When my husband and I built and installed our first raised beds, my thought was to build them to grow edibles—not about making raised flower beds. However, I did plant flowers around the edges for ornamental reasons. But then I realized how much the pollinators love the blooms (and how much that benefits the herbs and veggies) and THEN I realized that since the flowers were in a raised bed where I harvested edibles, I could harvest some blooms, as well.
Rather than sacrificing flowers in my ornamental gardens for a vase, it’s nice to have flowers to pick that were grown specifically with summer bouquets in mind, which is why I’ve allowed fun annuals, like cosmos and zinnias and sunflowers to take over one whole raised bed.
I’ve gathered a few tips for making raised flower beds
There is no one superior raised bed design that is specifically suited for flowers. I decided to use one of the first raised beds that were built for edibles, which are very basic rectangular structures.
Materials and soil
I like to use untreated wood for all my raised beds. I usually fill the new garden with a mix of the best-quality soil I can find from a local supplier (I used triple mix for mine) and top-dress it with organic compost.
A simple raised bed design
The design of this particular raised bed is pretty simple: Cut two boards that are 1” x 5.25” x 8 feet in half for the ends and use four 1” x 5.25” x 8-foot boards for the two longer sides, stacking them two high. Use outdoor screws to attach the boards to 4×4 posts that will anchor the raised beds in the ground. You may also want to add a couple of stakes to the sides if you live in a cold climate as the boards can heave over time.
Some flower seeds, such as sunflowers, you can sow as soon as the ground thaws (check your seed packet for instructions). I usually start a few types of flowers indoors to give them a head start.
When planting, be sure to stake long-stemmed beauties as early as possible so that flowers don’t flop in a strong wind or from the weight of their blooms.
I planted a couple of bags of gladiolus bulbs last year and the squirrels ate or dug up every last one. This year, I plan to place a simple cover made of 1x2s and screen overtop of my beds until the bulbs really take root.
Feed your flowers
Flowers need food, so use an organic fertilizer (especially if you’re growing the flowers around food) regularly to help them along.
My favourite no-fail annuals include zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers. This year, I’ve added craspedia to my list (they’re the yellow lovelies that are in the folder below). And while daylilies can really take over a space, I have a few patches that I snip from for bouquets. Dahlias are also gorgeous in arrangements, though some are way too heavy for vases!
Gathering blooms for bouquets
When cutting blooms for vases, snip them first thing in the morning and place them immediately in a bucket of cool water. Strip away the bottom leaves as they’ll rot underwater in a vase and re-snip the ends underwater before placing in a vase.
Lawnrick Lewis says
I have a question ,could a wheelbarrow be classified as a raised garden?
I have been using my old Jackson wheelbarrow as well as two Gorilla carts just to create a simple flower scene .
I chose the gorrilla more so because of its heavy load ability (1200lb) and the poly material that its not prawn to rust and will not in any way affect the growth of the plants or the nutrients in the soil .
also the fact that am planting annual flowers and not perenial it would reduce the amount of work having to use another wheelbarrow and a shovel to dispose then into the compost pit once their season is over and instead I’ll just pull it to make my work easier .
What is your opinion on using this as a flower bed .would you recommend it ?.
Tara Nolan says
I think a wheelbarrow can absolutely be classified as a raided garden! The only thing that could affect your plants is lack of drainage if you get an especially heavy rain, but if you keep an eye on it, I think it should be just fine! My mom used to plant lovely annuals in an old wheelbarrow. 🙂
Robert Fellone says
An 8’x4′ raised bed is 32 sq ft.
At 5 per sq ft, 160 bulbs can be planted in this space.
However, this will be a cutting garden; the bulbs will be discarded to make way for summer vegetables.
Can I plant the bulbs more densely in order to get more cut flowers?
Tara Nolan says
Hi Robert, I haven’t tried this before, but if the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands is any indication, you can plant bulbs pretty close together. I suppose you could consider it as an experiment and see if the flowers are as abundant when the bulbs are planted closer together. I’d be interested in hearing how it goes!
I would like to plant flowers in a tall raised be garden because I have trouble bending down. Does my flower box floor need drainage holes? Do you think zinnias, snapdragons, ornamental carrot and scabioia would be good seeds to plant? What type of stakes should I use to tie them up too? Thank you. Any ideas on where to find a raised garden bed that is off the ground and taller than most?
Tara Nolan says
Hi Nannette, I know Gardener’s Supply Company has different heights of raised beds (and lovely, ornamental stakes). Drainage depends on where you are sitting it. Usually they are bottomless. Your flower choices sound lovely.
JoAnn M says
First time planting flowers in raised bed. Bought a little cedar 3 tiered. What do you suggest in each tier? Thanks for your help.
Three Tier Planter made from solid cedar the boxes are 5.25 inches high x 6.5 inches wide and 18 inches long. Planter stands 24 inches tall and 19 inches front to back at base and 19.5 wide.
Tara Nolan says
I would look for plants that cascade, like nasturtiums or sweet alyssum. For the other tiers, maybe dwarf zinnias and cosmos!
Polly McKee says
This is my first time planting flowers in a raised bed! Can you tell me what flowers would be best – it is 3×6. I would like to plant some annuals for immediate blooms (what ones would you recommend?) Also, I recently bought some freesia bulbs to plant? I think they are tall so I was wondering what other ones to use? I read you recommended sunflowers but don’t they get real high and would be too big for my box? I also thought about zinnias for added color? Thanks very much! I’m excited for spring flowers!!!
Tara Nolan says
Hi Polly, Yes, I would definitely recommend paying close attention to the direction of the sun, so taller plants don’t shade out other areas of your raised bed. I LOVE zinnias. There are all sorts of different varieties of sunflowers, so you could look for shorter ones that don’t grow a few feet tall (check out this article). I also love nasturtiums and cosmos. I don’t have any experience growing freesia, so I would recommend reading the bulb packet for planting instructions. If you’re looking to plant perennials, you could maybe plant some echinacea, black eyed Susans, lavender, coreopsis (there are some fun varieties), etc.