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The 7 Best Blooming Houseplants to Brighten Any Room

We’ve still got a while to wait for spring here in Iowa, but you don’t need to wait until then to enjoy some mood-lifting flowering plants! These flowering houseplants all add color and life to any room—just what you need to get you through the home stretch of winter. Here are seven of our favorite blooming houseplants.

Anthuriums: These beauties have bright white, pink, or red flowers that look like cartoon hearts. They flower periodically throughout the year, and each bloom lasts for months at a time! When not in flower, the triangle-shaped foliage has a glossy appearance that adds timeless flair to any space. Anthuriums range in height from between 1-2′ tall and wide, but even the smaller plants can produce their beautiful, signature blooms. They like to be near a window that offers bright, filtered light. Allow your anthurium to dry out a bit between waterings.

Holiday Cacti: Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter cactus make up the trio of Holiday cacti. These plants are all similar-yet-distinct varieties of the Schlumbergera family. Each plant develops flowers when the night length reaches a certain point, which causes them to bloom near their respective holidays. The flowers are either tubular or shaped like daisies, depending on which type you get. Holiday cacti range in color from white, red, pink, orange, and yellow. Allow these to dry out considerably between waterings.

Hoya: Many know about the colorful leaf designs these wonderful plants have, but what many people don’t know is that, in the right light, hoyas can produce very unique flowers! They have little florets that resemble shooting stars, while others form a cluster shaped like a spear. Some are sweetly fragrant, while others are just eye-candy. The color palettes range from reddish-purple to pink and white. Many hoyas flower when they reach a certain age and can flower at any time of the year. Most hoyas like their soil on the dry side with moderate to full sunlight.

Bromeliads: These plants offer some of the brightest blooms you’ll see indoors! The colors range from vivid yellow, pink, red, and orange. Their large conical flowers last for a couple of months and add some tropical attitude to your indoor spaces. Both the blooms and the leaves of bromeliads have great ornamental appeal, and some bromeliad varieties have gorgeous variegated foliage. Bromeliads enjoy moderate to full sunlight, and it’s important to let them dry down before rewatering.

Crown-of-Thorns: This plant may look a bit scary at first glance, but their bark is worse than their bite. The thorns of these plants are for show only and are completely safe for your fingers! What’s awesome about this plant are their little clusters of cheerful flowers, an intriguing contrast next to the tough-looking, spiky stems. Bloom colors come in reddish-pink or yellow, and the blooms last for quite some time. This plant may look like a desert plant, but we have found they prefer to be watered deeply and allowed to dry out. To get the best show of blooms, keep them in full sunlight.

African Violets: These vintage favorites have come a long way! African violets flower in almost any color of the rainbow, including purple, blue, red, white, and pink. You can also find African violets with single or double blooms. Some African Violets have beautiful variegated leaves, while more traditional-looking varieties have solid green foliage. They require lots of light to flower, but once flowering has started, they can bloom for months under the right conditions. Try not to allow any water to touch the leaves since it can cause unattractive blemishes. Pour water directly into the soil or water from the bottom, then allow the plant to dry out. 

Orchids: A popular favorite that comes in many colors, bloom shapes, and styles. The most common colors are white, pink, black, yellow, and red. You might spot a blue one here and there, but this color can only be achieved by dying the white orchids. Some orchids have delightful scents, like vanilla or chocolate! They usually bloom annually in winter or spring. Some people may be intimidated when it comes to growing these graceful houseplants, but they aren’t nearly as tricky to grow as they seem. Planting in an orchid bark mix is a must, and make sure to use an orchid container or clay pots since these blooming beauties are used to having lots of air circulation around their roots.

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At this time of year, it’s so nice to come home to colorful flowers and lush green foliage. Find your new favorite houseplant today at our garden center in Cumming, IA! We carry a great selection of houseplants to suit your style and brighten your day.

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Top 10 Spring Bulbs to Plant in Iowa

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
– Monet

As we enter the final active season in the garden, now is the time to be thinking about the very first plants that pop up in our gardens: spring-blooming bulbs. These first spring flowers always hold a special place in our thoughts, as the first sign of bright and cheerful life peeking through the snow. However, to ensure these plants will be ready for next year’s show, they need to be planted as early as September and October, so the time is now. To get you started, here are our top 10 spring bulbs for fall planting:

Daffodils:

Daffodils have come a long way since the traditional yellow and, though they are a classic, they are still one of our favorites. Double-blooming daffodils, like Rosy Cloud and Wave, provide a new look for an old-fashioned flower, while still maintaining the same deer-resistance as the old varieties that we love in the garden.

Pictured below: Daffodils

yellow daffodils

Snowdrops:

The icy white Snowdrop is the perfect spring bulb for fall planting, adding lively garden brightness to your chilly spring bed. ‘Elwesii’ is a must-have for your fall planting if you like to have early-rising flowers in your garden – and, in this case, early can sometimes mean February, as they pop up just as the snow starts to recede.

Spring Snowflakes:

Also called giant snowdrops, Spring Snowflakes are not new by any means, but they add a delicate touch to your garden in a stunning, critter-resistant package. You’ll love their dainty, dangling petals peeking out of the snow at the first sign of spring.

Pictured below: Alliums

A bunch of purple aliums in a garden

Tulips:

Tulips really speak for themselves, but the Burgundy Tulip provides a new, sleek look with unique and eye-catching color. Also, the petals are arranged in what is called a “lily shape”, making them extra-resistant to wind. Other varieties, like Princess Irene and Affaire, have beautiful multi-coloring on their petals and if deer or rabbits are a problem, there are plenty of deer-resistant tulips to choose from this year, as well!

Alliums:

Also known as ornamental onions, Alliums offer large, round balls of tiny flowers that tower over the garden on long stems. Traditionally purple, they come in many shades, like light Globemaster, dark Gladiator, and blue-hued Caeruleum. Butterflies flock to them, while deer avoid them, and you’ll love how low-maintenance they are.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Surprise Lilies:

These little lilies are quite the surprise for a spring garden, appearing as tall stalks of what seems like simple foliage at first, then revealing their beautiful rosy clusters of trumpet flowers later in the season. A favorite of hummingbirds, the Surprise Lily will also quickly become one of your favorite flowers, as well.

Crown Imperial:

The interesting and uniquely-shaped Crown Imperials are a great way to add bright, sunny colors, like yellow and orange, to your garden in an eye-catching way. These beautiful bell flowers gently fall underneath a tuft of leafy foliage on top of tall stalks, certainly making them a stand-out in any spring bed.

Pictured below: Crown Imperial

Bright orange crown imperial flowers

Hyacinths:

For the prettiest plumes of star-shaped flowers, Hyacinths are the choice to make for spring bulbs. You’ll love the violet Blue Jacket and the purple-pink Miss Saigon for vibrant groundcover that livens up the world after a full winter of white. Hyacinths will also fill your yard with a sweet fragrance.   

Grape Hyacinths:

Slightly different than their aforementioned cousins, the spikes of Grape Hyacinths are, instead, decorated with purple bell-shaped flowers, making it appear like a perfect bunch of grapes. They are low-maintenance and lovely, making them an excellent choice for spring.

Pictured below: Grape Hyacinths

A bunch of purple Grape Hyacinths

Crocuses:

Long-loved spring favorites, Crocuses have dazzled in the chill of early spring for many years. Their little cup-shaped flowers perfectly decorate the ground with the floral life we crave all winter, and the new Blue Moon makes them even more dazzling, with deep purple flowers adorned with streaks of white for full-spectrum beauty.

We love our spring gardens and fall is the perfect time to prepare them for the first arrival of spring. These bulbs and more are all ready to join your spring spectacular, so get them in place for your best show yet!

To see our full selection of spring bulbs or to learn more about fall planting, visit us in-store today or sign up for our Blooming Spring Bulbs class on September 22nd, 2018 at 10:00 am.

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Amazing Fall Flora for Pots

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tired from the intense heat of our Iowa summer, our gardens have seen better days, and we eagerly search for that fresh life we were surrounded by in summer. Luckily, you can still have beautiful fall flora even as the weather cools, and these are our top choices for your pots.

Pansies

These annuals are year-round spectacles of color and spring vibrance. The soft, clover-like flowers burst into bloom against a background of dark, pointed leaves in the spring and last late into the fall. As annuals, they won’t be hardy into the winter, but you can make them weather the frost with a thick layer of mulch and plenty of sun. Our favorites are the bright and simple Mimosa Yellow, and the complex and stunning Endurio Blue Yellow with Purple Wing.

Pictured below: Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums flowers

Kale

This cool-weather-loving plant has lots to offer to your backyard aesthetic, with gorgeous, crinkle-leafed green and lacy tendrils of beautiful color that look fantastic in a pot. As delicious as other varieties may be, the fall kale we love, Red or White Peacock, is purely ornamental and is best observed with the eyes, rather than our mouths.

Mums

The ultimate fall annuals, mums – or chrysanthemums – are delightful, daisy-like flowers that are packed with colorful petals with beautiful ferny leaves that look amazing even after the blooms are spent. Though they are labeled as hardy, their breeding over the years has primed them for performance over weather tolerance. They are wonderfully easy-to-care-for, only needing sun and water to keep their blooms bright all season. Try our top choices, the Karelli Bronze and the Petit Orange for a beautiful fall spectacular.

Pictured below: Kale and Ornamental Peppers

kale and ornamental peppers in a black pot

Ornamental Peppers

While they are technically peppers that can be eaten, ornamental is the best way to describe these powerfully spicy and brightly colored vegetables. These peppers pack a punch of color – anywhere from yellow to black – to punctuate your fall garden, and only need rich soil, occasional watering, and full sun to dazzle in your pots.

Crossandras

Also known as a Firecracker Plant, Crossandras are the perfect plant to pot outside all year and bring inside when the mercury drops below freezing. They provide a luxurious, tropical aesthetic of orange-red flower spikes that will transform your space into an oasis that will have you forgetting about the weather outside. Better suited for the humidity of the jungle, these plants will need plenty of sun and water to keep them performing their best.

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Celosias

Celosias, or Cockscombs, are pretty plumes of brightly-colored flowers that bring summer colors to your fall landscape. Not only will you appreciate their unbelievable beauty, but you’ll also love the increased presence of butterflies in your yard when they are around. They are drought-tolerant and prefer full sun to keep them looking their best. For a full spectrum of stunning color, try Fresh Look RedKelos Orange, and purple Intenz.

Lemon Cypress

A beautiful, compact tree with a delicious citrus fragrance that follows it wherever it goes, the Lemon Cypress is a cool-weather-loving lovely that looks stunning in larger pots. It may prefer the cool weather, but our colder Iowa winters are a little colder than it prefers, so bringing it inside will keep their yellow-green needles happier and healthier. Make sure it still receives plenty of sun, though.

Crotons

These fabulous Variegated Crotons are full of interesting and bright foliage with plenty of personality to add to your pots. The large, glossy leaves burst with colorful variegations throughout the year. Plant them with rich, well-draining soil in full sun to partial shade and enjoy the spectacular show this low-maintenance plant provides.  Bring them inside before the temperatures dip below freezing and enjoy them as a houseplant this winter.

Pictured below: Crotons

croton plant

Other Fall Pot Favorites

Bidens are sensational, star-shaped flowers that are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and adored by butterflies. Our top choices are Campfire FireburstSun Drop, and Yellow Sunshine.

Mona Lavender offers spikes of lavender-hued, tubular flowers that hummingbirds love. As low-maintenance as they are, you’ll love them, too.

Coleus is a fantastic fall flora with fabulous foliage and a marvellous mounding habit. They come in many beautiful varieties, like Under the SeaCampfire, and Chocolate Covered Cherry.

Ornamental Grasses are the ultimate low-maintenance landscape addition to add texture to your life. As natives to Iowa, they are also phenomenally low-maintenance. We love the Purple Fountain Grass for its stunning color and texture.

Pictured below: Celosias

red celosia plant

Zinnias are another daisy-like flower with a terrific trailing quality that looks perfect in patio pots. They come in many vibrant colors, including the cheerful orange Magellan Orange, and are drought-tolerant enough to handle a little neglect.

When the leaves change and the air changes to that crisp, cool air the world comes alive with color and excitement. As lively as it may seem, though, the world is slowly falling into hibernation, and our gardens are a perfect example of this. With these stunning fall selections, though, you can still enjoy that burst of fresh life from summer right until winter comes.

To learn more about plants for potting in fall or to browse our selection, visit the garden center today!

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Aphids 101

aphids on a branch

We can certainly count ourselves as lucky here in Iowa that our garden pests aren’t as intimidating as warmer states. But just because we aren’t facing down dangerous pests like army ants, venomous spiders, and scorpions, doesn’t mean that our own pests aren’t annoying. While a single aphid by itself can seem nearly harmless, the damage that they can cause when they gather in numbers makes them rank up close to mosquitoes as most hated local insects.

Iowa fall perennial japanese anemoni

Aphids 101:

It’s their numbers that make aphids – also aptly known as “plant lice” – such a burden in our gardens. Each tiny bug sucks the sap from the plant they are on. With enough of these plant lice, it can have devastating effects on your plants as they have the life literally sucked out of them. Your poor plants can go from gorgeous to limp, discolored, or even dying in what seems like the blink of an eye. Aphid infestations grow fast, so you’ll need to be vigilant to save your backyard oasis from invading pests.

The problem with aphids is that they can reproduce incredibly quickly. A couple aphids can easily turn into an invasion overnight. These tiny insects can reproduce sexually or asexually, and the females often hatch from their overwintered eggs already pregnant. With a maturation time of only a week, aphid families grow at an exponential pace adding up to millions of invaders.

aphids on a branch and under a leaf

Aphid Spotting:

Being proactive is a great defense against aphids because it’s easier to deal with getting rid of a few bugs than a horde. Your plants will thank you for protecting them before the damage is done, and you’ll be pleased to maintain the lush, healthy garden aesthetic that you’ve worked to achieve in your garden all year.

Aphids are easy to spot, regardless of the type. While they can come in any variety of colors, from green to gray, or even spotted, they are almost all pear-shaped. They hang out in clusters, often on the new tips of growing plants or on the underside of leaves.

Aphids can be particularly troubling in the late season. Take care to keep a close eye on your plants to spot them early to save you extra work tending to unsightly damage.

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Aphid Damage:

While many gardeners are familiar with what aphids themselves look like, most of us are all too familiar with what aphid damage looks like, and are keen to avoid it every year in our own gardens. Different plants will present different complaints from aphid damage, but often show yellow discoloration, as well as wilted or curled leaves.

As if this attack on our gardens wasn’t enough, the presence of aphids is an invitation for fungus and mold to set in, as well as a likely way for diseases to be spread to your gardens.

aphids on a damaged leaf

Getting Rid of Aphids:

Our problems with aphids start with their sheer numbers, but thankfully for us, these pests have almost no defenses, and almost every other garden creature you can think of loves to eat them. The best defense you have against invading aphids is their natural predators, especially if you’re able to identify the pests early before they take over.

For an easy, chemical-free solution, release ladybugs into your garden to do all the heavy lifting for you. Not only are these gorgeous beetles like charming jewels in the garden, they are aphid-devouring machines. These beetles will stay in your garden as long as they need to, so long as they have tasty aphids to eat.
Instead of releasing ladybugs, you can also easily knock off collections of aphids on the undersides of leaves with a strong jet of water, tackling some of their numbers easily and with minimal effort or invasive pest control.

hose spraying leaves with water

For larger or persistent aphid infestations, some gardeners find that they need to turn to more powerful solutions before the damage to their garden is irreversible. When using these stronger solutions, we recommend following these steps:

Neem Oil – an organic insecticide that disrupts the aphid life-cycle and repels other pests. To use, dilute the solution in water as directed on the package and spray affected plants until completely wet.

Insecticidal Soap – a plant-safe liquid soap that is effective against many soft-bodied pests, including aphids. To use, apply in the morning by spraying plants with water, then follow with soap solution. Wait 30 minutes and rinse with water.

Pyrethrum – a very strong chemical insecticide that kills aphids on contact. To use, spray affected areas in early morning. This should only be done if the above steps failed to work.

Using strong chemicals can not only get in the way of you and your family enjoying your garden and yard, but they often wipe out all insect life in your garden. While this sounds promising, it often means that your aphids problem will bounce back even worse after using strong pesticides, because they won’t have any of their predators keeping them in check.

When it comes to aphids, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment. These pests are tenacious and annoying but can quickly become more frustrating if they take over and damage your beautiful backyard. As we get into aphid season, remember to check your plants often for suspicious starter colonies of the pests so that you can keep your yard and garden aphid-free and beautiful all summer long.

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Best Iowa Perennials for Fall Blooming

Iowa fall perennial flowers with butterfly

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus

Slowly, but surely, the days are getting shorter and soon our nights will be getting colder, as well. Summer is passing in a swift, hot haze and soon will change to the crisp beauty of a color-changing fall. While spring and summer are the traditionally thought “gardening season”, there is still plenty of beauty to be had in autumn, as well! Here are some of our favorites for fall in Iowa.

Pictured below: Japanese Anemone

Iowa fall perennial japanese anemoni

Japanese Anemone:

Japanese Anemones are one of many Asiatic beauties that have made the journey to North America to dazzle in our gardens. They produce deep, dark mounds of green foliage with long-stemmed, buttercup flowers that shoot upward like a star. They are relatively low-maintenance and are excellent choices for planting in boggy spots, since they don’t mind getting their feet wet. Plant them in partial shade and you can enjoy their lovely spring colors – like the rosy double blooms of the Pamina – right up to the first frost.

Joe Pye Weed:

While it may be called a weed, this flower is one you won’t want to pull from your garden. The gorgeous plumes are lined with large, serrated leaves and bunches of beautiful purple-red flowers. They are low-maintenance, attractive to butterflies, and you can find them in a variety of sizes – like the tall, elegant Gateway that can grow to 6’ tall! Give them full to partial sun and keep the soil moist for the most amazing growth all season.

Pictured below: Toad Lily

Iowa fall perennial toad lily

Sedum:

Also known as Stonecrop, this unique flower makes an interesting combination of flower and succulent. Thick, fleshy foliage makes up the dense groundcover this plant provides, but perched atop the leaves are delicate clusters of tiny flowers in varying hues of pinks and reds. Pollinators simply love them in the late season and their low-maintenance care makes them a simple fit for any garden – especially the radiant raspberry red of the Dazzleberry. They thrive in full to partial shade with occasional watering.

Toad Lily:

Toad Lilies are a captivating plant with a distinctive look to dazzle in the garden. The stunning star-shaped flowers feature a myriad of speckles that almost make it appear like a toad’s skin and sit atop a mound of green, oval leaves. They come in many amazing colors, including a beautiful powder blue dotted with purple called the Blue Wonder. To enjoy these tremendous lilies, plant them in partial to full shade and keep the soil evenly moist.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Pictured below: Turtlehead

Iowa fall Perennial Turtle head

Turtlehead:

Turtlehead flowers get their name from their unmistakable resemblance to a turtle’s head poking out of its shell. The little petals sprout from a green cone and hood together on top and bottom to form a little head with a mouth. While the blooms come in bright colors, like the hot pink Hot Lips, the foliage is dark and glossy, creating beautiful, tropical contrast in the garden. Just like their namesake, these plants like to be wet, making them great additions to sunny, boggy areas or surrounding a pond.

When autumn comes, your garden doesn’t have to end. These perennials will give your garden a perfect touch of color and brightness right until the first frost for an everlasting season. To explore more fall favorites, take a look at our perennial blooming calendar for Iowa or visit us in-store today!

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3 Reasons to Trim Back Your Annuals

A little pruning now and then keeps it healthy, but you shouldn’t pull it out and chop the roots up.“
– Len Goodman

Some of us feel a little timid when it comes to trimming back our beloved annuals. These bold bloomers captivate our hearts and backyards in their precious, short growing season and we can be nervous to start cutting away their blossoms. It’s time to be brave and grab the trimmers, though, because cutting back your annuals will rejuvenate them for the end of the growing season, boasting bigger, better, and healthier growth into the fall.

Once summer has embraced its best months and we start thinking about the fall and back-to-school season just around the corner, our star annuals that were lush and dense with vibrant color might be looking a little lackluster, despite some of our best efforts. A well-timed pruning can actually give them a second life by trimming the dead weight! Don’t spare the scissors, because they can give your favorite flowers new life to last longer in their prime right into fall:

Pictured below: Petunias

purple and white petunias in a pot

Reason 1: Some of Your Plants Can’t Take the Heat:

When we walk into a garden center to pick out our favorite blooms, we tend to fall in love with the look of our plants first. But a garden center is a bit like the United Nations of plants – something from the depths of the Amazon jungle might be on the shelf beside a desert dweller.

Your petunias are from South America, while Chrysanthemums come from China, and Rosemary originates from Mediterranean countries, like Italy. While they all come from different homelands, we adopt them here in Iowa and group them together in our own container designs. They might survive next to each other in a container, but some plants have some very different needs from each other.

Pictured below: Alyssum

Hibiscus yellow orange flower

While you’ve probably taken into account the most extreme needs when planting, once the season is in full swing the smaller differences become much more apparent. Annuals from temperate climates will thrive in the cooler nights of spring and fall while folding under the heat of July and August. Classics like Pansies and Violas, Osteospermum, Geraniums, Nemesia, Alyssum, and Snapdragons love cool temperatures and might not be looking their best by this point in the summer.

Once they start to struggle in the heat, they’ll benefit from a generous haircut and some fertilization. Your heat-lovers will be free to put on the best show they can in the rest of the hottest summer days, while the summer pruning will set up your cool-temperature plants to perform again as the days cool into fall. Without this trimming, they’d be too exhausted to even make an attempt at reviving in the fall. By pruning now, you invest in better color, later into the season. Your garden could still bloom with enthusiasm after your heat-lovers finish their season.

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Reason 2: Garden Interventions:

In the gardens of our childhood, your local garden center might have offered a maximum of 12 different annuals, known then as “bedding plants”. From those 12, you would make your selections, plant your annuals, and wait for them to bloom. It was formulaic, it was predictable, and it was easy to follow without negotiating different types of flowers, growing habits, and needs. In exchange for all the choice we get to explore and be creative with now, we have to be a bit more involved in our gardens.

With a wider selection of plants to choose from to fit our every need, we have more variables to balance. In creating our perfect aesthetic, we keep in mind how aggressive our plants are or how much water they need to pair plants successfully. Sometimes our “perfect look” calls for pairing some mismatch plants, like meeker and slower growing Marigolds or Snapdragons with much more aggressive Verbenas or Petunias. This doesn’t have to rule out matching them though, you’ll just need to keep your trimmers ready to save your passive plants from getting consumed by the stronger growers. Trimming back and taming your annuals opens up new pairing possibilities to create a container that is absolutely perfect.

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Reason 3: Get A Response:

Pruning your plants gets them angry and ready to grow back with more conviction and a vengeance. Your annuals are like a champion boxer – they more you try to knock them down, the tougher they get. If you trim off a quarter of their growth a couple times a year, they come back bigger, stronger, better, and more gorgeous. You get to trim off any unsightly dead growth, only to be rewarded by even more stunning growth! This method works best on plants like Petunias, Pansies, Calibrachoas (Million Bells), Bacopas, and most foliage container plants.

Simply pinch back the foliage and give them a healthy dose of fertilizer to fuel their comeback growth. Check back in a week and you’ll be delighted to see that your plant making a comeback filled with stubborn growth and blooms.

Pictured below: Snapdragons 

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all-annuals method, as some won’t respond well to being hacked back. Anything with a central blooming stem (like Canna Lilies, Snapdragons, Begonias, or Marigolds) won’t make a comeback in the same way or nearly as quickly. Don’t let them go to seed, as they’ll stop blooming, but don’t be quite as aggressive with the scissors on these plants. They still need your guidance and some trimming to be egged on to keep growing and blooming for our enjoyment, just in a gentler sense.

We can sometimes be a little nervous to take a generous snip off of the gorgeous annuals we’ve adored watching bloom all summer. Keep in mind that a haircut is often exactly what our favorite, hard-working plants need to come back stronger. Taking charge of your garden with scissors in hand is all you need for gorgeous blooms all summer and long into the fall.

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Give Our Bees a Break

“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.”
– Elizabeth Lawrence

The sights, sounds, and smells of our garden are part of why so many of us have fallen in love with gardening. A warm, sunny summer day doesn’t seem quite complete without the quiet buzzing of bees busily bumbling from flower to flower. They are amazing to watch as they go from bloom to bloom, slurping nectar and scooping pollen before they lift off and wobble to the next flower like an overloaded plane.

These days, it seems like our gardens are quieter. While many of us got used to the sound of our gardens humming along, the open blossoms these years seem to have fewer bees floating between them. Iowa’s pollinators, especially the bee, are in trouble and it’s not just our gardens that will suffer if we lose them. We have some ways to combat their habitat loss, and population decline from pesticides and disease in your backyard to boost their health and the health of your garden.

bee on yellow sunflower

Getting a Bee-Friendly Garden:

Bees are an important part of the health of our garden. Without enough to be in every yard, it’s important to entice them to spend their time in ours. The more appealing we make our yard, the more likely it is to be a regular stop for the few bees that are left in our neighbourhood.

Bee-Friendly Planting: Part of bringing more bees to your garden is providing them with their favorite foods. Bees will always prefer local Iowa native plants over fancy hybrids that they don’t recognize. They also like to visit plants that are in clusters instead of single flowers. They love fantastic color as much as we do, so don’t be afraid to put on a show! Plants like lilac, black-eyed susans, echinacea, and sunflowers are among their favorites.

Pictured below: Echinacea

Beautiful Paver Patio Outdoor Living

The Right Conditions: Bees will favor yards that offer lots of sunshine, little nooks and crannies to rest, and shallow water where they can get a drink. Consider filling a shallow container with some pebbles and filling it partially with water to create a bee bath that gives them a place to land and quench their thirst.

Leave it Natural: Native plants are a great compromise to have a cultivated garden that is bee-friendly, but having areas that are allowed to grow a little wilder are perfect to give bees the natural habitat, food sources, and shelter that they crave. In a busy urban center, a tiny patch of wild can be a bee oasis.

The friendlier we make our yards to bees, the better our gardens look. Bees pollinate our blooms to help them reproduce, creating more, healthier flowers. Bees are also a crucial step for many of our fruit-bearing garden favorites, so they are a must if you want to enjoy tasty apples or raspberries.

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Keeping Bees Alive:

Providing the right food and shelter to attract bees to our gardens is helpful for both us and these adorable pollinators, but we also need to focus on curbing practices that can harm these buzzing beneficial insects. Our local bees are struggling with our use of pesticides, and understanding how these chemicals works can help us prevent hurting our pollinators.

Your entire garden is an ecosystem, complete with lots of complex food chains. When some of our most irritating pests appear, they are usually followed by predators that help us keep their numbers under control. Most pesticides wipe out all insect life – not only will your bees be hurt as the innocent bystanders, but the predators that keep the pests under control will be gone, too. Pesticides might fix a problem for now, but wiping out everything only invites the pests to come back as a bigger problem in the future. In the end, using pesticides and other poisons hurts everything in your garden, including bees, without a lasting benefit to your garden.

Bee on purple Lavender and Bee on sunflower

To help save your bees, avoid spraying pesticides on anything that is in bloom, if you use them in your garden at all. If you have to use chemicals to solve a garden problem, start with the mildest solution and work upwards in toxicity. Instead of chemicals, consider using safer methods like netting, garden fleece, or mesh barriers to keep pests away, or even using companion plants in the garden that naturally repel pests.

Creating bee-friendly gardens is easy, and we only have benefits to be rewarded with. There are many solutions to the problems that reduce our bee numbers, and many of the ways to attract bees to our yards are not only simple but very aesthetically pleasing. By saving the bees, we not only feel a little better about our impact on the world around us, but we get a garden bursting with life and healthy blooms.

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Best Iowa Perennials for Summer Blooming

blue delphinium flowers

“The summer night is like a perfection of thought.”
– Wallace Stevens

With the sun beaming on our skin and soaking us with radiant warmth, it’s safe to say that summer is here. Our days are longer and the urge to get out to enjoy the season grows stronger. What better way to enjoy the summer than with beautiful perennials? The season might not last as long as we want it to, but perennials give us the same sensational color to look forward to year after year! Here are some of our favorite summer bloomers that thrive right here in Iowa!

Delphinium

Hummingbirds can’t get enough of Delphinium and neither can we – they are the ultimate summer perennial. The tall spikes of this pretty perennial are bursting with blooms and saturated with color all season long. For a genuinely vibrant blue that jumps out of your garden, try the Blue Mirror Delphinium. To bring this delight home to your yard, plant in full sun with evenly moist soil. Water regularly and don’t be afraid to stake your plant for a more polished look if you notice any drooping.

Pictured below: Bee Balm

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Baptisia

For a bold look that brings full foliage and a pop of colorful flowers, the Baptisia is sure to please. This favorite offers plenty of green to fill your garden, with showy spikes full of sensational little flowers. Also known as the “False Indigo”, this luscious perennial comes in many shades, including the beautiful maroon and yellow blooms of the Cherries Jubilee. They are summer bloomers, but they can’t always handle the heat. Plant in partial sun and water regularly, especially during any heat waves. This is a great perennial for a sheltered part of your yard where it will have the chance to add some color and life, while looking its best in the heat.

Hardy Hibiscus

Nothing says summer like the exotic tropical show of a Hibiscus. One look at these big, bold blooms and it’s easy to be transported to an oceanside oasis – right in your own yard. While many think that tropical plants are too delicate to last in our sometimes harsh climate, Hardy Hibiscuses defy the odds. They’ll stand up to the temperature drops and the dry seasons that their tropical cousins wilt in. For a pink and white flower to whisk you away, try our Starry Night Hibiscus. Plant in full sun with well-draining soil to prevent rotting roots. Keep the soil evenly moist and enjoy your fabulous flowers all summer long.

Pictured below: Hardy Hibiscus

Hibiscus yellow orange flower

Bee Balm

Bee Balm isn’t just for the bees – it’s a summer hit with gardeners everywhere, too. These lovely flowers pop out in a way that almost makes them look like pins in a pincushion. With beautiful colors to fit any garden, this plant makes it easy to draw in bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds alike. You’ll fall in love with its mounding flowers, and the pollinator population that comes with it will have your yard healthier and simply buzzing! To grow your own, plant your Bee Balm, or Monarda, in full to partial sun and water regularly. This plant is known for its spreading habit, so keep an eye on it with scissors handy to prevent it from growing anywhere it isn’t wanted.

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Asiatic Lily

Lilies are a worldwide summertime sensation with an iconic look you can’t beat. Their big, bold flowers make them stunning statement pieces. Their irresistible aesthetic adds that “je ne sais quoi” in gardens, containers, and cuttings alike! They’re also easy to care for, making them ideal for the gardener who loves to enjoy their yard without the heavy labor. We have plenty of color options for every gardener, but we truly love the Pink Pixie for a pop of color that fits any garden. Plant your Asiatic Lily in full sun and water regularly to keep the soil moist. The flower may love the sun’s heat, but the roots don’t. Mulching is a great way to keep them cool, while also retaining water for less frequent watering.

Pictured below: Asiatic Lily

asiatic lily beautiful flower

For perennials you’ll love year after year, these plants are proven winners for our Iowa climate. They are sure performers that will keep your garden looking like the summer getaway it is, without the extra hassle. This summer, spend more time enjoying your backyard oasis, and less time working in it! For more summer perennials we love, check out our full perennial blooming calendar or visit us in store today.

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Native Plants (Iowa)

“You’ve got to stay strong to be strong in tough times.”
– Tilman Fertitta

These days we seem to get busier and busier every year. The hurry of our families and lives is sometimes overwhelming. We do our best to keep up, but when we finally get a moment to ourselves, the last thing we want is a reminder to do more work. Without the time and energy, maintaining a gorgeous garden seems impossible. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though! With a wide variety of native plants to choose from, it’s downright easy to create an impressive garden you’ll be eager to show off that doesn’t demand constant toiling. You’ll be able to have your dream garden and the time to actually sit back and enjoy it.

Pictured below: Yarrow

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Benefits of Native Gardening:

Native gardening has gained popularity for its low-maintenance beauty thanks to the natural hardiness of its plants. But many gardeners also know that they don’t need to plant only local plants to have a hardy garden. There is a wide variety of hybrids on the market these days, offering non-native plants that are tougher than their exotic cousins. While they are hardy enough to make the cut in foreign territory, these plants are still being taken out of their natural comfort zone: hybrid varieties of classics still take some degree of maintenance and sometimes provide mixed results. Native plants, however, have been thriving in your local climate for thousands of years, which is a type of hardiness that any hybrid will struggle to compete with.

Native plants are the ultimate low-maintenance option that is a perfect fit for the time-sensitive gardener. They have very few gardening needs and are perfectly happy in full sun with little to no additional water. Not only are they drought- and heat-tolerant, but they’ll even thrive on a little bit of neglect. A garden with native plants offers a stunning variety of natural colors that essentially take care of themselves, year after year. These pretty locals will be a favorite of guests to your garden – from visiting pollinators and birds to your friends and family.

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Native Gardening in Iowa

In Iowa, we are no strangers to prairie plant life. Our native flowers are accustomed to plenty of sun in the summer but are hardy enough to survive our chilly winters. Some of our favorite, low-maintenance Iowa prairie flowers are tough growers with a pretty exterior:

Butterfly Milkweed

Don’t let the name fool you, because Milkweed (also known as Butterfly Weed) is a charming flower that adds to its beauty by attracting scores of butterflies. It’s mainly known as the flower of Monarch butterflies, but their nectar is also a favorite of ladybeetles and bees. The pretty clusters of flowers will help to draw scores of beneficial insects to your garden, but will also repel destructive pests like deer and rabbits. This flower works hard for you and is frequently available in delicate shades of orange or pink to dress up your low-maintenance garden.

 Coneflowers

These flowers feature a seed head with long, falling petals that cascade in a cone shape. Also known as Echinacea, these flowers offer many color options beyond their classic purple hues. The unique shape of these flowers is eye-catching to the passerby as well as to helpful insects and local birds.

 Yarrow

Also known as Achillea, Yarrow is another example of an unapologetically vibrant native plant. While the colorful clusters of flowers make this perennial incredibly popular, the leaves add functionality as a long-loved herb. Many gardeners swear on Yarrow leaves’ pain-relieving ability and have used them for a variety of common ailments from toothaches to bellyaches. A bit of Yarrow in the garden adds a splash of color, all while requiring minimal care. In fact, a little neglect actually helps this plant to thrive.

Pictured below: Coneflowers

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Ironweed

This native is as tough as the name suggests. Ironweed is a perfect plant for the middle or back of the garden, maturing at a height of about a foot and a half tall. The blooms are what makes this plant so spectacular. Vibrant, dark purple flowers cover the tips of the plant mid-summer, making it a real showstopper. Certainly one of our favorite natives, you will love this plant and so will the pollinators!

Rough Blazing Star

Also known as Liatris, the Rough Blazing Star is also unofficially known as the “butterfly magnet” because butterflies cannot resist the blooms of this lovely plant. It is extremely drought tolerant and stands at about three feet tall with clusters of large purple blooms. Rough Blazing Star is much bigger than common Liatris and also blooms much later. Try this plant in your garden, and you will be impressed with its hardiness and beautiful blooms.

Showy Goldenrod

This plant is a much tamer, non-invasive version of ordinary Ditch Goldenrod. The blooms are large with a bright, sunny yellow color, born on very sturdy stems that grow up to three feet tall. It has large flowers bloom later in summer and fall, adding that perfect pop of color to any Iowa garden. Bees and other pollinators are also very attracted to this plant.

Pictured below: Butterfly Milkweed

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Using native plants in your garden makes growing a healthy and hardy garden a much more realistic option for busy gardeners. With a garden that practically takes care of itself, while still offering up an array of charming blooms, you’ll actually have the opportunity to sit and enjoy your garden. And we offer lots of varieties to choose from and the advice you to help you get started.

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Perennial Blooming Calendar (Iowa)

Iowa spring perennials summer blooming calendar timing season fall

“Each moment of the year has its own beauty.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

When planning our gardens each year, we do our best to ensure that we will have beautiful blooms, no matter the season. From the moment spring has sprung, right up until the chill of fresh frost, we want a fresh and flowering garden. All perennials have their own time, some can’t wait to pop their heads out of the frosty ground and other Iowa flowers refuse to show up to the party until the days are at their longest and hottest. Knowing which perennials do best in each season will help you effectively plan a garden full of new color all season long.

Spring:

Spring is all about the early risers. These perennials need to be pretty cold-hardy and tough to survive unpredictable weather, especially here in Iowa. Spring bloomers usually won’t mind the rain and will tolerate shade. The first glimpse of fresh spring growth and the first colors of early flowers is a refreshing way to start your garden’s growing season right after too many months of cold and bleak weather.

Bleeding Hearts are one of the best early spring bloomers. Their small, heart-shaped flowers delicately hang from long, tall wand-like stems. An old-fashioned favorite for a reason, these beautiful blooms are native in North America, making them very low-maintenance. With full to partial shade and regular watering, these flowers will charm your garden throughout spring.

Pictured below: Dianthus

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Creeping Phlox flowers are gorgeous ground-cover flowers that don’t mind the chillier side of spring. Their small, star-shaped flowers will coat a garden on a fantastic evergreen bed of foliage. For the best blooms all spring, give them full sun and regular watering.

Irises are a longtime favorite flower for their unique and show-stopping appearance. Tall, colorful blooms delicately droop around slender, upright foliage to create an amazing look for any springtime garden. To add depth to your garden, try the magnificent and moody purple of Caesar’s Brother. In contrast, the delicate cream-colored Butter & Sugar is sure to brighten your garden.

Armerias or Thrifts produce gorgeous balls of blooms. Their deep-colored foliage is reminiscent of grass and makes for a perfect backdrop for its round tufts of flowers. The fluffy flowers almost resemble a little rabbit’s tail, especially in white varieties like our Cotton Tail Thrift.

There are so many options for early-blooming perennials that give new life and color to your garden as early as possible. Other spring-blooming perennial favorites include:

  • Dianthus – fabulous, full blooms that burst with color
  • Lenten Roses – hardy, star-shaped flowers with sensational stamens
  • Snowdrop Anemones – fragrant flowers that look almost like daisies
  • Lupines – tall tufts of plentiful blooms of color
  • Amsonia – starry flowers, also known as Blue Stars

Pictured below: Lupines

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Summer:

Summer is all about show-stopping, fabulous flowers with an attitude. The gorgeous weather that tempts us outside also gets the best displays out of your plants. You’ll see a dazzling array of colors, shapes, and sizes that are sure to bring life to your garden. Enjoying the best of summer weather and color only lasts so long – this is not the season to shy away from the large and loud.

Veronicas offer vivacious, vibrant spikes of tiny flowers. Their full sun-loving habit makes them an ideal summer perennial that will last all season. This means you’ll have the pleasure of enjoying their gorgeous color right until the break of fall. We love the Royal Candles Speedwell variety for the bright, purple-blue flowers to brighten any garden.

Alliums have all the beauty of onion flowers without the tears. The little tufts of purple flowers make them an outstanding addition to any summer garden. Enjoy the beauty of our favorite, the Millennium Ornamental, for a burst of color midsummer.

Astilbes are a spectacular show of unique flowers for any garden. These spikes are not simply adorned in flowers, but in smaller flower spikes. Don’t let their shady needs fool you – these bold beauties are midsummer bloomers. To bring pretty pink color to your garden’s shady spots, try our Visions Astilbe or Maggie Daley!

Catmint is the perfect choice for a cat-friendly summer bloomer. Offering more showy and spectacular blooms than their cousin, Catnip, this plant is another favorite for cats with a more resilient nature. For perfect purple spikes of flowers, try our Walker’s Low Catmint.

Butterfly Milkweed is the ultimate way to bring in the butterflies, just as the name implies. Their bright blooms are practically bursting with fiery warmth, even on the chilliest days of summer.

Pictured below: Butterfly Milkweed

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Volcano Phlox are a summer cousin of Creeping Phlox, with an interesting growth habit that earns their name. Their bountiful blooms appear to be cascading like colorful lava down a mountainside. With rich shades of reds, whites, pinks, and purples, there is a Volcano Phlox for any garden.

Hardy Hibiscus will put on a tropical summer show from midseason right until the finish of fall. Big, rounded petals surround a showy stamen that hummingbirds adore. Looking straight out of a Hawaii catalog, they are sure to make your backyard feel like a warm, sunny getaway. For a pinwheel of pink, try our Starry Night Hibiscus.

Shasta Daisies are the perfect way to bring the classic, summer flower home. The brilliant white petals surround lively yellow centers that emanate the feeling of summer. They look gorgeous in the garden and cut in a vase and will bloom right into fall to keep summer going even when the air crisps.

Russian Sage is great for adding delicate color to your garden. The tall spikes of tiny flowers that add a perfect backdrop to any summer perennials. For lacy blue blooms that look amazing in contrast with red and orange hues, try our Little Spire Russian Sage.

Yarrow is a brilliant way to bring bold color without the extra work. This perennial is native to North America, so it already knows what to do to grow healthy and vibrant. These fine flowers have a dense mounding habit that provides bright color that fills your garden all summer long. Try our Paprika Common Yarrow for a red that is sure to spice up your garden.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Cranesbills or Perennial Geraniums are the perfect way to add delicate ground-cover to your springtime garden. Their small, plate-shaped blooms offer vibrant colors with an almost tropical feel. For a beautiful blue to brighten your garden in spring, try our Rozanne Cranesbill for sensational color all season.

Coreopsis, also known as Tickseed, is another springtime sensation to brighten up the garden as the days get longer. These bright perennials love the heat and sunshine, soaking it up to produce lovely, light blooms. For beautiful color, try our Zagreb Threadleaf Tickseed or our Creme Brulee Tickseed.

Asiatic Lilies have big, beautiful blooms that are impressive in any garden. Their large, flowers are grown in a compact and easy-to-care-for manner that makes them a stunning summer bloomer for a container or bed. We carry these hardy sensations in many gorgeous colors, but for a delicate pink that is irresistible, try the Pink Pixie!

Other summer-blooming perennials include:

  • Geum – small, fire-toned flowers also known as Avens
  • Baptisia – also known as False Indigo, but available in many colors besides blue
  • Bee Balm – rounded bulbs of spiky petals that bees can’t resist
  • Delphinium – stunning, tall spikes full of color
  • Lavender – classic purple flowers famous for their relaxing fragrance
  • Liatris – tall spikes of purple flowers also known as Blazing Stars
  • Stachys Hummelo – tiny tufts of purple flowers atop lush, green foliage

Autumn Joy, Photo: By Magnus Manske [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

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Fall:

Fall is less about new perennials and more about those late-bloomers that aren’t quite ready to let summer go. These flowers won’t mind the days getting shorter and will tolerate the cooler evenings.

Black-Eyed Susans are low-maintenance fall favorites. Their classic bright yellow petals surround moody, black centers, bringing a little summer brightness into the fall. Plenty of sun and regular watering is all these flowers need to keep your autumn nights bright.

Autumn Joy Sedum flowers stay true to their name and give a stunning show right until the first frost. Their tiny flowers cluster together into little plates sitting on top of thick foliage that is reminiscent of succulents – giving them a contemporary appeal. Partial sun and occasional watering are all they need for you to enjoy watching their pink blooms turn to a deeper red by season’s end.

Asters start their blooming late in the summer, but their fantastic fall show is saturated with summer colors. The plentiful petals make for blooms that almost appear to be bursting, especially with the color they provide. Delicate and dense, they are a perfect choice to fill a garden late in the season.

Helenium offer amazing, warm-toned blooms to keep the summer heat around even in the cooling weather of fall. Also known as Sneezeweed, it was believed that inhaling the dried leaves of this plant would induce a sneezing that would expel evil spirits from the body. Besides their “exorcising” ability, they have delightful, daisy-like flowers in fiery shades that are perfect for a fall garden.

Other fall-blooming perennials include:

  • Toad Lilies – unique flowers with speckles of color that look like a toad’s skin
  • Japanese Anemones – amazing spring-colored flowers great for fall
  • Turtleheads – dark green foliage producing small, colorful, and bright blooms
  • Joe Pye Weeds – delicate fluffs of flowers in muted colors

Planting your garden this year can include perennials that will keep it alive all spring, summer, and fall – every year. When one variety finishes its show for the year, another will spring up, keeping your garden fresh and vibrant every day. The endless changing color is practically an invitation to enjoy your time outside more. With so many to choose from, we’re happy to help you build your vision. Planning your favorites is a great way to change your outdoor spaces into a colorful haven from season to season.