Plant Solutions NJ Staff
DIY Landscape design tips for beginners: Planning for your annual summer flower garden
Updated: Mar 24
Nothing says summer like a yard full of colorful annuals. Now’s the time to plan and plant the vibrant flowers and foliage that’ll make your home’s landscape pop for the next few months. Let's be honest though, this may not seem like the easiest task, especially if you're a beginner gardener. You probably have questions like:
How much sun should my annuals get to look their best all summer long?
What are the best colors for my annual flower bed?
How much space do I need in between each plant?
How do I plant annuals?
We're here to answer them and give you some of our best tips along the way.
Planning for and assessing your current flower beds or garden
All plants and landscape situations are not created equal. Before you head to your local nursery, you'll want to take a look at your flower bed and take note of these things:
Sunlight to shade ratio
There’s a difference between full sun, part sun and shade conditions. This should be the primary determining factor for the types of annuals you select. Take note of where you intend to plant the flowers and how much sun the area gets. Full sun plants like petunias will not thrive and flower to their full potential under trees or in the shade of a house. A shade plant like a coleus or begonia will looked burned out when exposed to all-day sun. Know where you want annuals to be planted and be realistic about what kinds of sun and shade those places receive. Remember, “sun” is in the name sunflower for a reason!
Make sure you have enough space
Plants grow. Under the right conditions they grow big and wide and strong. Measure your space, check the suggested place spacing recommendations for that plant and you can determine how many plants you’ll need. You could save yourself some money by buying fewer plants.
Use some of that money you just saved by buying fewer petunias or begonias and buy one or two really big and beautiful combination containers for your front porch or walkway. Make a statement with both the plants and the container. It’ll make you smile every time you arrive home.
Coordinate flower colors like a landscape designer
Color is the first thing people notice about flower gardens. Not all colors will look good together so having a color plan is essential. To guide you, we recommend having a color wheel handy. Here are our best cheats for garden color schemes:
Option 1: Pick one color for the entire garden.
This is as easy as it gets. One color brings uniformity and consistency for your flower bed. Another option is to select one color and add some additional greenery plants that make the color you select pop.
Option 2: Pick an analogous, or similar color scheme.
The easiest way to do this is to have a look at a color wheel and choose three neighboring colors. The first step is to choose between warm tones or cool tones before you begin selecting colors. For example, warm tones are using flower varieties that are red, yellow, orange or go for a cool tones which would include purple, violet, or blue. (Another hint: White could also replace one of the colors in cool or warm tones since it's considered a neutral or "pure" color.)
Option 3: For a bit more creative flair, pick a complementary color scheme.
This involves selecting two colors that are opposite one another on the color wheel. Our favorite combinations include: Violet and yellow, blue and orange, and magenta with green.
Pot or not: Tips for planting your flowers in the middle of a hot NJ summer
Planting can be as easy and digging a hole and popping in the plant you’ve just taken out of the pot, but there are some best practices to keep in mind. Here are a few suggestions for helping those plants survive and then thrive in their new home:
Add fertilizer. A controlled-release fertilizer added at the time of planting in your landscape beds should help the plants get established, as well as last them through the rest of the summer.
Be sure to completely cover the root ball of the plant! The root ball of the plant is a different material than the soil you plant into. Moisture from the root ball will evaporate more quickly than from the native soil. If you don’t cover the root ball completely, your plant will lose water through the root ball that is exposed to the air. It’s soil science and a tiny bit complicated to explain, but trust us on this!
Water immediately. Watering will do two things: 1) Provides moisture to a plant that may be a bit thirsty after transport from wherever it’s been and 2) Helps shift the root ball and soil together a bit better, filling in any air pockets that may be resulted from the planting process.
Replace dying/decaying/dead plants immediately. Sometimes there’s a plant that came in diseased or was damaged in the planting process. Remove it so it doesn’t spread disease to the rest and while you still have the opportunity to find a replacement plant about the same size.
One last important reminder, you’ll want to plan for your blooming beauties by April. This is especially true if you’re working with a landscaper who will help you plant your annuals. They usually put their orders in by late-May for annuals, as this ensures they have maximum inventory to get you the flowers you want.