Top 5 Flower Picks for Your 2024 Beginner’s Garden

Publisher’s Note: We’re excited to introduce an 8-week series of gardening tips from professional grower Lauren Ketcham of Down the Road Farm in New Lexington, Ohio! In this first story, Lauren gives us beginning gardeners her top five favorite flowers that will bring you joy (and success)!

Are you thinking about starting a small cut flower garden in your backyard? Here are our top five flower picks! Each of these annual flowers have found a place in our heart because they are prolific, cut-and-come-again, heat-tolerant, workhorse bloomers with a long harvest window.


Monarch butterfly on colorful zinnias

Zinnias bloom July through frost and come in a beautiful range of sizes and colors. They are the very essence of summer. For a reliable harvest of large, densely petaled, dahlia-like blooms, it’s hard to beat the Benary’s Giant collection. Use mulch to prevent soil from splashing up on the plants, which transmits soil-borne disease, and scout for Japanese beetles with a jar of soapy water in the mornings. We use a “wiggle” test to determine when the flowers are ready to cut. When the stem is gently shaken, it should remain firm. If the flower wobbles around, it’s best to wait. If you are not regularly harvesting your zinnias, be sure to deadhead spent blooms often to help focus the plant’s energy into producing new flowers and not going to seed.


Array of yellow, orange and red celosia flowers.

Celosia comes in many shapes and colors, but they all love the heat of summer. It blooms from early July through October. We primarily grow cristata varieties (like Chief, with heads that look like fuzzy coral) and spicata varieties (like Purple Flamingo, with narrow flower spikes). Generally, we try to harvest celosia heads when they are fully formed and plumed celosia when the tufts have started to stretch.


Pink and white field of gomphrena flowers.

These clover-like flowers add unique interest to bouquets and arrangements, and bloom late June through October. Gomprhena, or globe amaranth, thrives in the heat of summer, and its good both fresh and dried. They are a cut-and-come-again flower. Harvesting promotes flower production, so the more you cut, the more they bloom! A single, well-tended patch can be harvested for several months.


Rudbeckia flowers grown at Down the Road Farm in New Lexington, Ohio.

Rubeckia provides of steady stream of flowers from late May until early September in shades ranging from the classic Black-Eyed Susan to blush to deep red and varieties with single and double petals. Cherokee Sunset, Sahara, Gloriosa Double, and Indian Summer are some of our favorites. It’s great for the home garden because it’s heat and drought-tolerant, and beloved by bees and butterflies!


Pink and light magenta cosmos flowers

Of all the annual flower plants you can grow in your cutting garden, few are more productive than cosmos. The biggest trick is to keep them harvested regularly and to deadhead any spent flowers before they set seed. Cosmos flower incredibly quickly! Even after a thorough harvest, our cosmos will be in full bloom again the next day. Properly cared for, cosmos can bloom from June through October.

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Lauren Ketcham, owner of Down the Road Farm in New Lexington, Ohio, holding a colorful spray of Ranunculus flowers

By Lauren Ketcham

Lauren Ketcham has been growing specialty cut flowers at Down the Road Farm in New Lexington since 2013. You can find her and her sustainably grown flowers each week at the Lancaster Farmers Market. Visit Down The Road Farm to shop for 2024 Flower Bouquet Subscriptions or to learn more about having local flowers at your wedding or special event.