10 Container Flowers that Bloom All Summer

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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!

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:

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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.

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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..

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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.

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