Nearly every home owner and gardener loves flowers. Planting and caring for them is easy if you know what to look for and how to do it. The trick is knowing what conditions you have, what the plants enjoy, and how to take advantage of what you have available.
Most flowers fall into one of two categories: annuals and perennials. Annuals grow once and then must be replanted to grow again (meaning you’ll need to buy seeds or new plants every year). Perennials come back year-after-year barring any disastrous situation that kills them (too-early frost, extremely deep freeze, etc).
Another consideration is the flower’s bloom time. Gardeners often plant flowers in series so that there are always blooms during the summer months. Planting flowers that bloom in the spring next to flowers that bloom in the mid-summer and around flowers that bloom all year or only in the fall means always having enjoyable beauty during the spring and summer months.
Once you’ve decided on a design for your flower plantings, knowing how to handle the flowers themselves – between purchase and planting – is important.
When you purchase flowers, they will be in one of several forms: bulbs, seeds, rhizomes, or transplants (growing plants).
Planting Flowers from Bulbs
Bulbs can be purchased most any time and often will store, if kept cool and dry, for months. Many gardeners purchase bulbs in the late winter and wait until mid-spring to plant them (depending on the variety). Bulbs should usually be buried deeply in the soil (6 to 12 inches, depending on the plant) and are usually perennials that will come back year after year. Tulips are an example of a very popular bulb.
Planting Flowers from Seeds
Seeds are similar to bulbs, but can usually be stored longer. Nearly all flowers that are also wildflowers start out as seeds. Seeds should be planted in the spring (exact timing depends on flower type) a few inches underground. They generally sprout within a couple of weeks and grow quickly if cared for. Many gardeners start their seeds in seed beds indoors and transplant the seedlings to the outdoors.
Planting Flowers from Rhizomes
Rhizomes are a sort of combination of plant stems and roots. These are not like seeds or bulbs in that they are living things. If you’ve ever used raw ginger, that is a rhizome. These are planted in a way similar to bulbs, depending on the plant, but will usually germinate and sprout much quicker. They often require warm and ready conditions before planting and do not generally have a long storage life outside of the soil. Some species of Iris, for example, have above-ground rhizomes that should be carefully guarded.
Planting Flowers From Transplants
Transplants are the most common way for most new gardeners to get their flower garden started. These are plants that are already growing and (hopefully) thriving in a small pot or container. They are then put into the ground in their permanent home. Most home and garden centers sell many varieties of transplant flowers. Care should be taken to provide the right conditions for the plants and to properly harden them to their new environment.
When to Plant Flowers
Planting times vary by the plant, but most take place in the early or mid-spring or in late fall. Many perennials do best if planted in the late fall so they can overwinter. The same goes for most bulbs. Rhizomes, transplants, and seeds are most often suited for spring planting, however, and are vulnerable to extreme temperature change or frost.
Want to learn more about planting flowers?
Check out these resources:
Perennial and Annual Flowers: Choosing and Planting, Caring for Perennials
Growing Perennial Flowers from Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service