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Beginner gardening: How to grow your own backyard flower garden

Ferry-Morse Home Gardening Blog | September 2021

A close-up of salmon, pink and white colored zinnias against beautiful green foliage.

A close-up of a blush pink colored zinnia in bloom against other zinnias and green foliage.

Flowers are like sprinkles on a cupcake, adding color, texture, depth, and dimension to an otherwise unembellished landscape—and the best part is they’re just plain fun.

While their beauty often enchants us as ornamental plants, have you ever wondered if they serve any other purpose?

Here’s the truth, flowers attract pollinators that plants need to produce fruits and vegetables from—you guessed it, pollinated flowers!

Their presence in the landscape also improves emotional health. And a fun fact is that some flowers are edible and even medicinal!

In this article, we’ll explain petal-by-petal how to grow a backyard flower garden. Let’s see what blossoms.

What are the steps of growing a backyard flower garden?

Grow heaps of flowers in five simple steps:

  • Create a design.
  • Identify a site(s) for your flower bed(s).
  • Prepare the soil.
  • Plant appropriate varieties.
  • Maintain your garden with good cultural practices.

1: Create a design.

Draw your design out on paper or use an app. Imagine how different textures, colors, and sizes of flowers might look against the browns and greens of your existing landscape.

A simple design of a few varieties can be sweet and wonderful. You might even want to toss in edible flowering plants like nasturtium. Contact your local extension office for design ideas perfect for your region. 

Gardener sketching out how they want to plan their backyard flower garden.

A gardener sketching out how they envision their flower garden will be in bloom.

2. Identify a site(s) for your flower bed(s).

Now that you have a plan, mark off areas in your backyard where your flower garden design can come to life.

A flower garden can thrive in a wide range of sunlight conditions and soil types. Meet each variety’s requirements for temperature, nutrients, pH, and light, and you’ll have a picture-perfect flower garden of which to be proud.

3. Prepare the soil.

Here’s the deal, you can get a pretty good idea of soil composition through the glass jar method. But you really won’t know its nutrient levels or pH without a soil test. So, try to get one and follow the recommendations.

Also, it’s essential for water to drain away from your garden. Here’s a simple drainage test to perform and advice for gardeners in wet climates.

4. Plant appropriate varieties.

Choose varieties proven to perform in your growing zone, like those state agricultural services spotlight, such as the Louisiana Super Plant program.

 Every region has varieties that can liven up a backyard, such as a confetti-dipped line of sweet peas against a wooden fence or coleus to brighten the shade under a tree. 

Sweet pea flowers blooming against a wooden fence.

Purple, white, pink and red sweet peas climbing and flowering along a wooden fence.

5. Maintain your garden with good cultural practices.

Once your plants establish, keep flowers blooming and looking fresh through consistent routines around the following maintenance activities:

What do I need to consider before I start picking out flower seeds and plants?

Evaluating the conditions of the site(s) you select concerning the varieties you prefer is your most important consideration. Let’s take a closer look.

Timing 

Knowing your USDA hardiness zone is super-important for learning which plants will thrive in your backyard, but it only indicates the ability of a plant to withstand cold weather.

Your local extension office can help you find the best heat tolerant and cold tolerant flowers for your region.

A good rule of thumb for perennials is that if they flower in the fall, plant in the spring, and for flowers in the spring, plant in the fall, giving the roots time to establish in mild temperatures.

Seed packets, plant markers, and bloom guides provide more information.

Light

The easiest way to measure the amount of sunlight shining on your flower bed(s) is to peek through the window throughout the day. Gather more precise measurements by making a sun map.

Compare the hours to different sunlight levels, like full sun, partial shade, shade, etc. Then, read seed packets and plant markers to select plants with matching sunlight requirements. Also, learn the difference between short and long-day flowers.

Spacing/Location

Grow the right plant in the right spot, and gardening problems, you’ll have not!

Keep a variety’s mature size at the forefront of your thoughts when flower gardening, and you’ll enjoy blissful scenery in your backyard for years to come.

Here are instructions on reading seed packets and plant tags that’ll help you pinpoint each plant’s spacing and location needs.

Water

An admirable goal for flower beds is to select plants that can survive on rainfall alone, even though this isn’t always possible.

You can plant any variety successfully as long as you commit to giving it the water and other conditions it needs while realizing that this might increase your gardening chores.

Water dormant perennials in winter because their roots are still active. Use mulch for its decorative value and qualities in moisture retention, weed control, and soil temperature regulation.  

Nutrients

All plants need the proper nutrients to grow, and some soils lack the nutrients necessary to encourage blooms.

Ensure adequate nutrients by following these three steps:

  • Test the soil.
  • Interpret the results.
  • Amend as needed.

It’s super-important to follow the instructions on fertilizer labels to avoid injuring your plants. You can handle it, we promise!

Pruning

Pruning ornamentals helps to maintain each plant’s size and shape, encourages vigor, and stimulates flowering. Shearing might be needed for perennials with a mounding growth habit, like lantana. 

Staking & Support

Sometimes flowering plants grow so tall that they flop over. All you need to do is support them with inconspicuous stakes. Take a little time to learn more about staking annuals and perennials.

Close-up of the top of an iron trellis being used in place of a stake to support wind-blown zinnias.

Close-up of the top of an iron trellis being used in place of a stake to support some wind-blown zinnias.

What do I want to grow?

Now that we’ve covered the basics, think about what you’d like to grow in your backyard flower garden. Consider aesthetics as well as the amount of care involved.

What are the 10 most popularly grown annual flowers?

Gardeners everywhere love these annual flowers:

What are the 10 most popularly grown perennial flowers?

Perennial flower favorites include:

Which flowers are suitable for bouquets and cut flowers that will bloom again?

Flower varieties in all shades, shapes, and sizes are great for cutting and placing in bouquets to create flower arrangements, including:

What are the easiest flowers to grow from seed?

If you’re ready for some easy-to-grow, Instagram-worthy, hashtag-ready flowers that look good both on your coffee table and in your garden, grow the flowers listed below:

FlowerSunlight NeedsHeightLife cycleDays to GerminationDays to Bloom
Zinnia
Full sun24–36 in. Annual7–12 d. 35–60 d.
Bachelor button
Sun / Partial shade 20–30 in. Annual10–15 d. 42–49 d.
CosmosFull sun / Partial shade 20–24 in.Annual3–7 d. 45–60 d.
FoxgloveFull sun / Partial shade 3 ft.Perennial15–20 d. 70–100 d.
SunflowerFull sun4–6 ft. Annual14–21 d. 75–90 d.
HollyhockFull sun4–5 ft. Biennial10–21 d. 365+ d.

Grow a flower party in your backyard!

Flowers are the perfect way to sprinkle pops of color on your landscape.

Whether you have a patch of brown earth, trees, or an expanse of green, you won’t regret embracing the fun and frivolity of flowers to complete the look of your backyard.

And as always, we’re here to celebrate your success and help with any challenges you may encounter. 

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1 comment

  • Donna ParikkOct 18, 2021

    A lot of good gardening info packed into one article.

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