Add Flower and Mix
Planting the ingredients of the perfect bouquet

If you want to see a riot of beauty and color in your garden later, you need to start planning now, when seeds and flats begin creeping into the store.

In the Triangle, early spring is the time to think about what you want to plant.

If you’re an aspiring flower-arranger, it is especially important to know which annuals make the cut.

The following information from the National Gardening Association can help you choose the best flowers for a gorgeous centerpiece:


Easily grown and transplanted, asters last seven to 14 days in a vase.

Since they don’t bloom in six-pack flats for spring bedding plant sales, marigolds and petunias usually eclipse them in popularity.

Annual asters, also called China asters, flower in a wide variety of colors, sporting blooms 1 to 4 inches in diameter.

Single-flowered types, such as single Margeurite or single California giant, resemble colorful daisies.

Others look like pompons or peonies.

One plant of asters makes enough flowers for a bouquet.

They grow from late July until frost, even in light shade and poor soil.

Change asters’ location year to year to prevent aster yellows, a disease that stunts plants and turns the flowers a sickly chartreuse color.

Cut them when the flowers are half open, then re-cut the stems under water when you bring them inside.


Good looking fresh or dried, celosia has a vase life of seven to 10 days.

Look for celosias that grow 20 to 40 inches tall to add dramatic vertical accents in arrangements.

Cockscomb types, such as chief mix, boast 6-inch flower heads in reds and golds.

Century mix consists of red, yellow, rose and cream colors of feathery plumes.

Wheat celosia has long, narrow leaves and finger-length, stalk-like flower spikes in pink and white with red foliage.

Celosia flowers midsummer to frost.

Cut these flowers when a quarter of the florets at the base are open. Dip stems into boiling water to extend the vase life.


In the vase, these will last five or six days.

Eight weeks after seeding, cosmos start a lacy flowering that lasts until frost.

Sun-loving, cosmos grow in poor soil and can tolerate hot, humid weather.

An added benefit: butterflies love the 2-1/2-inch yellow, orange and scarlet blooms of the bright lights mix.

Versailles and sensation series send out 3-inch single blooms, 4 to 6 inches wide, in rose, crimson, pink and white.

The seashells mix results in flowers with tubular petals that have fluted edges.

To stretch the vase life, cut newly opened flowers, remove the leaves and plunge the stems into lukewarm water several hours before arranging in a vase filled with cool water.


Also known as baby’s breath, these starry blossoms make great fillers for fresh and dried arrangements.

Once cut, they last five to eight days.

Among white-flowered types, snow fountain is the most upright, has the strongest stems and produces the most flowers.

Red cloud creates the same effect but in red and pink.

Baby’s breath rarely grows more than 2 feet high.

Gypsophilia blooms late spring to early fall, except during extreme heat.

Cut when one-third of the flowers on the stem have opened.


This old flower has made a comeback, and producers have developed new strains.

Lavatera has a vase life of five to eight days and gives gardeners a lot of bang for the buck.

Also called mallow, many of the blossoms look like glossy hibiscus or hollyhocks. The flowers span 3 to 4 inches.

Suited to all areas, lavatera blooms mid July until frost in moist, fertile soil.

Cut when several flowers have opened.


Known as gloriosa daisy, coneflower and black-eyed Susan, this North American native blooms nonstop, even in partial shade, from midsummer until frost.

In an arrangement, the flowers last a week or two.

Most rudbeckias reach 24 to 42 inches high.

These tough plants technically are considered biennials or short-lived perennials but are treated as annuals.

Harvest flowers that have tight centers. Then, strip the leaves and place the stem in cool water spiked with sugar before arranging.


Also called mourning bride and pincushion flower, these dense, mounded blossoms span the color spectrum from blue and lavender to pink and white.

Their vase life is five to seven days.

The fragrant, 3-inch flowers also attract butterflies.

The small, lavender-blue pincushions of starflower ripen into coral-bronze seedheads, perfect for drying.

Scabiosas grow 24 to 48 inches tall.

In moist, well-drained, fertile soil, they will bloom summer to frost.

Cut after most of the florets have opened, strip the lower leaves, split the stems and condition in cold water before using as a filler or as a round accent in an arrangement.


These brilliant spires last up to two weeks in the vase.

They come in every shade but blue but make for an especially dramatic landscape in monochromatic designs.

The stems are 18 to 36 inches long, so they can make nice vertical accents in annual arrangements.
Snaps prefer partial shade in hot areas and fertile soil.

Stretching layers of 4-by-4-inch mesh between corner posts over growing plants helps the stems grow straight.

The flowers last from late spring to frost.

When you’re ready to gather the snapdragons, take a pail of water with you into the garden. Cut when the lower flowers are open and submerge them in the water, up to the lowest row of flowers. When you bring the flowers inside, recut the stems under water.


Good fillers for fresh and dried displays, statice lasts about 14 days.

Given rich, well-drained soil, these flowers result in crisp sprays of rainbow colors.

Statice stunts very easily in its flat, so purchase the plants from a smaller nursery that knows they must be transplanted before buds appear.

Most types grow between 24 and 30 inches tall.

Russian statice forms 18-inch-tall pink pokers perfect for nosegays.

Statice blooms all summer until frost.

Harvest during dry weather when most florets show color.

You can store statice in water and refrigerate several weeks.


Sunflowers are tough and last up to a week in the vase.

Most will top 5 feet unless you plant them closely together in beds or in whiskey barrels to control the height.

There are new, pollenless types that are single-stemmed and thus cleaner to display as well as longer lasting in arrangements.

However, you get more flowers per plant from a branching version, such as valentine or autumn beauty.

In well-drained soil, sunflowers bloom all summer.

Cut newly opened flowers, and scald stem ends in boiling water.