Ask a child to draw a garden, and he’ll draw some flowers. Give a gardener no more space than a front stoop, and what will appear there is a flowerpot. For many, flowers are the definition of a garden.
No matter what your level of experience, you can have blooming beauty in your life. But for your flowers to do best, it helps to understand a few basics about how flowers work and what they need.
Sun is essential. Building a flower takes a lot of energy, and all a plant’s energy comes from the sun. So most flowering plants need a full-sun site – where sunlight falls 6 to 8 hours a day all through the growing season. Try Burpee’s Sunlight Calculator to test the amount of sun your garden receives.
Success is in the soil. Good soil – not too sandy, not too sticky, with enough organic matter to make it drain well and be inviting to plant roots – is essential for successful flower gardening, just as it is for vegetables. After all, vegetables such as squash and tomatoes are formed from flowers. Test the pH and fertility of your soil with Burpee’s Electronic Soil Tester and then visit the soil testing page for suggestions from our experts.
Annuals and perennials. As far as gardens are concerned, these are the two basic kinds of flowering plants. Annuals go through their whole life cycle in one growing season: sprouting from a seed, growing leaves and roots, producing flowers, creating seeds and then dying. They are popular with gardeners because, with reasonable care, they bloom their heads off all season. Perennials are plants whose root systems stay alive underground for several years or even decades. The part above the soil may go dormant and die back in winter, but the plant is still alive and will sprout again in spring. The tradeoff for perennials’ long life is that they bloom for only a few weeks or months each year. Exactly when and how long varies between species.
Which is better? Both have their uses in the garden. Annuals are great for places where you want a lot of flowers, but they generally need more watering, fertilizing and other care than perennials, and planting them every year can be a chore. Perennials provide steady structure and form to a garden, and many gardeners delight in the anticipation of waiting for their favorites’ bloom time. Few are truly plant-it-and-forget-it, but they do tend to need less care than annuals.