Flowers Galore in Patio Paradise

When I started my container garden a year ago, my goal was to grow my own flowers from seed and bulbs with some store bought beauties mixed in between. I set out with a mission to cover my porch in flowers and verdant greenery. Here are some of my favorite successes this spring and summer:

Dahlia

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My absolute favorite flower I’ve grown on the patio this year has been my dahlias. I’ve been trying to successfully grow a dahlia for the last year and a half, and have learned some essentials for growing them in the future:

  1. Do not water dahlia bulbs. The only time a dahlia bulb should be watered is when the plant first starts to come up through the soil. Otherwise, if you water it sooner it will cause the bulb to rot.
  2. Plant in the spring. Dahlias will only start to come up once the ambient temperature gets to be above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. These babies are native to Mexico, and love the heat.
  3. Pay attention to your label. Pay close attention to the labeling on your Dahlia bulbs, because this will tell you how large your plant will be. My labeling let me know that my dahlias would get to be as tall as I am (5 feet) and have pastel blooms the size of my hand (approximately 6 inches). It’s important to pay attention to the size of the plant, because it will and should determine the size of the container in which you plant it. I placed one dahlia in a container that is not very deep nor broad, and I have had problems with the flower becoming leggy and prone to bending. I planted the other bulb in a medium (18 in) container where it has had space to grow properly. The stem is about an inch thick and it supports itself well. My choice in container has definitely impacted the way my dahlias have grown. Next year, I’m looking at planting them in large (20 in) planters to see how much fuller they become.
  4. Build a good support system.  As both plants have produced flowers, it’s important to provide them with added support such as a plant cage or making your own with stakes and twine. Dahlia flowers make the plant top heavy, and cause the plant to bend. Using either tomato or “GroThru” cages or stakes to support your plants will ensure that they grow tall and their flowers stay facing the sun.

I had my first bloom in July and there are currently 4 buds between both of my plants.

MarigoldIMG_4500

Last winter I potted 6 marigold seeds and stuck them in my greenhouse to incubate and grow. Of the 6 seeds I planted only 1 marigold grew. It went from being a small seedling that looked a lot like blade of grass to being a foot tall with a flower and 2 buds. Of the seedlings I started, the marigold has truly been the most low maintenance flower to grow. All I needed to do was make sure it was watered and that it had enough sun. Now that it has grown, I’ve noticed that it’s prone to spider mites. Spider mites are awful little creatures that “eat sap by piercing plant tissue and siphoning cells” and that tend to cluster on the undersides of leaves (Marigolds, Tomatoes & Spider Mites). I had problems with spider mites on my marigolds and mums last year, but found that using rosemary essential oil in water helps to get rid of them effectively. I’ve been using this treatment on my current marigold and so far have had success in containing the mites.

Snapdragons

IMG_3320I got these snapdragons back in March from the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum while I was at the Freedom Farmer’s Market this spring. There was a whole team digging up tulips and snapdragons from the garden leading up to the museum, and one of the volunteers asked if I wanted some free flowers. Of course I said yes!

I took home 4 snap dragon plants and about 8 tulips. I immediately stored the tulip bulbs for next spring, but planted the snapdragons on my porch. They bloomed a week after I planted them and they bloomed on into May. Unfortunately, due to an aphid infestation, I wasn’t able to keep these beauties for too long after the last bloom in May. BUT, I am growing some new snapdragon babies from seed. I’m hoping with some care this winter, I’ll have more beautiful snapdragons to share in the spring.

Hydrangea

About late October, early November of last year I bought a very sad looking hydrangea from Kroger’s discount plant sectionIMG_3324. It had a whole head of flowers, it’s leaves were wilting and torn, and there was brown foliage all over the top and bottom of the plant. It wasn’t much to look at it, but when I saw it, I knew I couldn’t pass it up. In its blue flowers and sad leaves, I saw very real potential. After a quick pruning, it continued to bloom until the first frost in late November. Since this spring it’s completely taken off. While it’s only bloomed once in the spring of this year, the plant itself has grown 6 inches and its leaves are almost a foot in length. It’s been a joy to look after this plant baby and see it grow and bloom.

A quick care trick for hydrangeas: While taking care of this flower, I learned that over-fertilizing causes hydrangeas to grow big leaves, but it causes existing blooms to burn and it stunts future flowers. Unfortunately, I did over fertilize this spring, so my hydrangea is more of a leafy bush than an ever blooming summer beauty. There’s still some summer left, so there’s hope for a second bloom. If you’re looking for more tips and tricks these articles were helpful to me: Planting Hydrangeas and Hydrangea Cheat Sheet.

Heliotrope

My partner Jeffrey came home from the Peachtree City Farmer’s Market one morIMG_4278ning with the prettiest, most interesting plant I had ever seen. It was very small and had even smaller purple flowers just beginning to peek through its foliage. As the plant grew, I noticed that the flowers emitted a scent that I can only describe as smelling like a floral version of vanilla. The scent is strongest in the evening after the plant has been in the sun all day. After doing some research, I found that heliotrope is cultivated strictly for its scent and its flowers. The leaves don’t taste very good, and according to the ASPCA, it’s toxic to horses. It has bloomed 3 times since Jeffrey brought it home this spring. Currently, the plant is branching out in its pot and there are now 2 heads of purple flowers instead of just one. For some more general information on heliotrope, Better Homes & Gardens has the low down.

Do you have some favorite plants and flowers that you’ve grown this spring? Do you have any questions about your urban garden or would you like to share your tips and tricks? Ask and tell away in the comments below or feel free to contact me. If you’d like to hear more about what The Garden Generalist is up to, please give me a follow on Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr! Be on the look out for my next post about the different botanical gardens I’ve visited this year.

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