When I first started growing flowers for bouquets, I learned that there are three components of a beautiful arrangement.. focal flowers, filler flowers and foliage.
While not necessary for beauty, a mix of shapes, sizes, and textures in flower arrangements imitates nature and guides the viewer's gaze.
Filler flowers are considered a secondary flower to large focal flowers because they are smaller and fill in the spaces between the larger focal flowers like Zinnias or Dahlias.
They also do a good job of setting the tone of an arrangement by adding a bit of sparkle, a little whimsy, some romance, or providing a more light and airy feel.
Over the years, I've cultivated numerous filler flowers. It's enjoyable to discover something new to experiment with, but in this blog post, I'll be revealing my reliable favorites and explaining why.
Gomphrena is a playful flower - looking like little gumballs on a stick. They come in a variety of colors like white, light pink, purple, orange and red.
Gomphrena grows on 2 foot plants with long skinny stems and very little foliage, making them easy to pop in a bouquet at the end.
~ Gomphrena hold up very well in a vase.
~ They have very little bug pressure.
~ Gomphrena dry really well.
~ Their stems can be a little short for tall arrangements.
Pictured above is Gomphrena QIS Mix.
Cosmos are a very versatile flower because they can be whimsical, romantic or give a more light and airy feel.
There are many varieties of Cosmos. Some are ruffly and have frilly edges, and some look like daisies with more pointy petals and bright centers. They offer a wide range of colors as well, including: orange, dark red, all shades of pink, two toned, striped, speckled and white.
~ Pollinators love Cosmos and they do not have a lot of bug pressure.
~ They are very easy to grow and may self seed if left in a field.
~ Cosmos have a long growing season.
~ Their foliage is great to use as well.
~They do not hold up as long in a vase - usually no longer than 5 days.
~ Some varieties grow over 4 feet in height which means support is needed.
~ Cosmos require constant deadheading to keep their blooms coming throughout the season.
Pictured above is the Versailles Mix.
Sometimes when people are picking flowers at You-Pick, they come to me and ask what they are missing in their bouquet because it just doesn't look complete. I encourage them to add a few stems of Feverfew. It always does the trick in bringing a bouquet to life!
There are a few varieties of Feverfew including some that look like little yellow or white puff balls and the variety above looks like small, happy daisies.
~ Feverfew is a bright and cheery flower, it's hard not to like it.
~ It fills in a lot of space in a bouquet, making the arrangement feel a lot fuller with just one stem.
~ It has great foliage that also works well in any bouquet.
~ You may get a second flush if you cut down to the bottom 2 inches after first bloom.
~ Feverfew lasts a long time in the vase.
~ Some varieties have an unusual smell, similar to stinky feet.
~ It has a shorter growing season and requires a succession planting if you want it all season long.
Pictured above is Magic Single.
As far as spike flowers go, Snapdragons are my top contender because their long, sturdy stalks add dimension and color to every arrangement.
Snapdragons are bred with many unique characteristics like color variations, petal style and scent. Their production can be affected by light and temperature so it's best to seek varieties that work in your growing zone.
If you want to grow the taller cut flower variety, be sure to look at the seed packets and/or grower information when purchasing seeds. Look for Snapdragons that grow 18" or taller. Other varieties are a garden style which are much shorter.
~ There are so many beautiful color and petal types to choose from. Ordering from a seed catalog will give you the option to buy seeds for a single color and offer many more options than buying from a big box store.
~ Snapdragons have a long vase life.
~ They are a cool flower, meaning they like to be planted in very early spring and will bloom early in the season. They may give a second flush when the temps cool in fall.
~ Snapdragons are cut and come again if you cut them deep on the plant when harvesting the first blooms.
~ They do not have a lot of bug pressure.
~ They can be hard to grow from seed because they need to be sowed very early spring for best germination.
~ Snapdragons need support if you grow the taller cut flower types.
Pictured above is a Potomac Mix.
Flamingo Feather Celosia
These spike flowers are a fun choice for folks at You-Pick due to their soft feathery blooms.
Flamingo Feather Celosia grow on tall 2-3 foot stems and when pinched early in the growing stage, will branch and produce many stems per plant.
~ They last a long time in the vase, usually 7-14 days.
~ Flamingo Feather are an everlasting flower and dry beautifully when hung upside down.
~ Pollinators love them and they have little bug pressure.
~ They do not have very much foliage which can be stripped away leaving strong sturdy stems that are easy to tuck into a bouquet.
~ Flamingo Feather is a cool flower and can be tricky to grow from seed.
Pictured above is Flamingo Feather Celosia.
Forget-Me-Not (aka Firmament)
It's no surprise that these dainty flowers made my list. They have a lot of personal connection for me and many people, reminding them of loved ones past and present.
Forget-Me-Nots produce 2 foot plants with sturdy stems, followed by an abundance of branching side stems.
I use them sparingly in bouquets but love their pop of soft blue color as a contrast to the other colors. I particularly like them in pastel arrangements.
~ Pollinators like them and they have little bug pressure.
~ They have many stems per plant to cut from.
~ Forget-Me-Nots last 5-7 days in a vase.
~ They make wonderful pressed flowers.
~ They do not have a long growing season and do not do well as cut and come again.
~ Forget-Me-Nots are not fun to pull out of a garden because their petals turn to burrs which stick on clothes and gloves.
Pictured above is Forget-Me-Not
Ammi (False Queen Anne's Lace)
False Queen Anne's Lace is a must-have for romantic, airy bouquets. Their lacy blooms look like a thousand little flowers on big 5-6" heads.
I usually include a few stems in each market bouquet because they pair well with almost any flower shape or color.
~ Ammi is a very prolific grower with many tall, strong stems on one plant.
~ They last weeks in a bouquet but once they start to fade, their little flowers shed.
~ Ammi are easy to grow.
~ Pollinators love them and they have very little bug pressure.
~ They grow up to 4-5 feet and require support.
Pictured above is Ammi White Dill.
One of my favorite filler flowers is Yarrow because I grow it as a Perennial (zone 4b) and can trust I have it every spring.
Yarrow grows on 2 foot plants that will branch if pinched early.
I grow pastel colors because Yarrow blooms in early spring and summer in my zone when other lighter colored flowers are also in bloom. But Yarrow also comes in brighter tones like yellow and reds.
~ Very prolific grower and is cut and come again with a later flush in fall when the temps drop.
~ Yarrow dries well when hung upside down.
~ It does not have a lot of bug pressure.
~ It can be grown as a Perennial in most zones and will spread but it also can be split in fall to double your plants.
~ It requires a lot of pruning when it's done blooming to encourage a second flush.
~ Because Yarrow is a Perennial, it will spread in a garden. If you don't want it to spread, you can treat it as an annual and dig it out in fall.
Pictured above is Summer Pastels.
I hope you found a few fun fillers to try in your garden. For a more dimensional and creative cut flower garden, consider trying filler flowers. Even if you grow just a couple, you'll see how they enhance your arrangements with a delightful diversity.