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This subtropical relative of edible garden asparagus is in the lily family, but its needlelike foliage give it an appearance resembling a fern. Its stems shoot up and outward, making it an excellent plant for hanging baskets. Give asparagus fern medium to bright indoor light and keep the soil uniformly moist. Plants sometimes develop small red berries, which are poisonous, so keep the berries away from children and pets.
Dancers in the garden, aspens are popular choices for fast-growing windbreaks, screens, and mass plantings. Their oval leaves flutter in the slightest breeze. These extremely cold-hardy trees can gain almost 5 feet in height per year. Avoid problems with their invasive roots and suckering by selecting species and varieties that won't run rampant. Enjoy the best fall color with the quaking aspen. The trees have a preference for moist, well-drained soil but they adapt to almost any soil.
Asters get their name from the Latin word for "star," and their flowers are indeed the superstars of the fall garden. Some types of this native plant can reach up to 6 feet with flowers in white and pinks but also, perhaps most strikingly, in rich purples and showy lavenders.
Not all asters are fall bloomers. Extend the season by growing some of the summer bloomers, as well. Some are naturally compact; tall types that grow more than 2 feet tall benefit from staking or an early-season pinching or cutting back by about one-third in July or so to keep the plant more compact.
Astilbe brings a graceful, feathering note to moist, shady landscapes. In cooler climates in the northern third or so of the country, it can tolerate full sun provided it has a constant supply of moisture. In drier sites, however, the leaves will scorch in full sun.
Feathery plumes of white, pink, lavender, or red flowers rise above the finely divided foliage from early to late summer depending on the variety. It will spread slowly over time where well-situated. Most commercially available types are complex hybrids.
A charming tree for mild climates, Australian tea tree has artistic qualities. Its sculptural spreading branches take on a twisting and curving habit in time. They have a tendency to arch along the ground. Give this large shrub or small tree plenty of space to spread out. Plant it with other shrubs in a mixed border, or make it a focal point in a planting bed.
Australian tea tree grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It is drought-tolerant after it is established, and it tolerates seaside conditions.
Showy, brightly colored flowers are saucer-shape, sometimes semidouble, over loose mounds of handsome dark strawberrylike leaves. Many of the best cultivars are hybrids between species. These plants do best in a well-drained, rich soil.
With exquisite little blue-and-white flowers, this charming California wildflower is one of the prettiest cool-season annuals around. It can be hard to find in garden centers, but if you do, give it a try. Plant it in early spring, a few to several weeks before your region's first-frost date. It will add much to your garden until summer's heat hits. This plant likes cool and moist conditions and stops blooming once temperatures rise.
With its loose, billowy panicles of tiny single or double pink or white flowers, baby's breath provides a lightness and airiness to flower gardens. The creeping forms drape beautifully over rock walls. After bloom time, shear the plants to deadhead and for neatness. Plants prefer sweet (alkaline) soils with full sun and excellent drainage.
Bachelor's button is a sweet little flower, reseeding freely here and there in your garden, adding a bright touch of true, clear blue wherever it chooses to sprout. This easy-growing annual produces papery flowers atop tall stems; the blooms are great for cutting and drying.
The plant is happiest in sandy loam. It doesn't need much, if any fertilizer, and tolerates drought, but prefers moderate moisture. Plant from seed directly in the garden after the last frost in your region. Space to 6-12 inches apart. Deadhead after the first flush of bloom to encourage a second flush. But if you want lots of reseeding next year, allow some flowers at some point to ripen on the plant and go to seed.
Bacopa was once an unusual flower, but in recent years it's become very popular in garden centers. And why not? It's adorable! This plant has long, cascading stems that smother themselves in tiny, perfect, five-petal flowers. It's become a favorite for selling in hanging baskets where its pretty trailing habit can be shown off. Also try in pots, planters, and window boxes.
Unlike many plants, bacopa doesn't tend to wilt when it gets dried out. Instead, it loses its flowers and may take two or three weeks to begin blooming again. Keep it evenly watered for continuous bloom.
Bald cypress is an easy-to-grow North American native conifer that features feathery, soft, green needles and attractive peeling bark. Unlike many needled conifers, the needles turn a delightful shade of russet-red in autumn, then fall off the tree in winter revealing its delightful architectural shape. In spring, new needles emerge.
Bald cypress is wonderfully adaptable, growing well in any average or wet soil. This is one of the few trees that tolerates standing water. It grows best in full sun and moist, acidic soil, however.
Bald cypress is the official state tree of Louisiana.
The inflated buds of balloon flowers are fun to pop. And they make great cut flowers. Cut them in the bud stage, and sear the base of the stems to prevent the milky sap from seeping out and fouling the water.
Most commonly available in blue-violet, balloon flowers also come in pink and white, as well as shorter forms that are better suited for rock gardens and containers. In fall, the foliage of balloon flower turns clear gold, so don't cut the plant down too early -- enjoy the show! They tolerate light shade, but not wet feet or drought.
Once a favorite of Victorian gardens, this old-fashioned annual adds an exotic, almost gaudy touch to the garden. It offers interesting, trumpet-shape blooms, mostly in shades of pink. Many selections have bicolor flowers. Balsam often self-seeds in the garden and is very easy to grow.
Plant established plants outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Balsam needs rich, well-drained soil to do best, so work in plenty of compost. (It's ideal in containers as long as you don't let the plants dry out for even a second.) Fertilize lightly but regularly.
Looking for a small palm that tolerates shade? Check out bamboo palm and its relatives. Most stay under 10 feet tall, so they fit perfectly in the yard. Try it as a foundation planting, at the back of the border to create a textural backdrop for your other plants, or as a unique hedge
A grand Southern lady, banana shrub is a member of the magnolia family. Its lovely springtime flowers resemble magnolia blooms but have a bold banana fragrance. The evergreen shrub's flush of flowers in spring is followed by sporadic flowering through summer. Plant this lovely shrub in beds or borders, or use it as a fragrant hedge. It tolerates pruning well and can be maintained at 4-5 feet tall. Water banana shrub regularly after planting. After it is established, it tolerates drought with ease.
Baptisia is one of those tall plants with beautiful spires, often in a showy blue, that draws everyone to it for an admiring closer look. It's a native prairie plant that bears long, tall spikes of pealike blooms in late spring. As the flowers ripen, they turn into interesting black seedpods often used in fall arrangements.
It is a drought-tolerant plant that forms a deep taproot. Choose its location carefully; it is difficult to transplant once established.
Add a burst of whimsy to the garden! Slightly wayward stems and loose, rounded flower clusters give Barbara¿s buttons a fun, carefree appearance. It is guaranteed to enliven a staunch border with Dr. Seuss-like spirit. Add this North American native and up-and-coming perennial to beds and borders in full sun or part shade. It grows best in moist, well-drained soil. Blooming in late spring, it is a great partner for spring bulbs. When the tulips and daffodil blooms are fading it bursts onto the scene, carrying the garden into summer.
Barberry paints the landscape with arching, fine-textured branches of purple-red or chartreuse foliage. In fall, leaves brighten to reddish orange and spikes of red berries appear like sparklers as the foliage drops. The mounding habit of barberries makes for graceful hedging and barriers, and the thorns protect privacy.
Japanese barberry is considered an invasive plant in the Eastern U.S. and the species is banned from cultivation in some places, so check local restrictions before planting.
With strawberry-like leaves and bright yellow spring flowers, barren strawberries are an alternative evergreen groundcover or edging plant. They tolerate dry soil well and colonize banks and along woodland paths and between stepping stones in light shade or sun. They spread by runners and can cover a space relatively quickly.
Barrenwort is a rare plant -- one that thrives in the dry shade beneath shallow-rooted trees! It spreads at a moderate rate, forming a graceful, dense groundcover. Almost as a bonus, it also produces dainty flowers shaped like a bishop's miter -- prompting another common name, bishop's cap. Its colorful foliage dangles on slender stalks, providing yet another moniker: fairy wings.