Spring has sprung and it is exciting to see new colors emerging daily in area landscapes. Even if you know nothing about plants you can have fun learning about gardening. Many choices are available for flowers, shrubs, trees, and vegetables. Start with what you like and experiment to see what works best for your landscape.
Annual plants flower and die within one season and must be planted again the following year. Examples are ageratum, alyssum, begonia, and impatiens. They can be planted as seeds or purchased as container plants. These plants come in a wide variety of colors, heights, and textures. Annual plants are the best and most economical way to provide color quickly to the landscape. According to Dr. Gary Bachman, Mississippi State University Research Professor, the most important step with annual plants is soil preparation since the “roots of annuals have to penetrate soils quickly, anchor plants, and absorb water and nutrients in one season. The first step in preparing a bed for annuals is to remove any unwanted plants with a hoe or rake, or with a nonselective contact herbicide. After weeds have been removed or killed, dig the soil a shovel’s depth.”
Perennial plants live for several years. Many gardeners enjoy combining perennials with annuals. Examples of perennials include rosemary, roses, yarrow, amsonia (blue star), daisies, ajuga, daylily, elephant ear, ferns, hosta, iris, lamb’s ear, and many varieties of native wildflowers. Perennial plants are frequently shared between gardeners and are sometimes passed down from one generation to the next – known as heirloom plants. Passing along perennial plants has led to them sometimes being called “pass-along plants”. Sharing plants between gardeners is an economical and fun way to accumulate a wide variety of plants in the landscape.
Many perennials can be propagated from stem cuttings. To propagate stem cuttings, choose stems that are firm but not too hardened. Cut a four-inch to six-inch stem and remove any flower head and lower leaves. Leave a few leaves near the top of the stem to provide energy for root growth. Dip the ends of the stem in a root-stimulating powder which can be purchased at your local feed store. Make holes in sandy soil or peat moss and insert the stems. Water regularly. Roots and new leaves should appear in three to four weeks. Transplant the stems in your garden or in pots and water thoroughly.
Beautiful flowers and foliage are an inexpensive way to create a focal point or border to dress up your lawn or soften hardscapes and adds value to your home. Even if you live in an apartment you can enjoy growing plants in pots on a patio or deck. Gardening provides healthy outdoor exercise and can be a family activity. A simple activity such as digging a hole can be fascinating for a young child. For a wealth of information on gardening, designing your landscape, and choosing annual and perennial flowering plants, go the MSU Extension Web page at http://extension.msstate.edu. and click on the “Lawn and Garden” tab. Publications such as Publication #1826 (see reference) provides general planting information as well as which plants grow best in shade and which plants attract butterflies. You can also access videos and listen to podcasts. This information will help you get the most enjoyment by helping you choose plants best suited for your landscape.
Here is just a partial list of the many publications you can download from the MSU Extension Lawn and Garden Web page:
- Easy-To-Grow Herbs for the Landscape -- Publication IS1562
- The Garden Tabloid -- Publication 1091
- Propagating Plants for the Home Landscape – Publication IS0207
- Homegrown Flower, Herb and Vegetable Transplants – Publication P3436
- Nonchemical Weed Control for Homeowners – Publication IS1580
- 2020 Mississippi Medallion Plants – Publication P3419
Bachman, G. (2019). Annual & Perennial Flowers for Mississippi Gardens. Publication 1826. Retrieved from: http://extension.msstate.edu/node/6809