The Q&A Archives: Which flower to chose

Question: I want to try to find a colorful flower that also looks nice when it is not in bloom, so it doesn't look like a weed sitting in the yard. What do you suggest?
I am just getting started with gardening.

Answer: There are so many long blooming perennials to consider, it's hard to narrow the choice down to just a few! Consider:

Echinacea purpurea (Coneflower) Bloom Span: 2-3 Months
Having a long bloom period is just on of Echinacea's many attributes. Coneflowers are extremely drought tolerant, attract birds and butterflies and the intense color adds punch to any garden. The tall stalks are self-supporting, unless they've received so much water they become floppy. They require good drainage and full sun. Deadheading will prolong the bloom period. Although Echinacea is slow to spread, division is the best way to get the cultivar you want. The seed heads can be left on through the winter and will provide a treat for neighborhood birds.
GOOD CHOICES: Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus", E.p. 'Fragrant Angel', E. "Art's Pride'

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) Bloom Span: 3-4 Months
Daisies on caffeine. Gaillardia's yellow petals around a burgundy center are impossible to ignore in a garden. All they ask is full sun and they will keep on blooming all summer. In most cases, deadheading is not necessary for continual bloom, but it can make the plants look tidier. Gaillardia is another short-lived perennial and should be divided or seeded often. GOOD CHOICES: Gaillardia x grandiflora, Gaillardia 'Goblin' (dwarf), G. 'Burgundy', G. 'Monarch'

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker) Bloom Span: 3+ Months
The spiky, bottle-brush flowers of Kniphofia are beacons for hummingbirds. Although they look like tough customers, Kniphofia actually requires a bit of winter protection in cooler zones. They are also a bit fussy about liking moist conditions in the summer, but well-drained soil for the winter months. Full sun is generally necessary for ample blooms. Kniphofia does not divide or transplant well, although you can usually get away with removing and replanting the young side shoots of the plants.
GOOD CHOICES: Any of the hybrids. Kniphofia ''Primrose Beauty' is especially hardy.

Liatris (Gayfeather, Blazing Star) Bloom Span: 3 Months
Liatris are easy to grow and texturally unusual. The thin, spiky leaves jut off the stems all the way to where the rosy-purple flower spikes begin. Unlike most spiky flowers, Liatris blooms from the top down. Liatris can handle just about any type of soil, but the richer the soil, the more likely they'll need staking. They'll grow in full sun or partial shade. Liatris is long lived and doesn't often require division. They will self-seed, but generally don't take over.
GOOD CHOICES: Liatris spicata (Spike Gayfeather) comes in white, pink and shades of purple.

Hope one of these is just right for your garden!

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