Gardening is a passion that I share with our families of Sunrise Montessori. From purple porch petunias pouring over the side to colorful pots showcasing the beauty of a fluffy orange geranium, making my home and my school’s landscapes more inviting is something I love to do. I have been asked to do a blog on gardening, so last week was all about how to plant flowers in pots, which is easier to do. This second and last edition will be focusing on planting flowers in the ground.
Like with anything, there is a LOT more information out there on gardening. I posted links to videos, articles and newsletter archives down below. The two sources that I think are most helpful: The Garden Answer Highlights channel on YouTube is FANTASTIC. She has a vast collection of gardening videos on everything you can think of and her cat follows her around as she explains things, which is a bonus. The other is by our very own John Dromgoole of The Natural Gardener, a nursery he owns in south Austin. He has a weekend radio show where he shares tips and answers callers’ questions. His website has a newsletter archive. This is a fun nursery to visit, large and varied, but it’s a 45 minute drive, so you have to plan for it.
Okay, how to plant flowers! For the purposes of keeping this easier to digest, I am assuming that 1) We are planting a bed in front of your house (not the backyard), 2) that the bed is against your house (not around a tree or out next to the entrance of your driveway) and 3) that the bed is not covered in grass. (If you need to cut out grass sod in order to create a flower bed, it’s fine!, but you need to take more steps, which you can find here: Video: How to design a flower bed in front of your house).
A step by step guide to creating a flower bed
Ready, set, go!
Step #1: Plan where you want to put the flowers and which flowers/bushes to buy
This is the MOST important step! So you have the space all picked out. How much sun does it get? Does the sun rise or set on the front of your house? This will determine what flowers you buy. Pretty much all bushes can withstand direct sunlight for at least 8 hours a day. It’s the flowers you have to be careful with. If your flower bed gets MORNING sun only, you are one lucky homeowner! There are more choices of flowers (pretty much all of them). See my blog last week for a list of flowers that can only handle morning sun.
Direct sunlight plants you can buy: Zinnia, Penta, yellow or purple Lantana (don’t pull these out, they are perennials and will come back every year), Verbena, Marigolds, Coreopsis, Dianthus, Angelonia, Vinca, and Alyssum, to name a few. The bigger the plant you buy, the higher the chance it will survive, so try not to buy little ones or ones in packs.
Flowering plants for behind the flowers that can tolerate lots of sun: Knock out roses, hibiscus, plumbago, pink or red salvia, red yucca, tall iris, and firebrush. These are perennials too which means they come back every year, so don’t pull them out in the winter, just cut them back to the ground when you see they are starting to die.
Great bushes for against your house if you don’t have any: Nandina (they turn deeper autumn colors in the fall), loropetlum (covered in bright pink flowers in the spring!), loriope, and pittosporum dwarf.
Buy the plants! Here is an example of your flower bed below, which I hand drew 😉
N = Nandina
KO = Knock Out Roses
PD = Pittosporum dwarf
PS = Pink Salvia
A = Angelonia
L = Zinnia or small Lantana
P = Penta
M = Marigold
D = Dianthus
V = Vinca
~ Put taller bushier plants in the back, smaller flowers in the front
~ Space them 6 inches apart if small, more if bigger
Step #2: Prepare the soil! (Called amending the soil)
I don’t know what your soil is like. Texas soil can be hard and sandy or soft and full of clay. Assume the worst, which means you need to add some help into what you already have. Break up the soil with a tiller. You can use a shovel, spade, or the easiest is a $29 tiller like this one I use (see pic). Your back will thank you later! Once you’ve loosened it up really well, sprinkle a bag of compost and potting mix soil on top and then mix it all up together really well. You’ll need potting mix for when you plant, so make sure you buy enough for amending the soil and also for the planting stage. Your soil should be soft when you’re done, enough that you can stick your hand into it and meet no resistance.
Step #3: Once you buy the plants, ARRANGE them where you want them BEFORE planting (look at my drawing again)…and leave them there as you plant
~ Grab a mat to kneel on as you plant
~ Put a hat on and sunscreen
~ Grab your hose and pull it over
~ Get a trash can for clean up
~ You should have a spade already
~ Turn some music on (I prefer Pandora’s 80’s Pop station myself) =)
Step #4: Time to plant!
~ When you dig a hole, do it with a spade, starting with your bushes and work your way from the back of your flower bed to the front of your flower bed. Your hole should be deep enough that the plant sits flush with the ground.
~ Dig a wide hole…you should be able to easily stick your fingers or hand on all sides; this is to make room for the dirt you’re about to add
~ Throw a couple handfuls of potting soil in the hole so that it’s just barely covered on the bottom
~ Water the hole for a few seconds
~ Turn your plant upside down so it slides into your hand (check out videos below)
~ Loosen the roots on the sides and bottom to make it easier for them to establish themselves
~ Put the plant in and then add potting soil as well as surrounding soil around it until it’s filled about halfway up from the bottom
~ Water the sides of the plant
~ Finish adding soil to the top
~ Tap the soil down lightly with your fingers and make sure there are no air pockets
~ Water and see where the soil is at. If the soil went down and you can see the top of the plant or any roots, add more surrounding soil
~ Water again
~ Then create a little ridge of dirt around the plant called a reservoir, like a lip, so that when it gets watered later, the water doesn’t run off (see pic)
Step #5: Water and mulch
Once you are done planting, water your plants one more time (fill up those reservoirs!) and look for any soil you may need to add due to settling of air pockets. Then cover your flower bed in mulch. I recommend the kind that isn’t dyed, but it’s a matter of preference. Add enough mulch that you can’t see the dirt. Add a lighter layer in the reservoirs. Why mulch? To keep the soil cooler and moister. It also helps prevent weeds.
Step #6: You’re done! Yay! How to keep them alive moving forward…
~ If the roots of your plants dry out, the roots will die and your plant will not bloom as much and even die, so water every other day for two weeks
~ After two weeks, you can water every 2 – 3 days
~ Watering is something most get wrong. You need to water enough so that water reaches the bottom of the plant. Remember those roots you loosened? They need water, too. Can you overwater? Of course, but if it’s 90+ degrees everyday and your flower bed is in the hot Texas sun in the afternoon and evening, watering is what will keep them alive.
~ Don’t worry about fertilizer. That’s what the compost and potting soil were for
Step #7: Add some flair!
~ Prepare yourself. Some of your plants will die. It’s okay. Dead plants happen. You can do everything right and it doesn’t matter. Just replace them!
~ Or…you can add FLAIR! I use fun ornamental things to cover up “holes” or areas of my bed that have too much dirt between plants or a dead plant I don’t want to have to replant. Things like this:
~ There are also signs you can add. I love love LOVE signs! You’ll see them at my house and around Sunrise. I get most of mine from Etsy but Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Wayfair.com have some good ones, too.
I hope that these tips and resources below help you to create the most beautiful flower garden in town! Your home welcoming you as you pull up to it after being gone is a lovely thing. Happy planting!
- Video: How to plant a flower in the ground
- Video: How to design a flower bed in front of your house Garden Answer Highlights You Tube Channel
- The Natural Gardener’s Weekend Gardener series
- The Natural Gardener: Newsletter Archive
- Video: How to plant Impatiens
- How to plant a shrub A simple guide with pictures
- Video: How to plant any plant in the ground
Sunrise Montessori Preschool has two locations in Round Rock. Interested in learning first hand what we can offer your child? Then book a tour on our website at Sunrise-Montessori.com or call us so you can discover why Sunrise Montessori Preschool is where YOUR family belongs!