More Successful Flower Plantings

Question: I would like to follow your suggestion to plant more flowers. I have not always been successful in picking the best varieties for a particular situation or combining flower kinds and colors. Could you give me some suggestions?

Answer: Begin by selecting a location where some color can be viewed frequently as you arrive home or view from a window or patio. Shrubs make a good background, so perhaps a bed in front of shrubs. If it is not at least 3 feet wide, take out some grass and make it wider. Avoid making narrow strip beds along a sidewalk or driveway.

Till or spade in 2 or 3 inches of bark dust (Soil Pep), compost, peat moss or other organic amendment. This is an investment which pays big dividends in improved growth and better water penetration,

Select a limited number of kinds and colors. A single color is often the most effective. For 2 or 3 colors, choose shades of a single color such as pink, blue or purple or choose complimentary colors on the color wheel: blue and orange, purple and yellow. White (and usually light yellow) can be combined with any color.

Impatiens, begonias and pansies are three of the best annuals for shady locations.  Perennial alyssum, astilbe, columbine, Heuchera, bleeding heart and hosta are some of the most widely available shade tolerant perennial flowers.

For east or sunny north exposures, lobelia, poppies and snapdragons grow well.  Perennials such as delphinium, foxglove, lupine and rock cress also prefer cool locations.

Heat tolerant flowers are the best choice for full sun and south and west exposures.  Our most popular annuals such as alyssum, petunia, marigold, geranium and zinnia prefer these areas.  Heat tolerant perennials include daylily, baby’s breath and Oriental poppy.  All of these flowers need at least 5 hours of direct sun a day.  They can tolerate reflected heat from buildings and paved areas as well.

Check labels for height, width and sun/shade preference. If you are not sure, ask someone at a full service nursery or garden store or check on line or in a book. Many books on flowers have tables listing varieties by shade tolerance, height and other qualities.

Plant taller kinds in back or the middle of a bed which can be viewed from more than one side. Allow enough space between layers. A 3 foot bed only has enough space for 2 kinds.

Try planting in clusters rather than single rows. Odd numbers (3, 5, 7) are more attractive to the eye. Zig-zag your plants for a more natural look.

Apply a long lasting fertilizer such as Osmocote for season-long performance. Apply a weed preventer to reduce weed problems. See the previous column on weed preventers.

Give your plantings a finished look by applying a bark dust mulch.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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