Growing your own wedding flowers is a great idea, especially when you consider brides spend on average, hundreds of dollars on wedding flowers. Whether you're planning your own event or helping a loved one, you'll save a bundle on floral fees by crafting a plan to grow your own wedding flowers. The cash investment is minimal. Actual cost accrues in time spent planning, planting, and tending, but even those hours aren't draining because they're spread over time.
Planning Comes First
The most vital aspect when you grow your own wedding flowers is planning. You must start the process early -- one to three years, depending on the type of flowers you want, prior to the actual event. This much time is necessary for flowering shrubs, such as hydrangeas and roses, or perennials, such as daisy or purple coneflower, to mature and have enough blooms to fuel fresh bouquets.
Annual flowers: Zinnias, sunflowers, snapdragons, and others can be coaxed into full-flowered glory in the course of one growing season. When growing annual flowers for your wedding, you'll want to make sure you get your dates right. Check the seed packets to get an idea of how long it takes to get a plant into full bloom; that will help you determine if you'll be harvesting a particular flower in time for the big day. Timing is important; if you live in Maine, for example, zinnias simply won't be in bloom for a mid-May wedding unless you grow them in a greenhouse.
Perennial Flowers: Peonies, asters, yarrow, lilies, and others bloom at specific times during the year. So first off, be realistic about when the perennials you want typically bloom in your area. Most perennials take a couple of years to get established, so plant them two to three years before the wedding date -- or else plan on planting extra plants to give you a large number of flowers the first year.
Shrubs: Hydrangeas, forsythias, lilacs, flowering quince, and dogwoods also have prescribed bloom times. And like perennials, they can take their time getting established, so it's best to add shrubs to the landscape several years prior to the wedding (or to purchase extra-large plants). Add compost to soil at planting time and consistently fertilize plants.
Don't hesitate to ask for help. Raising all the blossoms yourself can feel overwhelming, but you might be able to grow your own wedding flowers with the help of family and friends who already garden. Often individuals will want to contribute to your wedding, and growing a bed of zinnias or asters is an easy way to make them part of the celebration.
If you know what flowers you want for your wedding, and you've determined they'll grow in your area and you can get them to bloom in the proper time frame, you're ready for the get-your-hands-dirty phase. Figure out how many of each flower you'll want, and use that as a guide to how many of each plant you need -- and how much planting space you're going to need.
Whether you're starting a new flowerbed from scratch or incorporating your favorite flowers into an existing planting area, be sure to work plenty of compost into planting beds and holes. Compost will help give your flowers a jump start. If you're preparing a new planting area, be sure it's weed-free prior to adding wedding bloomers. If seeds need warm soil to germinate and you're planting in early spring, cover the bed with black plastic for a week or two before planting.
It's vital to provide adequate water when you grow your own wedding flowers. If plants experience drought stress, that can delay bloom time. When moisture isn't sufficient, plants might abort or fail to form flower buds. Conversely, too much water can also lead to floral problems, such as rotted buds or mushy, fungus-covered petals.
As shrubs establish during their first growing season, they need 1 inch of water per week -- either through rainfall or irrigation. That amount of water soaks soil 4-6 inches deep.
As you grow your own wedding flowers for a summer or fall ceremony, make sure plants receive consistent irrigation in spring or, for annuals, during the early growth stages.
Plan for disaster. When you grow your own wedding flowers, it's no fun considering what will happen if rabbits or deer devour your blooms, but you'll feel better if you plan for the worst. That means overplanting the key components of your floral show. Fill in any empty spaces with duplicates of annuals. For perennials and shrubs, plant extra from the start -- or get family members to tuck some of your wedding plants into their yard.
Beat too-soon blooms. An early-season warm spell can trigger flowering too far ahead of your big day. If annuals start to bloom early, simply remove buds. Just don't do this right before the wedding because it will take time for more buds to form.
Count on one stem. With some flowers (such as peonies), you can coax the plant to form fewer, larger blooms by removing side shoots that form. This is important with a plant such as sweet pea. Use this technique on any plant for which you're aiming to get a few large blossoms with extra-long stems.
Coddle with covers. If nature serves up an expected chill that could damage plants, cover them with a makeshift greenhouse made of garden frost blankets or plastic sheeting. Early-spring plantings sown for a June wedding will be most vulnerable to cold snaps. Have materials on hand to build a shelter if you plant before your region's last average frost date.
Feed for flowers. Weekly feedings using a diluted liquid fertilizer will keep annuals steadily growing. About four weeks out from the wedding date, switch to a bloom-booster fertilizer.
Bloomers to Consider
Grow your own wedding flowers with a few of these reliable and easy beauties. Peak flowering window varies by region, so do some homework and research flowering times for some of these favorite bloomers.