Depending on where you live in the United States, avid gardeners tend to stick to and follow a general planting schedule. As life-long residents of Kentucky, my husband and I typically wait until Derby (first Saturday in May) to begin planting most of our vegetables and almost all of our flowers. This article discusses five flowers which do well in full sun and that we have had the most success with over the years.
1. Petunias – For more than 50 years, petunias have enjoyed much popularity in Kentucky. While there are many varieties of petunias to choose from, I have found the most success with the Wave variety. Not only do these make a lively and colorful ground cover, they grow well in containers. Petunias bloom all summer long, require full sun, watering and fertilizing (which is recommended every 3-4 weeks). I’m not religious about the fertilization but when I do, I use Miracle Grow.
2. Vinca – Vinca performs exceptionally well in Kentucky. Even during periods of heavy heat, Vinca will flourish. As such, it shouldn’t be planted too early in the spring. Vinca can grow both in a prostrate position (3″ tall, 18-24″ wide), or standing upright, anywhere from 8-18″. My Vinca generally grows around 10″ in height and lasts until the first heavy frost.
3. Begonias – Begonias have a waxy leaf appearance and are extremely hardy in hot weather. Available in white, pink, red and bicolors, begonias do well in partial shade (especially the green-leafed begonia) but also thrive in full sun (particularly the red flower). Our begonias grow anywhere from 6″ – 12″ and seem to have a growth spurt in late summer/early fall. The soil you plant these in should be rich and well drained.
4. Mums – Mums are fairly common in Kentucky gardens. I’ve had both annual and perennial varieties and find the perennial type can grow into quite a healthy plant with almost a bush-like appearance after a few years. While they bloom in the fall (I’ve had some bloom in late August), they have beautiful green leaves during the summer months. Mums do best in full sun and well-drained soil, and benefit greatly from compost.
5. Zinnias – Zinnias are also excellent flowers to plant in full sun. They come in several different colors including red, pink, cream and white. They also do well in dry soil and are great for cutting.
If you live in Kentucky, keep in mind the following information and tips when planning your garden:
• Kentucky falls into the USDA defined zones of 6 and 7*. Knowing this helps you select the types of flowers that are best suited for growth in these zones. Keep in mind that garden centers and nurseries generally label their plants, shrubs, trees and flowers with their appropriate planting zone. And of course, most sellers in your area will have a bounty of flowers to choose from just right for your zone.
• Learn which of your flowers need fertilization. Most fertilizers contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and can make the difference in flowers thriving or languishing. Remember compost is one of the best (and cheapest!) fertilizers around.
• When just starting a garden, be sure and use at least 6″ of quality topsoil to help your plants get a good start.
* The United States Department of Agriculture has divided the United States and southern Canada into 11 planting zones (each zone has a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the minimum annual average temperature).Sources: www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/gardenflowers/carce.htm, http://landscaping.about.comm/od/landsccapecolor/p/chrysanthemums.htm