There’s a super-simple way to feel happier: Plant some flowers. We’ve touted the benefits of gardening before, and we stand by the belief that a gorgeous garden full of flowers—or a few pots on your balcony, patio or deck—will raise your spirits, even on your most frazzled days. Plant a combination of both annual flowers and perennials, which return for many years, to attract pollinators and provide color, texture and fragrance. Flowering shrubs also provide reliable color and structure to round out your design. Incorporating many different kinds of plants also creates a cottage feel, making any garden setting a little dreamier. With layers of flowers and shrubs—incorporating a few of what we’re deeming the most romantic flowers you can grow—you can create a Impressionist-painting-worthy escape in your own garden.
First, a few tips: When planting perennials or shrubs, make sure they’ll survive winters in your USDA Hardiness Zone (find yours here). And don’t neglect to give your plant the right lighting conditions so it will thrive and flower. Full sun means 6 or more hours of direct sun per day, while part sun is about half that. Your plants also need watered thoroughly after planting and during dry spells. A dose of extended-release granular fertilizer helps, too (follow the label instructions!), especially if your plants are in containers, because watering causes nutrients to leach out of pots quickly.
The Most Romantic Flowers to Grow This Year
A gorgeous climbing rose, clambering over an arbor or stone wall, is the stuff of fairy tales and cottage gardens. But there’s a rose for every setting, from tiny shrubs to long, sprawling canes of climbing roses. Start with hardy shrub types that are more disease resistant than heirloom varieties. Roses need full sun.
Ranunculus resemble roses with full, lush blooms in stunning, saturated colors ranging from deep purple to palest pink on long, graceful stems. They’re a favorite cut flower. Different varieties may be planted in spring (for summer blooms) or fall (for blooms the next year). Read the label so you know what you’re buying. In zones 8 and warmer, they’re perennial and can stay in the ground over winter; in cold climates, dig the corms up in fall after the foliage has died back and replant next year after threat of frost has past. Ranunculus like full sun.
Anemones have delicate, papery petals that come in colors ranging from pale blues to amethyst and deep pink. Pollinators love them, and they have sturdy stems that make them excellent cut flowers. There are several different types that bloom in either spring or fall. Read the label so you’ll know what you’re buying and when to plant. Anemones prefer full sun.
4. Sweet Pea
These sweetly scented plants generally are annuals, though there’s also a perennial type called everlasting sweet peas (they’re not fragrant but return year after year in zones 5 and warmer). Most of these old-fashioned favorites are climbers, so give them a trellis and watch them take off. Sweet peas need full sun.
Can’t make it to Provence? Plant a bed of lavender, or at least a few pots of this lovely perennial. Make sure you choose a type that’s hardy in your planting zone. And be patient; it can take lavender a few years to take off. Snip the flowers and tie into bundles, or dry and use as sachets or to add delicate flavor to cookies and scones. Lavender needs full sun.
Also called delphinium, these eye-catching annuals can grow up to 5 feet tall, depending on the variety. (They’re beautiful at the back of borders.) The tall spikes come in shades of deepest blue, purple, pinks and white and make beautiful cut or dried flowers. Sow seeds directly into the garden, because larkspur is notoriously fussy about being transplanted. Larkspur likes full sun to part shade.
7. Love in a Mist
With such a whimsical name, you kind of have to plant this unusual heirloom flower—it’s a conversation starter! Plus, pollinators love it. Also known as nigella, this pretty annual has wispy flowers in white, pink or shades of blue. Nigella needs mostly sun.
Dahlias come in many different forms, from tight little pompoms to lush, dinner plate-sized blooms. They’re exquisite! In zones 8 or higher, you can leave the tubers in the ground over winter, but in cold climates, you’ll need to dig them up after a hard frost, then save them to replant next spring. Dahlias need full sun.
Peonies are the queens of the springtime garden. They were favorites of the Victorians and can live up to 100 years (!). With lavish forms and strong fragrance, they’re like no other perennial. Give them plenty of space to spread out, and don’t worry about the ants which come to visit; they’re harmless and just sipping the nectar. Shake them off before cutting blooms if you’re bringing them inside to enjoy. Peonies like full sun.
10. Bleeding Heart
These spring-blooming perennials look exactly like tiny hearts. The foliage of this old-fashioned plant may wither back to the ground in the heat of summer but they’ll reappear next spring. Bleeding hearts like mostly shade.
No other shrub is as versatile or can be grown almost anywhere in the U.S. as hydrangea. With hundreds of different varieties, they thrive in almost any climate. The lacey blooms emerge in early summer, last until fall, and stay intact on the shrub to provide winter interest. One common myth: That you can change bloom color. The truth is only certain types—some big-leaf and mountain hydrangeas—change color based on the presence of aluminum in the soil. Hydrangeas range in height from a few feet tall to 7 or 8 feet tall and wide, so read the label before planting so it has plenty of room to spread. Hydrangeas generally need some sun to flower, but in hot climates, many types need afternoon shade or they wilt.
A favorite of Impressionist painters, irises come in a variety of types and sizes. They’re sturdy perennials that typically multiply quickly. So, in a few years, you’ll have more rhizomes (like a bulb, but it’s long and skinny) to dig up and share or transplant elsewhere in your garden. Read the plant description to know what kind you’re buying, and leave the rhizome partially above ground when planted to avoid rotting. Irises need full sun.
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