Happy National Gardening Month, my friends! Being the garden enthusiast I am, this is probably my favorite time in Houston throughout the year. The plants and flowers are waking up and bringing back color and life into the landscape. The weather is warming up but still cool enough to enjoy being outside.
This is the perfect time to get out with your kids and spruce up your yard. One of my favorite ways to freshen up the areas around my home is to add beautiful, colorful flowers! But there are so many to choose from, so how do you know which ones will live and thrive in our area? That is where your friendly neighborhood garden consultant (me, cough cough) comes in. See below for a list of my favorite beauties that can take the heat all summer long and give you blooms well into the holiday season!
One of the first things to realize is that there are three main groups of flowers: annuals, biennials and perennials. Annual flowers grow, bloom and then die all in one season. Biennials take two years to give blooms and then die, so these are planted one year and bloom the following year. Perennials give continual blooms, or survive through the winter (even if they may die back) and then regrow and bloom the following year.
Annual flowers are a fun way to add color and interest into your garden and landscaping without a long-term commitment. They are cheap, and the ones I like are low maintenance and not fussy about the climate. Here are a few I would recommend to plant right now:
All of these flowers can take the long, hot, humid summers in the Houston area. All but the pentas make great cut flowers. Zinnias, cosmos and celosia will even give you blooms over and over again the more you cut them. They all support your native pollinators and will look so beautiful it will make your neighbors jealous. Just realize that some of them can get quite big, so be sure to look at the variety you are getting (there are SO many!). For example, one variety of sunflowers I am growing only get to be about 2 feet tall, but another can be up to 8 feet tall. So it is good to know where to plant them!
There are many fun biennial flowers that can be grown in our area, but they are typically planted in the fall and then bloom the following spring or summer. So at this point in the year, I would wait. However, if you want to plan ahead for the end of summer and fall planting, the following would make excellent choices to give you spring blooms next year:
- Wildflowers, like Bluebonnets
Perennial flowers can be tricky in our area, because not only do they have to handle a bit of frost or the rare freeze, but they also have to withstand our summer heat and humidity. The good news is that there are a handful that work very well. Some of these will stay green throughout the winter, while others may die back. But be warned, just because it dies down to the ground doesn’t mean it is dead. Those plants should be cut back after the last frost (typically in February these days) and they will regrow. Here are some tried and true perennial plants to add to your home:
- Purple Coneflower
- Black Eyed Susans
- Butterfly Weed
- Native Milkweeds
- Butterfly Bush
- Certain roses, such as drift roses
A lovely thing about many of these is the long bloom times as well as being beneficial to pollinators. They don’t typically make great cut flowers, but will look lovely in your flower beds, by your pool, along your fence, or in containers on the patio.
As with any type of garden activity, I always recommend getting your kids involved. Let them paint rocks or little garden gnomes to decorate the yard. Take them to the nursery to help you pick out the plants and select colors. Get them to help you plant, water and weed. And let them delight in seeing butterflies come visit or cutting flowers to place in a vase in their rooms. Gardening can be such a wonderful way to connect with your children away from screens and outside in the fresh air and sunlight. Who doesn’t want that?