Don’t say you have a brown thumb! Try these easy-to-grow, can’t-kill beauties and watch your beginner’s thumb turn green.
These sun-loving perennials bloom dependably in almost any kind of soil, as long as it drains easily. Best of all, you can divide them after a time and expand your garden.
Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
Blanket flowers (Gaillardia) are native wildflowers in parts of the U.S., and they grow robustly in full sun. These butterfly magnets bloom from early summer into fall.
To help morning glory seeds sprout, soak them in tepid water the night before you plant or file the hard seed coat to open it. Once they’re started, morning glories can take care of themselves. But because they drop their seeds and self-sow readily, be careful where you plant them or you’ll be pulling volunteers for years! To help control unwanted seedlings, mow, rake or heavily mulch the ground underneath the plants.
Great in window boxes, hanging baskets, pots or the garden, geraniums are low-maintenance plants. Grow these perky flowers for color from spring until frost; they prefer full sun, but may need some afternoon shade in hot regions.
Add cosmos plants to your garden or grow these daisy-like flowers from seeds. These annuals are so undemanding, they’ll bloom even in poor soils. They like full sun (but appreciate afternoon shade in hot climates) and tolerate drought once they’re up and growing.
Plant daffodil bulbs and stand back. They’ll burst into bloom each spring, filling your garden with color and fragrance. Give these hardy bulbs a sunny or partly sunny home in the garden or in containers; they’re best planted in the fall.
Bring butterflies to your beginner’s garden with pink and cream snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) like ‘Twinny Appleblossom’. These plants bloom heavily and stand up to the often harsh weather in spring and fall.
Tough, can’t-kill summer begonias like ‘Surefire Rose’ are great for hanging baskets, containers or garden beds. Give them sun or shade and they’ll reward you with lots of lush color.
Impatiens ask little more than a shady spot and enough water to keep them from wilting. Plant these pretty annuals when the weather is reliably warm. In recent years, many impatiens (I. walleriana) have succumbed to downy mildew. ‘Big Bounce’ (pictured) is a new hybrid for shade to partial sun that resists this deadly disease. You’ll also find disease-resistant impatiens in the ‘Bounce’ series.
Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) add color to your garden while the weather is cool, in spring and fall. They’ll even overwinter in some regions if they’re mulched for protection. Give these undemanding little plants sun and soil that drains easily.
Cheerful marigolds are easy to grow in sunny spots, brightening your garden with shades of yellow, red and gold as they bloom all summer long. African or American type marigolds grow 3 to 5 feet tall, but you can find shorter and more compact varieties.
Look for zinnias in almost every color except blue; they’re also available in a variety of heights. The flowers may look like daisies or dahlias, spiders or pom poms and more. Plant them in the sun and space them as directed on the seed packet or label; good air circulation helps prevent disease.
Sunflower seeds are large and easy to handle, so they’re great for children or beginner gardeners. ‘Shock-O-Lat’, shown here, has giant, chocolate-brown blooms with golden tips. You can find sunflowers in many different sizes and colors; they grow happily in sunny gardens.