Foolproof Flowers

A wide array of flowers grow without much trouble. Many of the ones listed below can withstand drought and other difficulties. Do not be afraid to try your hand at something beautiful.

Foolproof_flowers

Sweet Peas

Sweet_Peassm
  • L. odoratus
  • Annual, climbing (3′-6.5′)
  • Color: pastels
  • Blooms: midsummer, continue for many weeks if deadheaded
  • Sow in spring or autumn. First, chip the seed coating with nail clippers for faster germination.
  • Spacing: place one seed every 3″ along one short side of the bed (preferably facing W or N). Provide support with string or wire trellis.
  • For a fall bloom, plant again six to eight weeks before frost.
  • Hints: Add legume inoculant to soil when planting to increase vigor and yield. Pinch new shoots for bushier growth and more flowers. Has an intense, unique fragrance.
  • Drawing by Sally Arnold

Tall Garden Phlox

tall_phloxsm
  • Perennial, 2′ to 5′ tall
  • Color: red, salmon
  • Blooms: huge billows in mid- to late-summer, long-blooming
  • Sow in spring, or obtain a start.
  • Spacing: one per 18″
  • Propagate: 1. Lift and divide in fall or early spring, 2. Take root cuttings in late summer, 3. Take stem cuttings in early midsummer if kept very humid (enclosed in plastic bag); or 4. Start easily from seed. Often self-sows but with different coloring.
  • Hints: May require lime if soil is too acidic. Likes rich soil, a heavy feeder. Needs moisture (mulch helps). Foliage unsightly if mildewed; grow other plants in front.

Indian Feather

gaurasm
  • Gaura lindheimeri, also known as Rosy Jane, Lindheimer’s beeblossom, or appleblossom grass
  • Perennial, 3′ to 4′ tall, willowy foliage
  • Color: white, pink
  • Blooms: erect spikes from mid-summer to early fall
  • Sow seed in spring.
  • Spacing: 2′ to 3′ wide
  • Hints: Tolerates drought. Good for cut flowers. Cut back to 10″ tall in 2nd growing season to keep growth vigorous.
  • Image

Jingle Bells

JingleBells
  • Penstemon barbatus, also known as “bearded penstemon”
  • Perennial, 1.5′ to 5′ tall, clump-forming
  • Color: reddish-orange
  • Blooms: late spring to mid-summer (May to June). Blooms atop erect, rigid stems. Deadhead to prolong bloom.
  • Sow in spring.
  • Spacing: 1′ to 2′ wide
  • Propagate: Self-seeds under optimum growing conditions.
  • Hints: Tolerates drought. Cut back to basal foliage after flowering to improve appearance. May benefit from winter mulch.

Coreopsis Grandiflora

Coreopsissm
  • Perennial, 1.5′ to 2′ tall
  • Color: yellow
  • Blooms: late spring to late summer or early fall (May to August), typically in a clump, flowers atop 2′ slender stems. Deadhead to encourage blooms and prevent unwanted self-seeding.
  • Start indoors 4-6 weeks before last spring frost.
  • Germination: 7-14 days to emergence. Keep moist.
  • Spacing: 1.5′ to 2′ wide
  • Hints: Tolerates drought. Good for cut flowers. May be cut back hard in summer if foliage becomes untidy.
  • Chromolithograph by Guillaume Severeyns after painting by H.G. Moon

Aquilegia

Aquilegia
  • Also known as columbine
  • Perennial, 24″ to 28″ tall
  • Color: blues or reds
  • Blooms: mid-spring to early summer (month or more)
  • Sow in spring.
  • Spacing: 20″ wide
  • Propagate: Self-seeds. Divide and share in summer.
  • Hints: Good for cut or dry flowers. Does not transplant well.

Purple Coneflower

echinaceasm
  • Echinacea
  • Perennial, 1.5′ to 5′ tall
  • Color: rosy pink
  • Blooms: mid-summer to early fall, flower stalks on upright spikes, rising above foliage. Deadhead to prolong flowering and prevent self-seeding. May cut back by half in early summer to delay blooming for fall enjoyment. For max bloom period, cut back some, and leave others to flower earlier.
  • Sow in spring.
  • Spacing: 1′ to 2′ wide
  • Propagate: 1. by seed, 2. cutting (late fall, early winter), 3. division (spring or early fall), or 4. separation.
  • Hints: Heat- and drought-tolerant. Good for cut and dried flowers and herbal remedies. Aggressively self-sows. Does not breed true from collected seed. May leave fall blooms on to form seedheads for winter interest.
  • Drawing by Beatriz Mendoza

Aster

astersm
  • Perennial, .25′ to 1′ tall
  • Color: blue
  • Blooms: late spring to mid-summer in a spreading mass with flower stalks borne on individual stems rising above foliage
  • Spacing: 1′ to 1.5′ wide
  • Propagate: 1. by cuttings (taken in summer), 2. division (every three years in spring), or 3. separation
  • Hints: Remove faded blooms. Does not like hot weather.
  • Drawing by Kristine Brown

Moss Phlox

phloxsm
  • Perennial, .25′ to .5′ tall
  • Color: pink or purple
  • Blooms: March to May in a spreading, mat-forming shape. Cut back stems after flowering by 1/2 to maintain form and promote denser growth and light re-bloom.
  • Sow in spring.
  • Spacing: 1′ to 2′ wide
  • Propagate: Self-seeds in optimum growing conditions.
  • Hints: Tolerates drought. Likes medium moisture.

Blue-flowered Catmint

catmintsm
  • Also known as Nepeta, related to catnip but much showier
  • Perennial, 1′ to 4′ tall
  • Color: purple-blue or pink-white
  • Blooms: heavily in early summer. Sheer plant back by 1/3 after the first flush of blooms to tidy plant and encourage a second flush. Deadhead and pinch back for prolonged blooming and bushier growth.
  • Sow in spring.
  • Spacing: 18″-30″ wide, depending on variety
  • Propagate: by seed or division.
  • Hints: Tolerates drought. Prefers its soil not overly fertile. Repels aphids and Japanese beetles, and is thus useful planted near vegetables. Remains attractive throughout growing season. A good choice to cover the “bare knees” of hybrid tea roses.

Peony

peonysm
  • Variety: Coral Sunset
  • Perennial, 2.5′ to 3′ tall
  • Color: coral pink with gold center
  • Blooms: May. Remove spent flowers after bloom, and cut foliage back to a strong leaf.
  • Plant the tubers in late September or October. The peonies’ eyes (buds) should be no deeper than 1.5″ to 2″ below the soil line.
  • Spacing: 2′ to 2.5′ wide.
  • Propagate: by division. Usually sold as bare root tubers. Do not respond well to transplanting.
  • Hints: Likes rich soil, medium moisture. Add compost as needed. Good for cut flowers.

Black-eyed Susan

blackeyedsusansm
  • Also known as Gloriosa daisy, Rudbeckia
  • Perennial, 1′ to 3′ tall
  • Color: red-yellow
  • Bloom: Deadhead to prolong blooming and reduce self-seeding. Fruit is also ornamental.
  • Sow outdoors in spring or indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost.
  • Germination: requires light, do not cover too deeply. 7-10 days to emergence.
  • Spacing: 1′-1.5′ spread
  • Propagate: Self-seeds aggressively.
  • Hints: Good cut flowers. Prefer cool weather. Tolerates drought and frost. Also tolerates low fertility but prefers rich soil. 
  • Drawing by Janet Zeh

Sedum

sedum
  • Variety: African Sunset, also known as stonecrop
  • Perennial, 1′ to 1.5′ tall
  • Color: red
  • Blooms: late summer to fall (July to September), sprawling growth.
  • Sow in early spring.
  • Spacing: 1′ to 1.5′ wide
  • Propagate: by seed, divisions, or cuttings.
  • Hints: Likes dry to medium moisture, not overly rich soil. Tolerates drought.
  • Drawing from Missouri Botanical Garden

Dahlia

dahlia
  • Variety: bedding
  • Annual, 1′ to 1.5′ tall
  • Color: red, orange, yellow
  • Blooms: mid-summer to mid-fall
  • Start indoors 4-6 weeks before last spring frost.
  • Germination: 7-14 days to emergence. Keep moist.
  • Spacing: .5′ to 1′ wide
  • Hints: Pinch back when seedlings have 3 sets of leaves to keep plant bushy. Heavy feeders, prefer rich soil. Give high nitrogen fertilizer early in the season and high potassium fertilizer in midsummer.
  • Illustration from Cavanille’s “Icones et Descriptiones Plantarum” 1791 & Oct 1795

Blanket Flower

gaillardiasm
  • Gaillardia
  • Annual
  • Color: red, yellow
  • Blooms: early summer to mid-fall in a mound shape. Deadhead to encourage flowering.
  • Sow directly outdoors after last spring frost, or start indoors 6-8 weeks before last spring frost.
  • Germination: Do not cover seeds. Need light to germinate. 14-21 days to emergence.
  • Hints: Tolerates frost and drought. Good for cut flowers.

California Poppy

California_Poppysm
  • Eschscholzia
  • Annual, .5′ to 1′ tall
  • Color: red, orange, yellow
  • Blooms: early summer to mid-fall. Deadhead to maximize blooming, but leave some spent flowers on for self-seeding. Fern-like foliage.
  • Scatter seeds in early spring when light frost is still possible but soil is workable.
  • Spacing: .5′-.8′ wide
  • Germination time: 10-15 days
  • Hints: Tolerates drought. Needs fertility. Good for cut flowers. Does not transplant well. Self-seeding may not produce identical varieties.
  • Drawing by Janice Daily

Pansy

pansies small sketchbook
  • Annual, .5′ to .75′ tall
  • Color: choose purples, pinks, or blues
  • Blooms: early to late spring. Deadhead to prolong blooming. Pinch to keep bushy.
  • Can be started indoors 10-12 weeks before last frost. After sowing, slightly moisten potting mix, and place seed tray in fridge for two weeks; then, move to a heated area.
  • Germination: Cover lightly with soil. Needs light to germinate. 14-21 days to emergence.
  • Spacing: .75′ to 1′ wide
  • Hints: One of the earliest to bloom in spring. Prefer rich soil. Edible flowers good for decoration or garnish. Need to be removed when hot weather arrives. 
  • Drawing by Vivien Blackburn