How to Harvest Cut Zinnias: The Step-by-step Guide for Bouquets or Seeds

Homegrown cut flowers are a beautiful way to make your home feel more alive. The problem? Most people harvest incorrectly and don’t enjoy bouquets as long as they could.

Don’t worry; there are just a few things to keep in mind when you’re harvesting zinnia flowers. Follow these steps and you’ll enjoy perfect blooms.

illustration of woman holding cut flowers

🌻 Key takeaways:

  • Harvest after the morning dew has dried, but before the heat of the day
  • Cut long flower stems, deep into the plant, at a 45-degree angle
  • Let cutting flowers sit in a bucket of cool water for a few hours before arranging
  • Treat water with a floral preservative for the longest vase life

Helpful tools:

⏰ When to Harvest

Harvesting zinnia blooms is not difficult (just cut them!), but it does require some knowledge of the optimal bloom stage. In general, you want to harvest flowers when they are in the early stages of blooming. If you see the tiny yellow flowers in the center of the flower heads, you’ve missed the ideal harvest window.

Flowers gathered prematurely or past their prime will often have a shorter vase life and may even cause the entire stem to wilt.

It is best to gather flowers during the early morning or evening hours when it is cooler, and the wind has died down.

Timing your harvest right will ensure that the flowers look their best and last the longest.

Of course, if you’re harvesting for zinnia seeds, there will be a whole new set of rules. We’ll go over harvesting flowers first, then seeds.

Instructions

Step one: Gather your tools

Bring your shears and bucket with you to the garden. It’s important to get the flower stem in water immediately.

step two: Select the strongest stems

Wiggle the stems and cut the strongest. If they are still very floppy, they won’t be upright in the vase.

Step three: Make low cuts

illustration showing where to make cuts when harvesting flowers

Cut low! You may be tempted to make shallow cuts, thinking that this will result in more flowers later in the season. Don’t do it! The deeper, the better, as this will encourage the plant to produce longer stems in the future.

Step four: cut at a 45-degree angle

illustration showing 45 degree cut at base of flower stem

Make sure to trim the stem at an angle of 45 degrees. This will create a fresh surface for the flower to drink water from and help it last longer.

Step five: place in a bucket in the shade

woman carrying white bucket of garden flowers

Once you have cut the flowers, it’s essential to bring the zinnia flowers inside or put them on a cool shady porch. After being harvested, any amount of time in the sun will cause their quality to decline very quickly.

Harvesting Tips

Cleanliness is key! One of the most important aspects of harvesting flowers is keeping everything clean. Make sure to disinfect your tools and work area before you start. This will help keep your flowers looking beautiful for as long as possible.

  • Cutting the stems as long as possible is important. Not only will your flowers look better in arrangements, but the plant will produce longer stems in the future.
  • Remove foliage, but do not leave the foliage in the garden or on the path. Debris can harbor pests and diseases, so keeping it to a minimum is essential for ensuring healthy plants.
  • Use a sharp knife to cut the stem at a 45-degree angle below the flower’s roots. This will ensure that the flowers will live longer once they are harvested.

Harvesting for seeds

To harvest zinnia seeds, you’ll need to wait longer.

Remember: open-pollinated aka heirloom zinnia varieties such as Benary’s Giant and Queen Lime Orange will produce seeds that bloom like the original flower. Hybrid varieties will revert back to one of their parent varieties, and you’ll be disappointed with the results.

If you want your seeds to be exactly like the flowers you plants, you’ll need to separate varieties to avoid cross-pollination. But in reality, a little mixing of varieties is no big deal.

It’s time to collect seeds when flower heads are brown and fade during late summer and autumn.

How to harvest zinnia seeds:

Collecting zinnia seeds is much like harvesting the flowers. You’ll need a sharp pair of shears to cut the flower heads from the plant.

Once you’ve cut the flower head, shake it gently over a paper bag. The long, skinny seeds will come right out.

Next, you’ll need to finish drying out the seeds. Spread them out on a paper towel and set them in a warm dry place.

When the seeds are dry, you can store them in a cool, dry place. Be sure to label your seed heads so you know which variety they came from. We like to save seeds in a simple paper envelope.

And that’s it! You’ve now successfully harvested zinnia seeds. Not so hard, right?

BUCKET CARE

Buckets play a critical role in the harvesting and transport of cut flowers. To maintain the quality of the flowers, it is essential to clean buckets regularly. This will help prevent bacteria and fungus from growing and affecting the flowers.

It’s easy enough to clean buckets- all you need are some simple tools and a lot of elbow grease. Start by scrubbing the inside and outside of the bucket with hot, soapy water. Then, use a stiff brush to dislodge any stuck-on dirt or grime. Finally, rinse the bucket thoroughly and let it dry in the sun.

Storage and refrigeration

Place flowers in a cool and dark spot to hydrate for 8 hours before arranging. This will allow for any dirt or bacteria to dislodge. We like to harvest in the early evening and leave the blooms on the porch overnight in a bucket of clean water.

If you’re hoping to store your flowers longer-term, keeping them in the fridge will help.

Transporting them a long distance? Use a cooler. They’ll stay fresh looking for several hours.

Arranging the bouquet

  1. Remove all foliage that will be underwater. This is so important for making your arrangement last longer.
  2. Give the stems a fresh cut at an angle.
  3. Prepare your vase water with a floral preservative.
  4. If you won’t be enjoying your flowers for a while, pop them in the fridge.

For longer life after harvesting

Most flowers will last longer if you:

  • Store them in a cool, location away from direct sunlight
  • Change the water every day (or even more if it looks cloudy)
  • Use a commercial flower extender in the vase water.
  • Avoid putting cut flowers in water that is too hot or cold as this can damage them.
  • Store flowers in a cooler if you’re not displaying them within the next day or so
  • Spraying cut flowers with water replicates a humid environment. Plus, some flowers can actually absorb water through their leaves and petals, such as hydrangea.
  • Every couple of days, recut your stems as well.

MAKE YOUR OWN FLORAL PRESERVATIVE

Add the following per quart of warm water:

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or corn syrup
  • Tiny splash of bleach (less than a teaspoon)

The water needs to be warm, so the sugar dissolves, but sure you let it cool to room temperature before adding the flowers. This will dramatically extend vase life and is definitely worth the time.

MORE ON GROWING FLOWERS:

Now that you know how to harvest your cut flowers properly, you can enjoy their beauty for weeks on end. Be sure to follow our simple guide and change the water every day. By doing this, you will keep your zinnias flowers looking beautiful and vibrant.

How to Harvest Cut Zinnias: The Step-by-step Guide for Bouquets or Seeds

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