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What Hydrangeas Can I Grow? Options for Sun and Shade

pink, blue, and purple hydrangeas Ted Lare

Many people think that you need a shady garden in order to grow hydrangeas. While that is true for some varieties, some hydrangeas thrive in sunny spots and even need full sun to develop into the fullest plants and the brightest blooms. 

There are many types of hydrangea available, so it’s important to know which specific varieties you can grow in sun or shade. Here are a few of our favorite perennial hydrangea options for sunny spots and for shady spots in Iowa.

Invincibelle hydrangea Ted Lare
Shade-Loving Hydrangeas
 

Annabelle, Invincibelle, and Incrediball are three hydrangeas that perform well in mostly shaded sites. All three of these like plenty of moisture and protection from the afternoon sun for best blooming. These hydrangeas feature the classic dense bloom clusters, but Invincibelle and Incrediball have larger bloom clusters than Annabelle.

Incrediball and Annabelle feature white flowers, while Invicibelle features light pink flowers. These hydrangeas will not change color with soil pH changes.

These hydrangeas should be watered if they start to wilt. A thick layer of mulch around the base of hydrangeas will help regulate soil moisture and protect the roots from winter kill. All three of these hydrangeas bloom on new wood, so they can be pruned back quite hard in the spring.

For color changing hydrangeas, check out large leaf types such as Endless Summer. In alkaline, or “sweet” soil, they’ll bloom pink; in acidic soil, they’ll bloom blue. There are kits available that you can use to change the soil pH to change the color of the blooms. 

Large leaf hydrangeas bloom on old and new wood (last year and this year’s growth), so they bloom best if they’re not pruned. Winter does usually cause some dieback, so you can easily just remove dead wood in spring. 

Little Lime hydrangeas Ted Lare
Sun Hydrangeas

There are definitely more options for full sun hydrangeas. They also tend to have larger blooms that come a little bit later in the year than shade hydrangeas. Sun-loving hydrangeas do not change color. 

Little Quickfire and Mystical Flame have pink flowers, and the bloom clusters are less densely packed and have a more light and airy look than other varieties. They are smaller, only maturing at 3-4′. Both varieties can tolerate full sun or part sun conditions. 

Little Lime hydrangeas are excellent performers for full sun areas; they can even be grown in planters! While this hydrangea can be kept small, it can also grow from 3-5′ tall, if given the space. The blooms on these start out white and fade to green, sometimes with pink undertones. There is a larger version of this that is called Limelight hydrangea, which grows up to 8′ tall and wide. 

Sun-loving hydrangeas bloom on old and new wood, so you don’t want to cut them back right to the ground, or they may not bloom for a year. You can safely prune them back by ⅓ without disrupting the next season’s show. 

pruning hydrangeas Ted Lare
General Hydrangea Care 

Hydrangeas like to have consistently moist, but not saturated, soil conditions. When you get a variety for the location you have, full sun or shady, they’ll establish into very low maintenance shrub. There is no need for extra maintenance or fertilizers, and you can prune plants to maintain the desired height and shape, or let them grow as they please. Hydrangeas really take care of themselves, only occasionally needing some water during the hottest and driest days of summer.

 

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There are many more varieties of sun-loving hydrangeas available. Talk to the staff at our garden center to explore some of the best varieties under the sun!

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The Best Perennials for All-Summer Color

perennial salvia-ted lare

Our early spring blooming perennials are starting to wind down in Iowa, and we’re heading into summer. Flower gardens are looking fresh and full across the state, but as we head into the hottest months, some of those spring and early summer blooms are starting to fade a bit in the intensity of summer heat. 

There are actually quite a few different perennials that bloom beautifully for a long time and can withstand our hottest summer temperatures. Here are some of our favorite summer-blooming perennials to add long-lasting color to your garden.

 

garden phlox, daylily, shasta daisy ted lare

Garden Phlox 

Phlox usually starts blooming in mid-July, and it keeps producing clumps of pretty flowers on tall stalks, overlapping with many fall-blooming perennials. Phlox does self-seed, so keep up with deadheading. Garden Phlox is available in a wide variety of colors like pink, red, purple, orange, and white.

Reblooming Daylily

Most daylilies only bloom for a couple of weeks each summer, but reblooming cultivars bloom multiple times in a season. There are two types; early/late bloomers and successive bloomers. Early/late bloomers usually flower in the spring and then again in the late summer or fall. Successive blooming daylilies produce batches of blooms, one shortly after another for several months. Reblooming varieties are available in a wide range of colors.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta daisy is an underrated summer blooming perennial. They’re usually white, making them versatile for pairing with other plants, and they’re a long-blooming, pollinator-friendly perennial. Daisies add a touch of classic simplicity to flower gardens. They bloom from July through the fall, with flower stems up to 3-4 feet tall.

 

perennial salvia, russian sage, yarrow ted lare

Perennial Salvia

The Salvia family of plants includes both perennials and annuals. Salvia nemorosa, Salvia × sylvestris, and Salvia farinacea are perennial varieties. Salvia blooms for most of the summer, and if you keep up with deadheading you can extend their season even longer. 

Russian Sage

Russian Sage has a bit of a different look, with its many tiny purple flowers on thin spikes. While its foliage and flowers might be delicate and wispy, the plant manages to take up quite a bit of space. It can get as tall as 5′, and sprawl nearly as wide. 

Yarrow

Yarrow is a classic summer blooming perennial. It’s soft fern-like foliage sets off clusters of brightly colored flowers, from 1-3 feet tall. Yarrow is available in pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges. Yarrow does tend to naturalize and spread itself quite efficiently, making it ideal for pollinator gardens, xeriscaping, and re-wilding larger properties. 

 

coneflower, coreopis, allium ted lare

Coneflower

Coneflowers are another reliable all-summer bloomer, starting in June and going right through August, and beyond if the weather stays good. They do get quite tall, sometimes reaching heights of up 5 feet. Coneflowers are available in a wide variety of colors, including pink, purple, white, orange, yellow, red, and even green.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis produces small daisy-like flowers above fine, fern-like foliage. Heights vary a lot from one type to the next. Coreopsis bloom most of the summer, and when the flowers start to go off in late summer, you can encourage a second blooming by shearing back up to ⅓ of the whole plant. 

Allium

Alliums are truly a multi-season plant. While they don’t necessarily bloom all season long, their unique globe-like flowers turn into striking seedheads that provide beautiful visual interest all summer and stay standing in the winter. Most alliums come in shades of purple, but they’re also available in a wide variety of other colors. Different varieties feature varying shades of red, pink, white, and yellow. There are also early- and late-blooming varieties available. 


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Summer-blooming perennials can help carry our gardens through the hottest days of the year, when other plants might struggle with the heat. They’ll also keep the garden looking great when you don’t want to spend a ton of time deadheading, pruning, or weeding under the hot sun! Check out the
perennial selection at our garden center to add a few of these summer-bloomers to your Des Moines garden. 

 

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How to Grow Citrus in Iowa

While an imported orange from Florida or California might hit the spot, imagine the satisfaction of biting into an orange from your own personal grove! Some citrus trees do very well as houseplants, so you can grow them yourself right here in Iowa! All you need to grow citrus is a little patience and care. You’re not limited to just oranges either—lemons, limes, and even kumquats are all on the list of citrus fruits you can grow in containers!    

How to Choose A Citrus Tree

The most important thing to know is that you’ll have to keep your tree indoors for the winter, so choose a dwarf variety. The added bonus of dwarf citrus trees is that many of them also produce fruit at a younger age. 

Meyer Lemons are among the best options. They grow up to about 4′ in height, and they will even produce fruit on young plants that are barely 2′ tall!

Dwarf Key Lime is another fantastic choice. It grows 4-6′ tall and will bear delicious fruit in 1-3 years. Be patient, don’t give up on it, and it will eventually come through with a bounty of limes for your pies, mojitos, tacos, and more!

Nagami Kumquats do well here, too. They can get up to 8′ tall. If you’ve never tried a kumquat, it’s like a small tangerine that has a lovely sweet flavor. Even better, the flowers are amazingly fragrant!

Citrus Tree Growing Conditions  

Citrus trees like acidic soil (no surprises there!), so your citrus tree will do best in a specific citrus soil mix. It’s also important to fertilize with citrus fertilizer once a month from April to September. 

Citrus trees need 8-12 hours of bright sunshine every day. They’ll do best near a large sunny south-facing window. In the winter, you’ll need to supplement with strong grow lights. They like consistent temperatures of about 65ºF, and they don’t appreciate drafts.

One way to give your citrus tree a boost is to let it enjoy a summer vacation outdoors! It’s critical to transition your citrus tree outdoors slowly, once overnight temperatures are consistently above 55ºF. The process is similar to hardening off your plants, but it should be a 2-3 week process. Start transitioning back inside when overnight temperatures are dropping below 65ºF; it should take another 2-3 weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for pests when you bring them inside in the fall. If you spot any, make sure to keep your tree isolated from other plants in the home until the pest problem is resolved.

Citrus Leaf Drop

Don’t be too alarmed if you see leaves falling off your citrus tree in the winter. They can go into a semi-dormant state and may defoliate. Any unripe fruit will continue to ripen slowly, even if the plant loses many leaves. Cut back on watering if you notice leaves falling.  

Watering Citrus Trees

All citrus trees like high humidity and evenly moist soil. Water your tree when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch and cut back on watering a bit during the winter months. Humidity is critical, and your citrus tree will need a humidifier to sustain it through the winter.  


Citrus Tree Pollination  

Pollination might be the most important, and most frequently overlooked, part of owning a citrus tree. Indoor trees are self-pollinated, so you don’t need two trees. But, you do need to do the pollination yourself. Run a Q-tip or small paintbrush all over the inside of a flower, especially around the greenish center. Then, repeat the process on each of the other flowers to spread the pollen that will allow them to produce fruit. This is the job that bees do in the wild, so go ahead and treat yourself to some honey once you’ve finished!

If your citrus tree is going to spend the summer outside, the real bees will take care of this process for you. Luckily, they’re always grateful for the work!


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Following these care steps and you will be enjoying Iowa grown citrus no time. Stop by our garden center to pick up a citrus tree of your own today!

 

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Easy Vegetables To Grow for New or Seasoned Gardeners

Whether you’re new to vegetable gardening or have been at it for years, having some easy to grow vegetables in your garden plots allows you to maximize your yield without adding extra work to your schedule. In strange times like these, growing your own food is a great way to support your family by avoiding grocery store trips, while also giving you some garden therapy to help you relax. Growing some easy veggies ensures you a successful harvest, even if you’re busy entertaining kids, working from home, or just feeling overwhelmed. A tiny bit of effort now will pay dividends this spring and summer!

Here are 5 vegetables that are super easy to grow in Iowa and require very little maintenance or attention. Plant them, water them, and soon you’ll be harvesting your own homegrown produce aisle!

Beans

Green beans, purple beans, pole beans, and yellow beans are all super easy to grow. Beans are pretty resilient and self-reliant. If you choose a climbing type, make sure they have something to climb like a lattice, poles, chicken wire, or a fence. Beans are also a great way to get kids involved because the seeds are large enough for little hands to space out properly in furrows. Beans also grow pretty fast, so you’ll be eating them fresh in no time. 

Carrots

Carrots are another easy grower that pretty much take care of themselves. Because carrot seeds are tiny, it may be challenging to space them well. Once they are about 4 inches tall, it’s a good idea to thin out the seedlings a bit. Look for the tiniest seedlings and pull them out. Give each seedling a little more space, aiming for an area about the width of your thumb in between seedlings.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are delicious, and like beans, they don’t require much maintenance. Because they are considered determinate tomatoes, also called bush varieties, cherry tomatoes don’t need any pruning. They will do better with support of some kind, like a tomato cage, but otherwise, you can simply make sure they’re watered and fertilized regularly. Before too long, you’ll have some delicious baby tomatoes for salads or snacking on straight off the vine.

Lettuce

Lettuce is super easy to grow, and is a great option for small gardens, and you can even grow it indoors near a south-facing window. There are many different varieties of lettuce available, from red leaf to romaine. Kale, spinach, and arugula are also very easy to grow. If you plant a new crop of seed every two weeks, you’ll have fresh lettuce for sandwiches and salads all year long, even through the winter. 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are also quite easy to grow. There are many varieties available for eating fresh or pickling. Cucumbers do tend to spread, so make sure they’ve got lots of space in the garden bed. Giving them a structure to climb, like a lattice or wire hoops, will make it easier to pick them later and keep them off the soil where they may start to rot. It’s a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves when you’re harvesting cucumbers, as they have rather prickly stems and leaves.

The most important thing to remember when growing these veggies in Iowa is to keep an eye on the soil moisture. Tomatoes especially tend to be thirsty plants, so make sure they’re getting watered regularly if it’s not raining much. During Iowa’s hot mid-summer days, you’ll need to water more or less every day unless it rains. That’s another activity kids are usually more than happy to help with, so get the whole family involved in your gardening efforts!


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If you’re feeling inspired, why not try adding a few herbs to your easy-grow garden as well? Herbs like chives, parsley, mint, and oregano are just as simple to grow as the veggies above. Whatever you need to get started growing, from containers to soil to seeds to plants, we can help you out. With curbside pickup or delivery, just call ahead and tell us what you need, and we’ll get it ready to load straight into your vehicle.   

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How to Grow Herbs Indoors the Easy Way

Growing herbs is one of the best ways to add a little more depth of flavor to your recipes. It’s nice to have herbs in the garden through the summer, but it’s even easier to use them if they’re growing on your kitchen counter! Growing herbs indoors also means you’ll have fresh herbs on-hand all year. Furthermore, if you tend to choose organic foods, indoor herb gardening lets you control the growing environment and avoid consuming herbicides and pesticides.

Growing your own herbs is also a great way to get an early start on gardening before we can really get outside and grow a vegetable garden. Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and thyme are especially easy herbs to grow indoors in Iowa. Here are a few tips for beginner herb gardeners on how to grow each of them inside your home!

What Do Herbs Need?

A common belief is that all herbs come from hot places with Mediterranean-style climates, so they all need to be kept hot and dry. Many Mediterranean herbs do prefer these conditions, but not all of them, so don’t treat every herb the same! With that said, they all have a few things in common.

All herbs need these things:

Strong sunlight for a minimum of 6-8 hours per day. If you have a sunny south-facing window, that’s the perfect location. You’ll still need to supplement with a grow light during the darkest weeks of winter. Under artificial light, they’ll need 10-12 hours of light per day.

The ideal temperature for growing herbs is between 60-70ºF, so it’s best to keep them in a spot where the temperature is nice and steady, away from drafts and heating vents.

Every herb needs good drainage to prevent the development of root rot. Use high-quality potting soil, and adapt it to the preferences of each plant. Make sure your herb containers have drainage holes and place a saucer under each pot to catch any excess water.

Since herbs have their own different preferences, it’s best to let each of them grow in their own individual pot. 4″ pots are a great size to start with for most herbs.

Organic seaweed fertilizer is excellent for herbs. Seaweed fertilizer has a high nitrogen content, which encourages strong leafy growth, and is available as an organic fertilizer. During the spring and summer, herbs can be fertilized once per week. In winter, cut back to one application per month. 

All plants need good air circulation, so don’t cram your herbs too close together! Good air circulation helps your herbs grow their best and helps to prevent the spread of diseases.

Watering is a bit tricky and varies depending on the herb. Generally, you should only water once the soil at the top of the pot is dry. We’ll include more watering details for each different herb below. 

 

Basil 

Soil Needs: Nutrient-rich, but well-drained.
Watering: Basil needs to be watered regularly; it likes evenly moist soil, but not wet roots. Don’t let basil’s soil get too dry before you water again. Basil is sensitive to both over-watering and under-watering, so do your best to keep it on schedule. Feed with organic fertilizer every 2 weeks in spring and summer.
Other Notes: Pinch off individual leaves for cooking. Pinching the top leaves from stems will encourage bushier growth. Pinch off any flowers you see right away, as the flavor of the plant may lessen once it goes to seed.

 

Oregano

Soil Needs: Sandy and rocky soil.
Watering:  Oregano likes the soil on top to get dry between waterings, but don’t let it dry out completely. Feed with organic fertilizer every 2 weeks in spring and summer.
Other Notes: Oregano benefits from regular trimming; it encourages bushier growth, so don’t be afraid to add it to your recipes frequently. Pinch off any flowers you see as soon as possible. 

 

Parsley

Soil Needs: Parsley isn’t too picky and will do well in any good-quality potting soil.
Watering: Parsley likes evenly moist soil, so it may need more frequent watering, like your basil. It also likes humidity, so if your house has really dry air, it’s a good idea to mist it once per day. Feed with organic fertilizer every 2 weeks in spring and summer.
Other notes: Once parsley is about 6 inches tall, you can start harvesting it. Work from the outside in, clipping the stems close to the soil. Don’t cut the tops off the whole plant, as this will stunt new growth.

 

Rosemary

Soil Needs: High-quality potting soil with good drainage in a terracotta pot.
Watering: Rosemary needs its soil to dry between waterings. To test, stick your finger in the soil to a depth of about 1″; if the soil is dry, it’s time to water. 
Other notes: Rosemary does need excellent air circulation because it can be prone to powdery mildew. Indoor rosemary plants will need regular fertilizer. Rosemary shouldn’t be harvested until branches are about 8″ tall, then you can cut off the top 2-3 inches of each stem. Then the plant will need time to recover from the trimming before you can harvest again. You may want to keep several rosemary plants at once so that you always have one that is ready for trimming.

 

Thyme

Soil Needs: High-quality potting soil, with some extra perlite added for drainage
Watering: Thyme also needs to dry a bit between watering, so make sure the top of the soil is dry before you water.
Other notes: You can start using thyme as soon as it has a nice amount of foliage. Clipping the woodiest stems short, right down to the soil line, will encourage new growth. 

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If you’re ready to start your own kitchen herb garden, stop by our garden center for a visit. We’ve got a variety of herbs, soils, pots, fertilizers, and grow lights available to help you get started, and even countertop herb garden kits that include everything you need in one convenient package! 

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Top New Edibles of 2018

“I like being able to tell people that the lunch I’m serving started out as a seed in my yard.” 

– Curtis Stone

One of the best parts of summer is growing your own fresh fruits and veggies right in the backyard. Meals never taste more delicious than after a fresh harvest. Save the trip to the grocery store and bring your own produce section home, only an arm’s length away! Here are some of our top choices for new edibles in Iowa this year.

Gigantic Verde Tomatillo 

These small, husked cousins to the tomato are packed full with flavor and are staples in Mexican cooking. The Gigantic Verde Tomatillo variety brings more delicious flavor and excitement to the table than its predecessors and tomato cousins. The larger yields, fruit, and juicier sweetness of this tomatillo makes it the perfect flavor for a salsa verde to bring freshness to your favorite summertime snacks.

Plant your Gigantic Verde Tomatillo in full sun against a trellis or stake to keep fruit off the ground. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, throughout the season for the best-tasting fruit. Harvest your tomatillos when they feel firm to the touch and the husks have broken open slightly. You know when they are ripe as their green flesh transforms to yellow. Eat them right away by removing the husk, or leave it on and your tomatillos will stay fresher longer!

Brandy Boy Tomato

An awesome beefsteak variety, the new Brandy Boy Tomato is a tasty way to change it up this year. This tomato is a cross of the heirloom tomato Brandywine and Better Boy. The result is a tomato that has a delectable sweet and tangy heirloom flavor, but with better disease resistance and a tidier growth habit. Try them in a homemade pasta sauce or even diced into a delicious bruschetta!

Tomatoes need plenty of sun and moisture to grow. Plant them in rich, moist soil and keep them well-watered throughout the season. Mulching plays an important role in growing tomatoes for both moisture retention and protection. Tomatoes’ delicate roots can be prone to many problems, including rot if damaged, so protecting them is key. Grow them against a stake or tomato cage for big, juicy fruit and harvest when they are heavy and firm to the touch.

Pixie Grapes

These perfect patio grapes are a cousin of grapes we often find in our houses in a tall, stemmed glass. Their mouthwatering, crisp, sweet flavor will probably taste similar to many wines! Homegrown grapes are a decadent treat all summer. These grapes got their start in vineyards and have been perfectly designed to fit in a patio container for delicious flavor at your fingertips all season.

Prep your pot with moist, well-draining potting mix with an organic, slow-release fertilizer for an added boost. Plant your Pixie Grapes in full sun with a small trellis to support your grapevines as they grow. You’ll know they are perfectly ready with a quick taste-test – sweet means just right!

Pictured below: Artwork Broccoli (left), Dragon Roll Pepper (right)
Images from: All American SelectionsBurpee

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Artwork Broccoli

We’re all familiar with our big, bushy broccoli varieties with short stems and thick stalks. Breaking tradition comes the new Artwork Broccoli. These little bite-sized broccoli heads harvest piece by piece, rather than as one, large head, so the flavor is always fresh day-of. Their long, flavorful shoots are just as earthy and sweet as the tops, making the whole thing amazing for every broccoli recipe, especially stir-fries.

Artwork Broccoli needs full sun and consistently moist soil to grow. Plant in a rich, well-draining soil and mulch to keep moisture even all season. Harvest the central crown of the broccoli first – the top of the stalk – when it reaches 1” in diameter. Do this first and enjoy the sprouting of tasty shoots all along the length of the stalk throughout the summer.

Dragon Roll Pepper

These popping peppers offer a slightly spicy, yet sweet flavor with a bit of smokiness and have become a culinary delight at farmers markets and restaurants across the nation. Starting off fairly mild, Dragon Roll Peppers will mature with a bit of kick, but only about 1/10th of a jalapeno. Just a bit of spice makes these the perfect snacking peppers on their own. They add awesome flavor when diced raw onto fresh tacos or for roasting. They are certainly a talking point of any dinner party.

Plant them in a hot, sunny spot in your garden. Warm and moist soil gives these peppers their edge, so mulching will keep them at top performance. Water regularly and feed them with an all-purpose vegetable mix to give them a boost if they need it. Harvest your peppers when they are still green by cutting off part of the stem.

Pink Icing Blueberry

Named for the blue and green foliage that is dusted with pink edges, Pink Icing Blueberries are the must-have berry for your garden this year. They’ve got adorable foliage that makes them a great accent plant for your garden or patio, and they are rich in delicious berries to enjoy all summer. The big, juicy berries are so flavorful and sweet that you’ll have a hard time holding yourself from eating them all right off the plant. If you can, though, try them fresh with some Greek Yogurt or baked into mouthwatering muffins.

Pink Icing Blueberries will perform best with at least six hours or more of sun. They are self-pollinating, so they do not need another plant to produce fruit, but they will have better yields if you plant more than one. They will need a rich, acidic soil to grow, so having compost or peat moss on-hand for amendment may be helpful. Water them regularly and deeply to provide plenty of moisture to your growing fruit. You’ll know they’re perfect for eating when the little berries are full of color and no longer green.

Enjoy a fresher taste in your kitchen this summer with some irresistible new fruits and vegetables. Add a twist to your cooking, baking, or even just snacking with a flavor for every palette. No matter who’s coming over, you’ll have something fresh for everyone with these top new edibles of 2018!