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Selecting the right flowers for your backyard

Updated on February 1, 2017

In most of the US, Spring is in full bloom and you're probably in the mood to add some beautiful, colorful flowers to your homes and backyards. For some folks, gardening comes second nature, and choosing the right flowers, colors, and arrangements for your environment can be no sweat. Many of us, however, have a hard time choosing the best plants for our gardens - often, we pick what's pretty at the nursery versus what will grow best based on our homes. Here's a quick guide on how to choose what and where to plant certain flowers to make your garden really thrive!

Where do I start?

Before choosing the flowers and plants that are right for you, you'll want to take a look around your home and really understand the growing conditions in the locations where you would like to place your plants. Growing conditions around the home vary dramatically based on the amount of light exposure, heat and the duration of time plants will be exposed to direct sunlight. Some of the thing you'll want to observe are:

  • Whether or not the location gets direct sunlight during the day (or is shadowed)
  • The number of hours per day the location is in direct sunlight
  • How hot the location gets over the course of the day (the closer to the middle of the day the spot is in direct sunlight, likely the hotter it gets)
  • Access to water / general dampness of the area (either via nature, or your willingness to water once or more during the day)
  • Whether the location is using soil from the ground, a planter, or a flower box
  • The nature of the soil (rock, sand, or clay)

It's important to take a close look at these details as different plants will thrive based on the specific conditions of the area.

So, what works well?

Here are some examples of plants you might want to choose for your garden, based on growing conditions:

More shade than sun: If you have areas of the home that don't get much sun, you may want to try leafier plants such coleus that provide a colorful display, but can thrive in the shade. There are several varieties to mix and match to give you a wide variety of types and colors.

Lots of direct sunlight, need less water: You will need heartier plants to withstand the harsh conditions of a sunny, dry area on a summer day. Plants that have thicker leaves, such as wax begonias, dragon wing begonias, calibrachoas, geraniums, or marigolds tend to do well in these conditions. If you're looking for big splashes of color, marigolds, zinnias, and dahlias also tend to hold up better in the sun and are available in a number of bright colors and mixes.

Impatiens add incredible color to a garden, and require a mix of sun and shade.
Impatiens add incredible color to a garden, and require a mix of sun and shade.

Some sunlight, need lots of water: Sunpatiens can add tons of color to a garden, but tend to need more care and more moderate conditions than the flowers mentioned above. They'll do great in an area that receives a couple of hours of direct sunlight per day, but generally are shaded the majority of the time. If you're into bigger flowers, New Guinea Impatiens can be a great choice as the flower petals are much larger than on the standard version. Nonstop begonias, a more delicate begonia (with larger flowers and leaves) also tend to need these slightly less harsh conditions to thrive.

Flowers such as marigolds withstand sunnier, drier conditions.
Flowers such as marigolds withstand sunnier, drier conditions.

Good for planters/hanging boxes: Several types of flowers do great in planters or hanging boxes. If you don't have a ton of yard to plant your flowers in, try wave petunias, calibrachoas, geraniums, or New Guinea impatiens, which all tend to thrive in these areas. To give the mix some variety, try incorporating Vinca Vine to diversify up the look. Spikes, with their grassy appearance, can also add some complexity and height.

What else should I know?

Of course, regardless of the flower type, you will want to care for your plants daily and properly to ensure that they will thrive. For tips on how to keep your plants healthy, see: How to Grow Your Flowers Strong All Summer Long.

Writer's note: Thanks to Arthur's Nursery in Commack, NY for helping to provide this information!

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