Popular Flower Types
Perennials and biennials come back year after year, putting on an ongoing flower show in your landscape. Select perennials that work for your climate and your site, whether sun or shade.
Add color and height to your garden with rhizomatous annuals that bloom in spring or fall. Whimsical frilly flowers blend well with other annuals in beds, borders or containers.
Tender perennials match bedding plants for their season of abundant flower through summer into autumn, but unlike many bedding plants can be easily overwintered in a frost-free place and reused in subsequent years. Some can even make useful houseplants over winter. They are robust, flower reliably and need no special tricks or skills. Tender plants are available as plug plants or as potted plants in 9cm or 1L pots.
Scented pelargoniums are deservedly popular container plants. They include rose scented Sweet Mimosa, lemon scented Lemon Fancy and gingery Torrento. Pelargoniums are relatively drought-resistant and a good choice for hot, sunny places to avoid excessive watering.
Other drought resistant container plants include plectranthus which can store water in fleshy stems or leaves. Plectranthus argentatus has silvery leaves, purple stems and pale blue flowers while Magic Mona Purple carries bee-friendly bright purple flowers and dark glossy leaves with purple undersides. Their leaves are scented but some find them rather acrid. Scaevola aemula, a spreading Australian plant with small blue fan-shaped flowers, also gets by with limited water.
Salvias are notably drought tolerant, thriving in hot dry bright places with abundant pollinator-friendly flowers until the autumn frosts. For height, consider Salvia confertiflora, a tall shrubby plant with red flowers and stems and striking large crinkled leaves. Smaller, easier to overwinter salvias with blue flowers include Salvia patens, a compact plant with shapely leaves and Salvia greggii Mirage Blue.
Shrubby choices include Tibouchina urvilleana or glory bush with abundant 5-7cm red-purple flowers and Cestrum purpureum with bunches of red, purple and pink funnel-shaped flowers followed by red-purple berries.
Big dahlias need intrusive staking, a large pot and are ungainly compared to smaller more compact dahlias bred for container use such as the Dahlegria series and the perhaps less fortunately named Happy Smile and Happy Day series. These have charming single flowers, which are excellent for pollinators, right up to the first frosts. Although dahlia plug plants are offered, pot-raised plants are more widely available, but tubers – also widely offered until later in spring – are the economical option.
Other daisy family plants which make great patio plants include fine-leaved Argyranthemums including Grandaisy Pink Halo with red centred pink flowers and Aramis wine red. Osteospermums include the richly berry coloured 3D Blueberry Shake and 3D Blueberry White. Osteospermum flowers close in shade, but suit the sunniest spots.
Most flowering plants sulk in shade and refuse to flower but begonias, fuchsias and busy Lizzies add colour in light shade. Disease-resistant impatiens are now available including the double Glimmer series which make unusual container plants. However, ferns, hostas and other greenery remain the most reliable shaded container vegetation.
By late summer, tender perennials grow substantially and – if scrupulously dead-headed – are full of flowers. In late summer take a small potful of cuttings – ideally using disease and pest-free non-flowering shoots, rooting these beneath a plastic bag to avoid drying out – in a light, but not scorching, place. These small pots are overwintered on a windowsill or other well-lit frost-free place to either divide and re-pot, or use as a source of cuttings in spring. Alternatively, prune the plants to a manageable size and before the first frosts, bring indoors for winter. If the late summer cuttings fail, this is a useful fall back.
Tuberous, corms or bulb plants such as canna, begonia and dahlias are overwintered as dormant rootstocks in a frost-free place – they will need no light.