There are three main categories of flowering plants (herbaceous plants) and they are: annuals, biennials and perennials.
Annuals flower the first year they are planted, then die. There are summer annuals and winter annuals. The summer annuals are typically planted in the spring, flower in the summer and/or fall, then die. Winter annuals are typically planted in the late summer/early fall, flower the following spring, then die during the summer. It’s possible to have a year-round flowering bed by planting the summer annuals, removing them when they die back and immediately planting the winter annuals.
Biennials have a two-year growth cycle. The first year the plants grow stems and leaves. The second year they flower, then die. These species typically have a a cold weather requirement before proceeding to flower. Therefore, one can grow these similarly to winter annuals. For example, the plants can be started in the summer and planted out in the garden in the late summer/early fall. Then they will usually flower the following spring or summer. The most common biennials often re-seed themselves, so they end up behaving somewhat like perennials.
Perennials are hardy herbaceous plants that survive year after year. However, not all perennials are long-lived. In other words, many perennial species will perform well for several years before succumbing to nature. Whereas, some perennial species will outlive most gardeners.
Considerations When Choosing Flowers To Grow
There are three main factors that determine if and where you can grow certain species, they are: climate, sunlight, water.
Plants have heat and cold tolerances, and by checking the “Hardiness Zone” of the plant, you will be able to tell if it will not only survive in your climate, but if it will thrive and flourish. If you are unsure of what zone you are located in, just click on the “Zone” page above. When the map opens, click on your area and it will zoom in to give you more detail.
Some plants require full sunlight to flower, some will flower in partial shade and some can’t take any direct sunlight. Some prefer morning light and some will do best in stronger, afternoon light. In most cases, the more light the plant reveives, the more flowers are produced. A “full sun” plant may perform well in some shade, but flowering may be reduced and the plants may become leggy and require staking. A plant that does well in full sun in northern climates may need some afternoon shade in the south.
Shade plants tend to do best when they don’t get too much direct sunlight. Early morning sunlight is usually no problem. Sometimes a “shade” plant can tolerate more sun if it is getting plenty of water.
All plants need water for normal growth, even cacti. Some species are tolerant of drought, some will wilt and not recover from drought stress. Some species are tolerant of “wet feet”, and others will easily rot when kept too wet. The best soil had good drainage. Heavy clay soils don’t drain and can cause problems for many plants. On the other hand, sand drains too much and won’t hold enough moisture for the plants, which have to be watered frequently.
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