10 Container Flowers that Bloom All Summer

10 Annual Container Flowers that Bloom All Summer.png

When I first started gardening, I chose flowers ENTIRELY based on looks…I was so superficial back then.  I scoffed at those who bought petunias.  They were so boring..  I was only going to plant the less common flowers.  No impatiens for this girl!  So, I planted those unusual flowers.  Some of them made it and some of them didn’t.  At first I thought it was due to my inconsistent watering. After I improved my watering by using drip irrigation (see here), I realized that it hadn’t been just my poor caretaking, it was also my flower choices.  Turns out, the flowers that  I so readily scoffed at were probably so common because they were much easier to grow than the flowers I was choosing.

Urn with petunias, impatiens, euphorbia, dusty miller, dichondra, spike
Impatiens, Bacopa, Euphorbia, Petunias, Dusty Miller, Dichondra

Cool-Season Annuals.  I realized that I was wasting a lot of money buying plants that didn’t have much of a chance where I live, so I started making a list of the flowers that I bought in the spring and then taking an inventory in August to see what was still blooming.  If a plant didn’t make it to August for two consecutive years, it was downgraded to a “maybe” plant.  I didn’t want to completely stop buying all of the flowers that petered out in the heat, because that would mean giving up some of my favorites. Instead, I bought very limited quantities of flowers such as alyssum, pansies, and lobelia and planned for their demise.  In other words, during the spring, I would enjoy these short bloomers next to longer-blooming flowers.  Once they died or flowering slowed considerably, I would pull them out to make additional room for the flowers that had proven to be longer blooming.  Another option is to wait for cooler weather in the fall when these flowers may bloom again.

Heat Tolerant, but Require Deadheading.  I also noted that, for some flowers, it wasn’t about the heat.  For instance, geraniums and marigolds do well in the heat, but they require deadheading to keep blooming.  I began to also limit these to small quantities, no more than I was willing to deadhead.  Similarly, Cosmos and Zinnias do well in the heat, but require deadheading to keep blooming.  For these, the solution was a cutting garden, the frequent cutting of flower bouquets means an abundance of these flowers for most of the summer.

My Top Ten.  The ten cottage annuals chosen for this list do well in containers, even when temperatures top 100 degrees.  They do not require deadheading, although a few will benefit from being cut back by half midway through the summer.  I usually do this shortly before we go on vacation.  We return to find the flowers blooming even better than before they were cut back.

Torenia and Double Impatiens in a Brick planterTorenia.  It is a mystery to me why torenia, also known as wishbone flower, is not more widely grown.  It is incredibly adaptable, doing well in both sun and shade.  Heat doesn’t seem to affect it one little bit, it just keeps on trucking.  I now only buy the Summer Wave series from Proven Winners.  Any other cultivars have been a disappointment.  The above photo was taken of two Violet Torenia plants and one double impatiens, midway through the summer; they were even larger by fall.

euphorbia, impatiens, petunia, spikeEuphorbia.  These tiny white flowers that resemble baby’s breath are a versatile filler in both sun and shade. Don’t over water, it is drought tolerant.  Euphorbia is exceptionally easy to take cuttings from and some also overwinter this plant indoors.  “Diamond Frost” is a favorite.

 

petunias with bunnyPetunias.  Petunias are known as a flower for full sun, but in my area, they seem to do well even in partial shade.  Although deadheading may increase the number of blooms, I find it sufficient to cut them back about halfway once in the middle of summer. Petunias seem adaptable to a variety of watering conditions.  They come in a rainbow of colors, but I am partial to the pink and purple varieties.  If I could afford to do so, I would love to buy dozens of the expensive cultivars, but I am always satisfied with the less expensive plants that I buy in six packs.

 

Angelonia.  Also known as Summer Snapdragon, Angelonia requires full sun and is fairly drought tolerant.  Most varieties grow over one foot tall.  It is sometimes helpful to cut these back once during the middle of summer.  The Serena series is grown from seed and easiest to find, but I prefer Proven Winner’s Wedgewood Blue when I can find it.

 

bacopa, euphorbia, petunia in urn croppedBacopa.  The little white flowers of this delightful plant continue to bloom in part shade to full sun, as long as they are not allowed to dry out.  If blooming slows, cut back once about halfway during the summer.  Bacopa drapes beautifully over the side of a planter.  In addition to this white, it also comes in pink and purple.

 

Calibrachoa.  Once you have grown this prolific bloomer, it is easy to see how it earned it’s nickname, Million Bells.  Single Calis looks like mini-petunias, while the double Calis look like mini-roses.  It comes in several colors, but I am partial to this Double Pink Calibrachoa.  As pictured here, Calibrachoa fills in the planter, as well as spilling over the edge.  Calibrachoa needs full sun and be careful not to over water.

 

Impatiens.  Of all the flowers I buy, I depend most on lovely impatiens, also known as, “Busy Lizzies”.  There are now some more expensive varieties that do well in sun, but I love the inexpensive varieties that I can afford to buy by the flat to brighten up the shady areas of my garden.  In recent years, I was surprised to realize that my impatiens can also do well in sun.  The above variety is called Blue Pearl, although they are pink.  Impatiens require regular watering.

 

Salvia.  Although these Victoria Blue Salvia were purchased as annuals, many plants often return after a mild winter…or perhaps they just self sow.  Salvia are known for their drought tolerance.  Be sure to check the projected height of any salvia before purchase.  Some grow too tall for smaller containers.  Salvia are best in full sun, but also do well in partial shade.

 

Verbena.  While I love the many shades of verbena, most that I have tried required some cutting back for continued blooming.  Not so with these little Imagination Verbena.  Verbena do well in partial shade to full sun.  Although they tolerate some dry conditions, they seem to flower best when kept continuously moist.  These verbena are especially useful for adding height to containers.

 

VincaVinca. As a beginning gardener, I could not tell the different between impatiens and Vinca to save my life.  Even today, I pay more attention to the foliage, than the flower.  Vinca, also known as periwinkle, does well in full sun and is fairly drought tolerant.  For me, the plants stay relatively small, but still provide a nice pop of color.

 

 

Honorable Mention:  The following flowers also do well in heat and do not require deadheading:  Pentas, Lantana, Scaevola, Begonia, Moss Rose.

Spend less time deadheading and more time relaxing in your garden.

Happy Gardening!

6 Creative Uses for Drip Irrigation

 

6 Creative Uses for Drip IrrigationI love drip irrigation!  If are interested in using drip irrigation and would like to learn how to do so, please read The Beginners Guide to Using Drip Irrigation in Your Containers.  If you would like to consider some different uses for drip irrigation, please keep reading…

Living Wreath.  Have you ever seen a planter like this and thought it would be too difficult to use?  I had purchased this wire living wreath form before I started using drip irrigation, but I quickly learned there was no  easy way to keep it hydrated.  It was awkward to water with a hose and plunging it into a tub of water frequently enough to keep the impatiens hydrated just wasn’t practical.  The solution was a loop of tubing going around the inside of the wreath with 4 emitters attached.  Another alternative would be using a small length of drilled soaker tubing inside the form.

impatiens wreath using drip irrigation
Living wreath hanging on a ladder with peat moss sheets and pink impatiens.

Birdbath.  Do the birds in your garden have to miss their baths during dry weather?  We have many birds in our backyard and they just love this little birdbath.  It only took a few seconds to fill when I was hand watering, but once I didn’t need to hand water anymore, I didn’t always feel like making a trip out to fill it on a hot day.  I could have hung an emitter over the side, but that would have ruined the look of this birdbath.  The solution was hiding a drip emitter over a branch in the dogwood tree overhead.  It drips into the birdbath while my flower containers are receiving water from their drip emitters.bunny in birdbath with drip emitter in tree overheadDifficult-to-Reach Containers.  At one point, I had my many containers around the fence line of our property receiving water, but I still had to go out daily to water this urn in the middle of our garden.  When we went on vacation, I would run a temporary line of tubing to it, but that was not a permanent solution because the tubing would show and/or accidentally be mowed.  The solution was using a slim piece of PVC pipe with the drip tubing inside of it and burying it between the nearest flower bed and this urn.  It took less than an hour to dig a shallow trench and bury a piece of PVC with the drip irrigation inside.  In just a short time, the grass had filled in and the tubing was no longer visible.  It’s been quite a few years and this solution is still going strong!

urn planter in middle of yard

 

PVC and drip tubing in bed and about to go underground
Drip tubing inside a slim PVC pipe is about to travel underground to the planter in the middle of the yard.

Container Water Garden.  Have you ever made a container water garden?  They are so easy and fun!  For the first one that I made, I just hung an emitter inside it to keep the water garden full.  You could not easily see the tubing behind the plants.  I later learned to bring the tubing up through the planting hole before plugging it with plumber’s underwater epoxy putty.

butterfly
Water garden with water celery, sweet flag, and copper butterfly dripper fountain.

Fairy Gardens.  Do you have a fairy garden?  I love these tiny little pots that go in a fairy garden, but how could I possibly keep something so small hydrated during our long, hot summers?  I learned that I could insert the tip of an emitter into the bottom of each little container.  This one is a little tricky because you have to bury the emitter with it facing directly up and then fiddle with it a little until it stands up straight.  I think it’s well worth it!  For more about creating your own fairy garden, see Magical Lights in the Fairy Garden.

drip irrigation in fairy garden

Butterfly Puddlers.  Did you know that butterflies benefit from the nutrition that they find in mud puddles?  For more on that, read this.  My latest project is hanging a drip emitter over some sandy, salted mud to make a butterfly mud puddler.  The emitter could be hung in a tree or on a Shepard’s hook overhead.  You could even just identify a hanging flower container that starts dripping pretty quickly when watered and move away some mulch underneath to make your butterfly mud puddler there.  We will see if this works.  It isn’t terribly attractive, is it?  Hopefully the butterflies won’t mind!

butterfly mud puddler

I hope that you found a fun project to use in your garden!  Happy Gardening!

The Beginner’s Guide to Using Drip Irrigation in your Container Garden. It’s EASY!

The Beginner's Guide to Using Drip Irrigation in Container Gardens. It's Easy!For years, I avoided using drip irrigation because it seemed entirely too complicated and expensive.  My garden suffered…and died, died, died. Year after year, I would attempt to go on vacation in July by trying different systems such as cotton wicks plunged into 5-gallon buckets of water or flooding plants before leaving by using all types of stakes that attached to 2-liter bottles. I finally caved and decided that I had to either try drip irrigation or stop buying plants altogether. Within  minutes of receiving my first kit, I realized that I should have started much sooner. Drip irrigation is SO EASY and it saves oodles of time and aggravation!  While there are some reasonable costs involved, there are also many savings. For starters, plants live instead of dying!  That means fewer plants to purchase.  Furthermore, less water is needed since hydration is provided directly to the roots without wetting the foliage.

Where to buy.  I started with a container garden drip irrigation kit and that is likely best for any beginner because it has everything that you need to get started, including some 1/4″ tubing. I have used both the Raindrip Automatic Container and Hanging Baskets Kit and the Irrigation Direct Drip Irrigation Kit for Container Gardening on Patios & Decks .  I found it best to start with a small kit to see if it was something that I indeed wanted to use.  Once I decided to expand my container garden even more and even use drip irrigation in my flower beds, I began ordering the additional parts that I needed directly from Irrigation Direct.  However, I have also seen drip irrigation supplies at local retailers such as Orscheln’s, Menard’s, Home Depot, and Lowe’s.

Specifications.  On the Irrigation Direct website, they list the flow rate per hour needed to water each size of kit offered.  For instance, their large drip irrigation kit for containers would water an estimated 60 emitters at a max flow rate of only 30 gallons per hour.  If your spigot would fill a five-gallon bucket at least six times in an hour, you are good to go!  Some large containers may require two or more emitters.  It should also be noted that, to have adequate water pressure, you cannot have a continuous line of tubing longer than 50 feet.

Connect to the faucet spigot.  You will start by hooking up the following items to the faucet spigot in this order:

  1. backflow preventer
  2. inline filter
  3. pressure regulator
  4. barbed adapter

drip irrigation from spigot labeledBarbed adapter connects to the tubing which carries the water out to your plants.

Add an emitter to each container.  You then just cut a piece of that tubing near each plant, insert a Tee, and then attach another piece of tubing which is connected to an emitter that drips into your pot.  SO EASY!

5 steps drip irrigation

Which timer should you buy?  Some kits include a timer, but after trying several different timers, I have found the Orbit Programmable Timers to be the most reliable and easiest to use. You can buy them with one, two, or three outlets. I started with the single-outlet timer which watered a lot of containers, but I eventually expanded so much that I needed two outlets to accommodate two different watering zones.  More recently, I added a third outlet to accommodate a few containers that require very little water.  With that said, I think it likely that a single outlet would meet the needs of most gardeners.

Setting the Timer.  You will turn the dial counterclockwise to set the current time, a start time, duration, and frequency for each outlet.  The plus and minus buttons are used to make these desired adjustments.    If you buy a two- or three-outlet timer, the arrows are used to choose which outlet you are programming.  All timers also have a manual option that can be used to turn on the water without waiting for the desired time.

orbit timer connected to drip irrigation

How much water?  Depending on the outdoor temperature, I set the timer to water 1-2 times per day for 10-20 minutes per cycle.  If we receive a fair bit of rain, I simply push the rain-delay button on the timer and watering is delayed for 24 hours.

Fall Maintenance.  Every fall, I cut off the tubing from the barbed adapter and bring everything that connects the spigot to the tubing inside, all in one piece.  This includes the timer.

Spring Maintenance.  In the spring, I insert fresh batteries into the timer and then switch out the old washer for a new one before hooking the timer to the spigot.  You may also need a new barbed adapter to attach the tubing.  Then, I turn everything on and walk the lines to make sure each emitter is still working.  Invariably, a few emitters will need replacing or a tube needs reattaching.

Using drip irrigation has increased my gardening success and enjoyment immeasurably.  To read about some fun and creative ways to use drip irrigation, please see 6 Creative Uses for Drip Irrigation.

Happy Gardening!

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Magical Lights in the Fairy Garden

Make a little magic using solar LED twinkle lights in your fairy garden. Instructions and recommended plants are included.

 

I enjoy growing flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruit, but my favorite yearly project is always my fairy garden.  One year, I was installing solar twinkle lights over an arbor and I thought it might be pretty if I could do the same to the arbor in my fairy garden.arbor at night

PREPARATION

Here is a list of the materials you need

Large container with drainage holes (e.g., half whisky barrel, wheelbarrow, tub)

Potting soil with fertilizer

Drip irrigation kit (optional)

Structures (e.g., arbor, gazebo, house)

Decorative elements (e.g., furniture, decorative stakes, fencing)

Plants

Garden staples

Solar LED wire lights

I initially started with solar lights that looked a lot like the lights you might use at Christmas.  This year, I found these Amir solar LED wire lights on Amazon and they worked SO much better.  I recommend this brand because another brand that I bought stopped working after a couple of weeks, but the Amir have been going strong for several weeks now.  The ones that I bought had 100 lights on the string.  That may seem like a lot, but I thought it was just right.   Here is what they look like when they first arrive:

image2

Once you have all of your materials, fill the container with potting soil until it is just a few inches below the top. You will fill it to the top later when you are almost done.  Lay out all of the larger structures and plants until you have a general idea of where you want everything to be. You will then need to move some items in and out while you install the irrigation and lighting.

IRRIGATION

It is not required, but if you live somewhere hot and dry like me, you might need to water as much as twice a day unless you are using a drip system.  I use drip irrigation on a timer for all of my containers, and I first started with this Drip Irrigation Kit for Containers  which is quite easy to use.  This kit would water several containers, not just your fairy garden.  For more information about drip irrigation, please see The Beginner’s Guide to Using Drip Irrigation in your Container Garden.

With that said, drip irrigation is a must if you want to successfully grow plants in miniature containers like these in a hot climate.  I insert an emitter directly into the bottom of the planters and urns.  This takes some fiddling around to get it right.  I also arrange one emitter such that it will drip into the little pond and therefore stay full of water all summer.  Garden staples are helpful in getting the drip irrigation installed if you want to do some of these extras.  For more information on this, see 6 Creative Uses for Drip Irrigation .

LIGHTING

Install the solar string lights starting  at the end nearest the solar panel.  Unfortunately, the lights are kind of far apart, so it is sometimes necessary to twist or loop the wire around so that the lights are closer together.  I like using the lights in a way that you cannot see a continuous string of lights.  Instead, some are hidden under plants or gravel such that the lighting appears to start and stop in different places. This year, I added solar light strings over a “patio”, which is really an old mosaic stepping stone.

When I’m done, any leftover lights are placed in the house so it looks like the fairies are at home.

PLANTING

Place your plants a little above the soil line, remember that you will add the rest of the soil later.

I especially like alyssum (pink) and lobelia (bright blue) because I can buy them quite reasonably at a flat sale every year.  These light blue ageratum are also nice, but only when they are planted towards the very back because they get tall.

Garden 2013 (9)

Some kind of miniature tree is also a nice addition. My favorite is this mini variegated olive.P1030816

I use Wire Vine over the arbor (left) and Isotoma Laurentia (right) which has tiny little blue flowers.  These two plants are great because they often come back after a mild winter.

If you want a vegetable garden, simply break the tips off the branches of succulents and place them in the soil to mimic tiny cabbages.  They will eventually take root, needing only a little water.

cabbage crop

Lastly, I use some premium annuals such as Baby’s Tears (left) or Leptinella (center) which looks like tiny fern plants.  I also like Irish moss (right) because it looks so much like grass.  

To learn more about fairy garden plants, visit fairygardening.com

DECORATE

Once the plants are planted, add a couple inches of soil to the top covering the drip irrigation and solar lighting.  Add some rocks for decorations or paths.  Here is a path made of expanded shale.

P1030798

Add fun little extras (e.g., furniture, fencing, decorative stakes, etc). I have a lot of trouble restraining myself on this step.  I really tend to junk it up!  For me, that is part of the fun.

MAINTAIN

Keep the garden watered and cut plants back by half when they get tall or scraggly, which is what happened here..

2014-05-26 09.17.11-3

I hope that you enjoy creating your own magical fairy garden!

Make a little magic using solar wire LED twinkle lights in your fairy garden. Instructions and recommended plants are also included.

Some posts on this site include affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This commission allows us to avoid banner ads and popups. Please know that the opinions expressed are entirely our own.