A common question among home gardeners who are just starting on their composting journey is “Can you compost flowers?” The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes” because flowers are an organic material that is perfect for adding to your compost pile or compost bin.
Here’s everything you need to know about adding flowers to your compost.
Understanding The Composting Process
The composting process is simple and a perfectly natural process that happens in nature without any intervention from humans.
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As plant or organic matter dies, it starts to break down naturally. If you happen to live near a forest you can easily see this happening when you go for a walk.
All you have to do is take a close look at what’s happening on the forest floor beneath the trees and other plants that are growing there. All the leaf litter and other dead plant material drops to the forest floor and starts to decompose.
As this decomposition progresses, the dead material is turned into rich soil or hummus that in turn, nourishes the roots of the plants that are growing in the forest.
Even age-old trees that have died and fallen down, will eventually break down through this natural process and add nutrients to the soil.
This is the same process that we are emulating when we start a compost pile or purchase a compost bin to add to our backyard.
We fill the compost with organic material and over time, this material breaks down. This means we end up with nutrient-rich soil. We can now add this to our garden beds or use it to make a growing medium for our pot plants.
Compostable Materials That Are Best Suited To A Backyard Compost Bin
When making your own compost in your backyard, there are two types of compost materials that you want to add to your compost bin. Green and brown materials. And, you need a good mix of both to make excellent compost.
Green material usually consists of vegetable waste such as the scraps that you collect in your kitchen, grass clippings and other green yard waste from your garden plants. Essentially, these organic materials have not yet dried.
Green materials usually add lots of nitrogen and other types of nutrients to the compost as they break down.
On the other hand, brown materials are anything that has already dried. This includes dead leaves, paper, cardboard and dried flowers. These brown materials add valuable carbon to the compost which helps to speed up the composting process.
You see, green materials are full of nitrogen and when composted, they add this valuable nutrient to the soil. But, as these materials start to dry, they lose their nitrogen content into the atmosphere.
As part of this process, some of the nitrogen is converted into carbon. This is highly beneficial in the composting process.
What Types Of Flowers Can You Compost?
Almost all types of flowers can be added to your compost. Fresh flowers that are still green but have not yet dried will form part of your green waste.
On the other hand, flowers that have already dried can become part of the brown waste and add carbon to the compost.
This means that if you’ve received a bunch of flowers as a gift and they’re past their prime, these can be added to your compost.
Or, if you’re out in the garden and deadheading your dahlias and roses, these flowers can also be added to your compost.
How To Prepare Your Flowers For The Compost
Before you add your flowers to your compost bin, you want to ensure that they’re going to break down at roughly the same rate as everything else.
That’s why you don’t just want to grab a bunch of flowers out of the vase and throw them into the compost bin.
In order to facilitate a fast breakdown of your flowers, you want to cut them up a little first. Long stems can take quite a while to break down if you just throw them in as they are.
Therefore, it’s important to cut up the stems into smaller pieces and separate these from the petals and leaves. It only takes a little time to do this but will help enormously in the composting process.
Flower bulbs, corms and rhizomes can also be added to your compost but these will take a long time to break down. It’s best to cut these into quite small pieces if you want to add them to the compost.
However, if the bulbs, corms or rhizomes are still healthy, why not plant them in your garden instead? This gives them a chance of providing you with more gorgeous flowers the following season.
I’ve done this quite successfully after I’ve been given a pot of daffodils in spring. I planted the bulbs in the garden and they continue to provide me with flowers every year. I’ve even done the same with some potted tulips that I rescued from a non-gardening friend.
How Important Is It To Layer Your Compost?
Many experts will tell you that it’s important to layer your compost in order to get the best results. In other words, you should add organic matter to your compost in alternating layers of brown and green compost material.
While this might be beneficial in a large compost heap that organic gardeners used to create out in the backyard, it’s not quite as crucial when you use more modern composting bins or even compost tumblers.
The reason for the layering was not only to help speed up the composting process but also to control the smell. These days, in a compost bin with a tight-fitting lid, this is not really necessary and not something that I do. And, I’ve been composting for years.
All you really need to remember is to make sure that you add both green and brown materials to the compost.
How I Fill My Compost Bins
When I add organic materials to my compost, I’ll usually throw in a couple of buckets of food scraps that include veggie peelings and other kitchen scraps as well as egg shells and lots of coffee grounds.
Then, after I mow the lawn, I’ll throw the grass clippings on top of the scraps. Sometimes, my grass clippings will also include dead leaves that have ended up on the lawn.
Every now and then, I’ll remember to add some dead leaves to the compost to even up the green and brown materials. Although I do have a lot of dead leaves in my garden, I will often just throw these onto the garden beds. They act as mulch before they break down.
This method has worked well both in my static compost bin and in my compost tumbler. Plus, I never turn the compost in the static compost bin because I can just collect the ready-made compost from the bottom via the lift-up hatches that are present on all sides.
I do rotate the compost tumbler every time I add organic materials. This helps to speed up the decomposition process.
What Plant Parts Or Types Of Flowers Should You Not Add To Your Compost?
Although all flowers are considered organic matter whether they’re home-grown garden flowers or commercial flowers, there are certain types that you should refrain from adding to your compost.
Avoid Diseased Flowers
For example, it’s a good idea not to add diseased cut flowers to your compost. This is primarily because a backyard compost bin will usually not get hot enough to kill all types of bacteria.
This means that you could be introducing bacteria from diseased plants into your compost. This could eventually end up in your garden beds and infest the plants that you’re growing.
Avoid Thorny Stems
You also want to avoid throwing stems that have thorns on them into your compost bin. Thorny stems take a long time to break down. These could pose a threat when it comes time to spread the compost onto your garden beds.
Therefore, it’s best to throw those thorny rose stems in the garbage instead.
Avoid Seed Heads
Another thing to watch out for is whether the flowers have started to produce seeds. If they have, you may want to avoid putting these into the compost.
Most backyard compost bins won’t get hot enough to destroy the seeds. This means that you might end up spreading them around your garden with the compost. This is why you also shouldn’t add weeds to your compost. The weed seeds can remain in the compost and spread all around your garden.
However, if you love flowers, having flower seeds in your compost may not be a bad thing. You could end up with some lovely flowers appearing among your vegetables.
I recently had the pleasure of a pumpkin plant emerging in my vegetable garden from a seed that was in the compost. I was happy to let this grow and ended up with two huge pumpkins that have kept us happily fed through winter.
Note: If you don’t have your own compost bin and are using a curbside composting service or a municipal composting bin, you can throw all of your flowers into this without worrying about diseases or cutting them up. This is because large commercial operations shred the composting materials and put them into large bins that are heated to high temperatures to ensure that any pathogens or diseases are destroyed. That’s why other common food waste such as meat and dairy products can be thrown into a municipal compost bin but should not be placed into your backyard compost bin.
Frequently Asked Questions
Absolutely, dead flowers are normally considered brown materials, especially if they have fully dried. These should be cut up and added to your compost.
Tulip flowers and stems can be composted successfully as long as you cut them up a bit first. However, tulip bulbs will take too long to break down if you just toss them into your compost bin. Plant these in the garden instead or throw them into the garbage if you don’t want to grow tulips.
Just like tulips, lily flowers and stems can be thrown into the compost after you’ve cut them up. However, refrain from adding the bulbs to your compost.
Yes, flowers make a great addition to your worm farm along with other kitchen scraps. Just make sure that cut them up into smaller pieces so that the worms can get through them easily. However, you do want to avoid adding flowers that have been chemically treated with pesticides or those that are diseased.
Absolutely, chopped-up flowers can be added to your Bokashi bin along with all your other kitchen scraps.
If you’re a sustainable gardener like me or you’re working towards better sustainability in your life, you should definitely add flowers to your compost bin rather than throw them into the garbage. This includes flower petals, flower heads, leaves and stems.
This is a great way to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill. It also helps you to turn those lovely flowers into nutrient-rich plant food. This is ideal for all the plants that you have growing in your garden or in pots inside your home.
Just remember to cut them up a little first and avoid throwing entire bulbs, corms and rhizomes into your compost. Also, avoid thorny stems or diseased flowers. Everything else can safely be composted.