Flowers

Gardening column: Long-season blooming flowers | Columnists

Why do I garden? Besides the fresh air, moderate exercise and reduced stress that gardening offers, the main reason is to have flowers. My mood improves immediately when I see a new flower opening in the yard. Flowers, especially ones I’ve grown myself, enrich my quality of life.

Since my gardening goal is to have more flowers, ornamentals with a long blooming period are prized finds. Here are some of my current favorites that bloom, at least somewhat, even in spots with partial sun.

Mandevilla ‘Rio’

Where it grows best: At least six hours full sun, moisture-retentive potting soil. Frost sensitive.

Why I like this plant: My overwintered “Rio Red” started blooming in mid-March. Every shoot will have a flower through June or July when the plant, understandably, needs a break. Even during a resting period, it still produces some flowers. The shiny green leaves contrast nicely with the 3-inch-wide blooms.

Petunia ‘Supertunia Mini Vista Sangria’







Supertunia Mini Vista Sangria

“Supertunia Mini Vista Sangria” is easy to overwinter in a hanging pot for early spring flowers. Anthony Kenath/Provided




Where it grows best: Hanging basket that gets four to six hours sun per day. Frost-sensitive. Deer food.

Why I like this plant: It blooms like crazy. I put one in a hanging basket to try a gardening friend’s recommendation on how to protect plants that deer eat. After a slow start due to missed watering, the plant rebounded and bloomed until fall. Fewer flowers formed during the short days of late fall and winter, but by February the plant was blooming again. Right now, it already has as many flowers as it had last summer at peak bloom.

Gaura ‘Belleza Dark Pink’

Where it grows best: Full sun, well-drained soil; also in pots. Sometimes eaten by deer.

Why I like this plant: Who knew a gaura would or could bloom year-round? I’m not sure if the secret is growing it in a pot on a sunny driveway, but two plants have bloomed nonstop for two years. Like other improved cultivars of gaura, “Belleza Dark Pink” might not be as vigorous or survive as long in the ground as older cultivars; I’m still testing that.

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Salvia ‘Amistad’

Where it grows best: Full to part sun, reasonably well-drained soil. Deer resistant.

Why I like this plant: The rich purple color and the large flowers (for a salvia) are stunning. This salvia can reach 4 feet tall, so it’s a good back-of-the-border plant.

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Salvia ‘Mystic Spires’







Mystic spires

“Mystic Spires” will bloom from May until frost. It’s one of the most dependable, long-flowering salvias. Anthony Kenath/Provided




Where it grows best: Full to part sun, reasonably well-drained soil. Deer resistant.

Why I like this plant: “Mystic Spires” is a salvia workhorse. It blooms continually from May until frost. Flower spikes continue to grow, up to 12 inches long, as they set new flowers, and one plant can have 12 spikes. Also, I’m partial to the royal-blue color.

plumbago

Where it grows best: At least six hours full sun, well-drained soil. Tender perennial. Rarely eaten by deer.

Why I like this plant: An established, sprawling plumbago has lots of flowers per square foot of foliage. The sky-blue flowers are visible from afar and attract swallowtail butterflies, yellow sulphur butterflies and hawk moths.

Agapanthus (lily of the Nile) ‘Blue Storm’

Where it grows best: Full to part sun, good quality topsoil that holds moisture. Deer resistant.

Why I like this plant: “Blue Storm” is the most dependable dwarf agapanthus I’ve grown. It blooms consistently each year, unlike some agapanthus cultivars. One pot will spread into a 3-foot-wide clump. Agapanthus plants prefer heavier rather than sandy soil, which makes them a good bet for many parts of South Carolina.

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Hybrid zinnia ‘Zahara’ and ‘Double Zahara’

Where it grows best: Full to part sun, reasonably well-drained soil. Frost-sensitive. Rarely eaten by deer.

Why I like this plant: These cultivars of Zinnia marylandica, a powdery mildew-resistant hybrid, are attractive, hardy and vigorous. They bloom from the day purchased until frost. Plants stay pretty compact without pruning and continue blooming even if I don’t have time to remove dead flowers.

Pansy

Where it grows best: Full to part sun, reasonably well-drained soil, fall to spring. Deer food.

Why I like this plant: As Southern Living once reported, six months of flowers make pansies one of the most cost-effective annuals. Plant breeders have produced new bicolor combinations, pastel-colored flowers, ruffled petals and even a trailing pansy.

Anthony Keinath is professor of plant pathology at the Clemson Coastal Research & Education Center in Charleston. His expertise is in diseases of vegetables. He is also an avid gardener. Contact him at tknth@clemson.edu.

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