasting and…a truly fabulous scent. Added to which, rather than labelling you as a bit odd (Laura – proteas) or a bit twee (Elaine – marigolds), sweet peas ooze timeless style.

Sweet peas ‘Top to Toe’
With scent and colours like these, sweet peas are surely the ‘gold standard’ cut flower

9. Cosmos. While we’re on the subject of annuals, ie plants that grow from a seed, flower and die all in one summer never to return (a private workshop here for my people, OK?), Cosmos is another great cut-flower contender. They’re also very easy to grow from seed and now come in some great colours – ‘dazzler’ (deep pink) and ‘sulphureus’ (yellow and orange) to name but two. However, if you’re trying to maintain that timeless style I was talking about, opt for the white variety ‘Purity’, as in our feature pic this week. You’ll practically be ‘old money’ if you combine them with sweet peas.

10. Alchemilla mollis. Oh dear, I’m going to let my campaign for your social elevation slide a little here but I must speak the truth. I know it’s considered the bane of many a posh garden, but it makes a fabulous foil for your cut flowers. This tough perennial, (properly tough, as in indestructible and pops up everywhere) produces fresh green fluffiness for weeks on end. It sets off nearly every other cut flower to perfection and scoops ‘best supporting actor’ with effortless ease.

It’s not classy, so grow it round the back of the bike shed but be warned, like that fun but uncontrollable friend, it will burst out and reveal your true horticultural status, given five minutes and a gravelly crevice.

Fresh lime green ‘fluffiness’ of Alchemilla mollis is a fabulous foil for other flowers in your vase.

You are probably all screaming at us by now “What about dahlias?!” “Can’t believe you didn’t mention snapdragons!” “Cornflowers are gorgeous in a vase!” Have you got favourites that you love to cut for decoration indoors? We’d love to hear about them.

NB. By the way, if you are cutting flowers for a vase, do click here for some great little tips for how to get the best out of them.

More NB. If your pots of tulips are giving you joy at the moment, do see Laura’s latest video on how to keep them going and boost them for next year.

Here is an early flowering clematis with large creamy white flowers and conspicuous pale yellow stamens – no wonder it’s one of Louise’s Great Plants of the Month! Click on the photo to find out more about it:

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By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

7 replies on “10 of our favourite plants for cutting”

Breakfast and 3Growbags telling me about the best cut flowers in such a lovely way that I feel much more inspired to get out and pot up those straggly seedlings I seem to have grown! Many thanks and long love any Allchemilla mollis I can grab to fill gaps!!

Thank you so much for writing in bright and early with your lovely message! Yes, we all know that Caroline has actually nailed it with her suggestion of Alchemilla – such a pest in the garden sometimes, and such a beauty in a vase! Happy gardening, all the best, E,L and C.

Your lovely email brightens my Saturday mornings, thank you. Alchemilla Mollis will always have a place in my garden – anything that survives and thrives in this windy corner of the Pennines is a must. Also, love the clematis, it’s gorgeous!

Hi Corin, it sounds like Alchemilla is getting all the love so far this morning! Glad you enjoy our musings, and I agree about Louise’s clematis – it’s not one I know or grow ….. yet. But having read her piece, this might only be a matter of time 😊. All the best, Elaine (and the other two)

Hi Janet, Caroline here and Im so pleased you’ve sharing my flag-waving for Alchemilla mollis. I also love the way raindrops collect on its sturdy and slightly architectural foliage but I daren’t reveal the true depth of my admiration for this plant when in the company of my slightly snooty sisters! Im guessing your cammassias are blue – the white ones take a little longer to flower I think? Thank you so much for taking the time to comment – have a lovely weekend!

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