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That’s especially true during the cold winter when we’re considering what plants to select for the next growing season.
Here are four plants that I find easy to love, because of their low-care beauty. They aren’t the most exotic plants in my garden, but they are good solid performers that add cheerful color without much work.
Petunias are easy-care annuals, which look delightful when spilling out of a container in my garden. The old petunias tended to wimp out under the hot sun. But a petunia hybrid from Proven Winners called Supertunia® Mini Bright Pink (shown above) bloomed non-stop all summer for me.
There are about 30 Supertunia cultivars in a wide range of colors, which are easily found at local gardening centers. These hybrid petunias hold their shape well, and won’t get leggy later in the season. Although the Supertunias grow vigorously, they won’t crowd out neighboring plants like the hybrid Wave petunias sometimes can.
Plant your petunias in a sunny spot with soil that was well-amended with organic matter like compost and worm castings. Petunias like a rich soil, so add a slow-releasing fertilizer when planting. I often supplement this initial feeding with an organic, liquid fertilizer in my watering can every couple weeks. You don’t need to deadhead the flowers; that means less work and more enjoyment in the garden.
Telstar Mix Dianthus
Dianthus offers versatility. With a wide variety of colors, sizes and forms, the Dianthus genius includes everything from creeping 6-inch plants to 3-feet carnations. Some even have a spicy clove scent.
There are annuals, biennials and perennials. But the most common are Sweet Williams, which are biennials. These biennials will bloom from seeds sown the year before. Or, you can also find two-year-old transplants at garden centers, such as the ‘Telstar Mix’ dianthus shown above, which are grown as annuals.
Plant these beauties in ordinary, well-drained soil. For the best performance, give these carefree Sweet Williams some afternoon shade in hot climates or full sun in cooler areas. These flowers attract butterflies, but the deer typically leave them alone. Another reason to love this plant!
Four O’Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) grow trumpet-shaped flowers in colors like pink, red, yellow and white, as well as striped or splashed blooms. The plant gets its name from the vanilla-scented flowers that bloom in the afternoon around four o’clock and into the evening.
Hardy to USDA Zones 7B - 11, this tender perennial grows as an annual in colder climates. In Zone 6B, my Four O’Clocks grew quickly in the garden from mid-summer until the first frost. I planted them once from seeds, and they self-seeded again for a couple years. This was a nice surprise for me. But be forewarned that in warmer regions, the self-seeding plants can sometimes be a bit of a nuisance. They are easy to remove, however.
I like to plant Four O’Clocks by walkways or windows, where I can enjoy the flowers’ fragrance and beauty on summer evenings.
Zinnias are one of the easiest annuals to grow from seed. These cheerful flowers also come in a wide range of vivid colors, including hot pink, orange and yellow. Whether they are the shorter types or the taller forms, zinnias attract plenty of birds and butterflies wherever they grow.
Start zinnias by sowing seeds into a sunny spot, after the last frost date in your region. Or get a head start by sowing seeds indoors about four to six weeks before the last frost date. Then gradually harden the seedlings outdoors by leaving the plants in a protected spot for several hours a day and bringing them indoors at night until they acclimate to the temperatures. Depending on your climate and the weather conditions, this process can often take up to a week, as you gradually add more time each day for the plants outdoors.
If you buy zinnia plants that are already blooming at your local nursery, prune them back about a third before planting. With a little gardening love, you’ll be clipping these cheerful flowers for bouquets all summer long.