How to Plant Flowers and Care for Them to Ensure a Healthy Garden

Adding some blooming annuals and perennials is one of the quickest ways to freshen up your yard.

Flowering plants always make your garden look more exciting (and can stop neighbors in their tracks). Perennials can dazzle year after year, while annuals can add blooms almost instantly. You can start planting a flower garden with seeds or pick up transplants at the garden center, but once you've chosen your plants, there are a few basic steps to get your flowers off to a good start in your yard. First, before you start digging, read the tag that comes with your plants or the instructions on your packets of seeds so you can match the plants' needs with the best spots to grow them. Then, if you already have established flower beds, you can easily place new annuals or perennials wherever you need to fill in some holes. Or you can always create a new flower bed to fill with all the beautiful blooms you want to grow.

place plant root balls into holes
Brie Passano

Step 1: Right Place, Right Plant

Do the plants you've picked out need sun, shade, or a combination of both? Start by arranging your plants so they're in a spot where they'll get the kind of light they prefer (plants that like the sun should be out in the open, plants that need shade should go in a spot where they'll have some cover). Full sun is six hours or more of direct sun per day, not necessarily continuously. Part shade typically means four to six hours of sun per day. Shade definitions vary depending on how deep the shade really is. Dappled shade gives a lot more light than deep shade, for example.

Step 2: Dig the Soil

Beautiful flower gardens start with healthy soil. In general, most flowering plants do best in loose and well-drained soil with a lot of organic material. You don't need to dig a large area to plant flowers, but you should dig enough soil that you can add some compost to improve the soil structure and add nutrients.

Avoid digging or handling soil when it's wet to prevent compaction. Plants need a certain amount of space between soil particles for roots to grow. One test is to dig a small soil sample from a 3-inch hole to see if soil can be worked. Squeeze it into a ball, then toss the soil onto a hard surface such as a rock or pavement. If the soil stays together, it's too wet for planting, but it's time to plant if it shatters.

Step 3: Plant Your New Flowers

The steps for planting a flower garden from seeds are slightly different from plants from the nursery. Follow the directions on the seed packet to know how deep to plant each seed and how far apart. With potted garden plants, you should usually plant with the soil at the same level as the soil in the pot, but read the plant tag to be sure. Some flowering plants, such as irises and peonies, prefer their rhizomes and roots to be planted very shallow. When removing the plant from the pot, gently tease some or all of the soil from the roots. Then place the plant into the hole you've prepared. Push the soil back into the hole, firming it gently but not packing it down.

Step 4: Water Deeply and Add Mulch

Thoroughly soak the soil around your newly planted flowers. Garden flowers generally need 1 to 2 inches of moisture every week to perform well, so water if you don't receive enough rain. It's best to water deeply and less frequently than shallowly and more often to allow the roots of the plants to grow deeper. Avoid keeping soil waterlogged, or the roots of your flowering plants may rot. A layer of mulch, such as shredded bark, around your new plants will help slow down evaporation and reduce how often you need to water.

assorted flower garden with cat statue

Step 5: Deadhead and Groom Your Flowers

Feel free to cut flowers for bouquets as your plants begin blooming. Clip off the spent flower heads to encourage the plant to put more energy into its foliage and winter survival. Some flowers, including zinnias, dahlias, and others, bloom again when you remove the blooms. Clip or pull any brown foliage for a cleaner look. Daylilies, in particular, benefit from the removal of old leaves.

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