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African daisy has a bold, graphic look that's hard to find in more common daisies. Flowers are big, up to 4 inches across, often with interesting, eyelike markings around the flower's center.
This cool-season plant hails from South Africa. In areas where summers aren't hot, such as the Northern regions of the U.S. and the Pacific Northwest, it will bloom constantly until frost. In warm-summer areas, it often takes a break during the peak of summer, but reblooms in fall. Many types have silvery-green leaves that remain attractive when the plant isn't in bloom. It's usually grown as an annual but is a perennial in frost-free climates.
African violet care is incredibly easy. African violets are easy-to-grow, rewarding houseplants. They bloom well with lower light than most other blooming plants, although they will perform better with medium to bright, indirect light. All bear clusters of purple, pink, white, rose, or lavender flowers over fuzzy leaves. African violet flowers may be single, double, ruffled, or edged in an accent color. African violets thrive in warm conditions (65 degrees F or warmer), although newer varieties tolerate cooler conditions. Keep the soil evenly moist, and water from the bottom to prevent leaf browning from water spots.
Ageratum is such a little workhorse that nearly every garden should have some. This annual is an easy-to-grow, old-fashioned favorite that produces a steady show of colorful powder-pufflike flowers from late spring through frost. It's also rarely bothered by pests, so you count on it to look good. Plus, it provides some of the truest blues you can find in flowers -- a rare thing.
Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant in groups of a dozen or more for best show. Deadhead and fertilize regularly for best blooms.
Ajuga is one of the most indispensable groundcovers around. It has many uses and looks great much of the year.
Also known as carpetweed or bugleweed, ajuga forms a 6-inch-tall mat of glossy leaves that always seem to look neat and fresh. In many cases, the leaves are colored with shades of purple, white, silver, cream, or pink. Individual plants grow as a rosette, but they intertwine to form a solid carpet that withstands some foot traffic. Blue, lavender, pink, or white flower spikes adorn plants spring to early summer.
Ajuga is great in rock gardens, in the front of beds and borders, under leggy shrubs or small trees, along paths, and just about any other place in the landscape you want to cover the ground with attractive foliage and little flowers.
Alliums may be in the onion family, but these top-notch garden plants are anything but utilitarian vegetable-garden residents. Among the most carefree bulbs you can grow, alliums bloom in a wide range of colors (including shades of yellow, white, pink, and purple), seasons, and sizes (from inch-wide heads to volleyball-sized bloom clusters).
Alliums offer whimsical structures and great textural contrasts unique to the late-spring bulb garden. Clustered florets in a globe-shape flower head are held aloft on a thick stem. In the species, loose bouquets of flowers sprout from clustered, hollow stems. The larger allium flower heads are fun focal points for dried arrangements. Plant alliums in any well-drained garden soil in full sun. The smaller types are especially well suited for growing in rock gardens. Plant a few larger hybrids in a pot for a flowering surprise in early summer.
Alstroemerias are best known as cut flowers, where their rich colors and lovely veining grace many a vase, where they'll last for as long as two weeks. But they can also be grown in the garden, where they do best in light, well-drained soil. They bloom freely through the summer and come in almost all shades of the rainbow except true blue.
Where they're perennials, in the warmest parts of the country, deadhead flowers when they are done blooming to prevent them from spreading too much by seed.
Grow something a little different this year and try amaranth. It will likely grow taller than you and produce stunning, large reddish to gold flowers. It's almost worth growing just for the flowers alone.
Vegetable amaranth produces coleuslike green leaves overlaid with burgundy patches. Use the tender young leaves in salads and stir-fries as you would to spinach. The leaves have a nutty, tangy flavor so are best mixed with other greens. The seeds are a favorite of nutrition-conscious cooks, especially vegetarians, who like its high protein and fiber content. The seeds, which are produced in abundance, can be used as a cereal, ground into flour, popped, toasted, or cooked with other grains.
Amaryllis is an easy bulb to grow. Its enormous cluster of trumpet-shape blooms may require staking to keep them upright, but blooms may last for up to 6 weeks. Keep the plant cool (60-65 degrees F) while in bloom but slightly warmer at other times when it is actively growing. It needs bright light and evenly moist soil, except when it is dormant. Force the bulb to go dormant in late summer or early fall by withholding water and placing it in a cool, dry location for a couple of months. Resume watering and move it to a warm spot to force new growth.
A native of Japan, andromeda (Pieris japonica) is a handsome broadleaf evergreen shrub that makes an ideal foundation or specimen plant. It?s a slow-growing shrub that can reach 10 feet tall if left unpruned. In the early spring, andromeda develops arching clusters of white flowers that resemble lily-of-the-valley blooms (there are also pink-flowering forms, as well as types that have reddish or pinkish new growth). The plants? deer-resistant leaves are glossy green all year long.
A relative of rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, and mountain laurel, andromeda does best in a sheltered location that has rich, slightly acidic soil in partial sun. Avoid planting it in an open, exposed windy location.
Anemones are lovely, delicate flowers that dance atop slender stems, giving them their poetic common name -- windflower. Depending on the type, anemones bloom in spring, summer, or through fall with pretty, slightly cupped flowers in rose, pink, or white rising over distinctive, deeply lobed foliage.
Plants grow best in partial shade but tolerate full sun in Northern regions. If you're lucky, they'll be happy where they're planted. In some cases, you may even need to divide plants frequently to prevent them from overtaking neighboring perennials.
Anemones naturalize easily in good garden soil, spreading their early-spring cheer in the ephemeral garden under bare trees and shrubs that later leaf out. These daisylike blooms feature thin, silky petals that quickly disperse in the breeze after flowering. A color range of white, sky blue, pink to the velvety reds and purples of poppy anemones provide jewellike tones for early in the season before the tulips open.
Soak anemone corms in warm water overnight before planting to speed sprouting. These hardy Mediterranean natives flourish in a well-drained, lighter soil in full sun to partial shade.
Angel's trumpet is a heat-loving tropical or subtropical shrub that likes warm (80 -85 degrees F) days and cool nights. In cold-winter regions, you can grow it in a container and take it indoors over winter or simply treat it as an exotic, amazing annual. Grow it in moist, well-drained soil. Its fragrant, trumpet-shape flowers dangle from upright stems and appear in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange, and cream.
Note: All parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten, and the plant has been banned in some communities. Check local restrictions before planting it.
Angelica is a tall, hardy biennial herb with dramatic stalks that can be candied and used on cakes or cookies. The first year, the plant produces beautiful frilly green foliage. The second year, angelica sends up flower stalks and then produces seeds. The flowers and foliage make a dramatic back-of-the-border accent in perennial beds. The celery-flavor stems may be eaten raw or candied for use in baking. Use the dried root in tea. Plants might self-sow, but plant new angelica each year to ensure a constant supply. Grow it in full sun or dappled shade in rich, organic soil.
Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections.
While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.
Annual phlox is a native wildflower in areas of Texas. As such, you can guess it's a wonderfully heat- and drought-tolerant variety. In late spring and summer, it shows off clusters of red, pink, lavender, or white flowers.
Because it's easy to grow and puts on such a great display, it's a good choice for beginning gardeners who have to tackle a hot, dry spot. Remove the flower clusters as they fade to encourage more blooms and pinch the plants back in summer if they start to get leggy.
Old-fashioned annual statice is found more often dried in crafts stores than growing in gardens. But this easy-to-grow plant is a great pick for containers or the middle of a border, especially if you want to harvest it for everlasting bouquets indoors.
Statice bears papery flowers in a wide variety of colors. The flowers dry well -- so much so they practically dry on the plant. The plant is also very drought-tolerant, so you can enjoy its blooms even if you forget to water it from time to time. In fact, statice thrives in hot, sunny spots with well-drained soil. Plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Resembling a miniature snapdragon, toadflax is a great choice to bring color to the garden early in the season when you're most starved for it. In areas with cool summers, annual toadflax blooms from spring to fall. In warmer areas, the blooms fade come hot weather. Shear them back by about half. If the weather isn't too hot, they may rebloom in fall.
Toadflax grows well in the ground, but also try it in containers, especially with pansies, bulbs, and other early-season stars.
You've gotta love annual vinca -- it really delivers. It will tolerate a wide variety of conditions and still keep it up with almost unreal-looking, glossy green flowers and pretty pink, lavender, or red flowers that look like tiny parasols.
Whether the summer is dry or wet, hot or cold, vinca plugs along unfazed. It makes a great container plant. Or plant it in a bed or border, grouping at least eight or more together for best effect.
Plant established seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Vinca withstands drought but does best with moderate moisture. Fertilize occasionally. Like impatiens, this plant tends to be "self-cleaning" and needs little deadheading.
Shown above: Pretty in Pink vinca
Apple is the most widely adapted of all temperate-zone fruit trees. A copious producer if it's planted in full sun and well-drained soil, a mature tree will supply several families with bushels of fruit. Many cultivars have chilling requirements that must be met for fruits to develop properly. Choose a cultivar that will thrive in your climate. Also, plant two or more cultivars that bloom at the same time to ensure cross-pollination and a variety of fruits, or choose a self-pollinating cultivar if you have room for just one tree.
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.