Growers' Picks

Flowers that growers love

Jim McCausland

Secrets of the flower farmers

Growers love dahlias because they reach peak bloom during the critical summer-to-fall period on the cut-flower harvest calendar. Home gardeners grow them because they're so easy: Just plant tubers in a sunny spot a few weeks after the last spring frost, stake the plants, and you'll have abundant blooms two months later.

Cactus-, decorative-, or pompom-form dahlias are the best types to start with. Look for varieties that have long, strong stems and lots of substance in leaves and flowers. For maximum staying power, cut only mature blooms in the morning or evening, then immerse cut stem ends in hot (160° to 180°) water for a minute or two before you put them in a vase.

In areas where the ground freezes, dig up dahlia tubers in fall and store them in boxes of peat moss or sawdust in a cool, dark place over winter.



Bells-of-Ireland (Moluccella laevis). Sunset Western Garden Book climate zones 1-24; H1, H2.

Corn cockle (Agrostemma githago). Zones 1-24.

Larkspur (Consolida ajacis Giant Imperial strain). Zones 1-24.

Soapwort (Saponaria vaccaria). Zones 1-11, 14-24.

Stock (Matthiola incana Double Giant Flowering strain). Zones 1-24.

Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus Mammoth series). All zones.


Amaranth (Amaranthus hypochondriacus 'Magic Fountains', 'Pigmy Torch'). Zones 1-24; H1, H2.

Gomphrena globosa 'Bicolor Rose', 'Strawberry Fields'. Zones 1-24; H1, H2.

Scabiosa atropurpurea. Zones 1-24; H1, H2.

Statice (Limonium sinuatum). All zones.

Zinnia elegans Benary's Giants. Zones 1-24; H1, H2.



Canterbury bell (Campanula medium). Zones 1-9, 14-24.

Delphinium elatum Magic Fountains strain. Zones A1-A3; 1-10, 14-24.

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea). Zones A2, A3; 1-24.

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus Amazon series). Zones A2, A3; 1-24.



Aster pringlei 'Monte Cassino'. Zones 1-24.

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'). Zones A2, A3; 1-24.

Coreopsis grandiflora'Cutting Gold', 'Early Sunrise'. Zones 2-24; H1, H2.

Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium 'Tetra White'). Zones 2-24. Note: Attracts beneficial insects.

Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'. Zones 1-24.

Summer phlox (P. paniculata). Zones 1-14, 18-21.

Veronica spicata. Zones A2, A3; 1-9, 14-21. Also V. longifolia. Zones 1-9, 14-21.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium Colorado mix). Zones A1-A3; 1-24.

Bulbs and tubers


Alstroemeria hybrids. Zones 5-9, 14-24; H1.

Dutch iris. Zones 2b-24.


Crocosmia hybrids like 'Lucifer'. Zones 4-24.

Dahlia. Zones 1-24.

Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa 'The Pearl'). Zones 7-9, 14-24; H1, H2.

Seed Sources

Johnny's Selected Seeds (207/861-3901).

Park Seed (800/845-3369).

Prairie Garden Seeds (306/386-2737) offers soapwort (Saponaria vaccaria 'Rosa Bella').