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Try These Cool Plants in Your Spring Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are a fun and fast way to add some brilliant color and visual interest to your yard. They’re absolutely beautiful when they’re loaded with blooms, and as long as you take good care of them, they’ll look fabulous all summer long. The best part is that you get to change them up every year to suit your garden themes or color palettes!

Designing your own hanging baskets is fun and easy if you follow the thriller, filler, and spiller recipe. Thrillers are taller plants, generally placed in the middle of a hanging basket, fillers are mounding, or low bushy plants that go around the thriller, and spillers are the cascading plants that hang down over the sides of a hanging planter. 

We’ve picked out a few plants for each of the categories above, and a few tips about where and how they’ll grow best in your Des Moines yard. 



Begonias are shade and moisture-loving plants. With their large colorful single or double flowers, they’re the perfect centerpiece for a hanging basket. They do like consistently moist soil, so check if they need water regularly.

Angelonia are an elegant flower that comes in beautiful shades of pink, purple and white and will add some height to the center of your container.  They love warmth and heat and will thrive during the summer months.

Geraniums feature vibrant, upright flowerheads in a wide variety of electric colors. These gorgeous annuals make an eye-catching center for hanging baskets, and many varieties have a lovely fragrance. They adore the sun, and will happily bloom all summer long. They do need to be deadheaded, so don’t hang them too far out of reach. In a hot and sunny location, they’ll need to be watered pretty frequently.



Coleus is a shade lover with unique colorful leaves. It is an excellent hanging basket filler to surround a bright flowering thriller plant. Coleus like consistently moist, but not saturated soil.

Impatiens come in a variety of colors and can easily be the feature of a hanging basket, or use them to fill a basket all on their own. They prefer a part to full-shade location and moist soil. They’ll let you know they need water when they get a bit droopy.

Petunias are a sun-loving hanging basket filler. Petunias can fill quite a bit of space, so you’ll want to pair them with a tall thriller plant, or let them fill a basket on their own. With so many blooms, petunias are thirsty, and on the hottest days of the year, they’ll often need to be watered twice a day.
Calibrachoas are basically mini-petunias that come in an incredible range of colors. They’re an excellent filler, and will even spill out of your containers with their candy-colored trumpet-shaped flowers. They also love the sun and will need frequent watering, but unlike most petunia varieties, most calibrachoas don’t require deadheading.



Lobelias are a pretty hanging basket spiller for partial shade spots. Their delicate foliage and dainty flowers in pink, white, purple, or blue are a perfect complement for larger thriller or filler flowering plants. They like a little sun, but they don’t love the heat of the afternoon and will perform better in a cooler spot. Lobelia does best with frequent water, check the soil every other day.

Sweet potato vine is a grow-anywhere vine that trails gracefully from hanging baskets. Its unique leaves are visually interesting and contrast well with more delicate flowers or foliage. Sweet potato vine is available in electric shades of green or deep, dark purple. From full sun to full shade, sweet potato vine is happy anywhere as long as it gets regular water.  

Bidens are a spiller with pretty orange or yellow daisy-like flowers. They do mound a bit above the basket before spilling, so you could use them as a filler as well. They like a sunny location, and once established, they’re quite drought tolerant. 

Bacopa is a lovely spiller that does best in a partial shade location. It produces hundreds of tiny flowers in white, pink, or purple. It will bloom all summer long if kept moist. 

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Hanging Basket Care

Hanging baskets require a little extra attention than larger containers or plants in the ground. They usually have a lot of plants crammed into a very small space. The general rule of thumb is to combine 5-7 plants for 14″ basket. That means there won’t be much soil to conserve water or nutrients, so to keep your hanging baskets looking their best, make sure they get watered regularly. Fertilizing your hanging baskets once a week or once every two weeks will also help them keep producing gorgeous flowers all season long. Be sure to look for a fertilizer formulated for flowering plants!

If you want to try your hand at designing your own hanging baskets this year, you can either shop our online store or stop by our garden center and pick out your favorite plants and hanging baskets. Or, if you prefer, we’ve got combo hanging baskets already planted and ready to enjoy at home!

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Repotting: The Signs To Watch For And How To Do It

Repotting houseplants seems like a pretty straightforward task, and we’re often tempted to repot our new plants as soon as we get them home. However, repotting can be a somewhat traumatic experience for plants, and some are more sensitive to this disruption than others. The journey from the garden center to your home is quite an adjustment for your plants, and they should be given a little time to rest before repotting.

When Should I Repot My Houseplants?

Repotting houseplants is best done when the plants are actively growing, which happens from April through August here in Iowa. After this time, plants go dormant, and repotting should be avoided unless the plant is showing signs of being severely rootbound. If you’ve brought a new houseplant home, give it about 3-5 days to rest and adjust to its new environment before you repot it.

A Bigger Plant Pot is Not Always Better

Overplanting is a common problem with houseplants. Overplanting happens when plants are repotted into containers that are too large, leaving a small root system sitting in a large volume of potting soil. This contributes to over watering problems and can cause poor root development and root rot. Most plants like to be potted in smaller containers, and it’s okay for them to be a little rootbound. We recommend sizing up no more than one size from the current pot. This is usually done in 2” increments for pot sizes.

If you are planting a plant that prefers specific conditions, like an orchid, it may need a specialized container. Orchid containers have large holes in the side of the pot for extra air circulation around the roots. 

What Type of Soil Should I Use?

Most houseplants will benefit from a good quality potting mix; there are even a few available designed specifically for certain houseplants. 

Some plants, like orchids and cacti, definitely need specialty mixes. Orchid potting mix and cactus mix are both free draining, but they feature very different types of materials. Planting orchids or succulents in other media can cause disease and root rot problems from overwatering.

How Do I Deal with Rootbound Plants?

When you remove your plant out of the old container, you will often see tangled roots. When you see more roots than soil, it means the plant is rootbound or potbound. In some cases, this can require an intervention. When repotting, it’s crucial to separate these roots before planting in the new pot. Very gently, pull some of the roots apart and untangle them from each other. Take out as much of the old soil as you can at the same time. You will break some roots while you’re doing this, but that’s okay. Some broken roots will encourage the plant to grow new roots (however, orchids are an exception to this rule). Carefully place the plant roots into the new pot prepared with a layer of fresh orchid mix at the bottom, and backfill around and over the roots. Leave about half an inch of space between the lip of the pot and the top of the soil line to allow room for watering.  


Orchids Are The Exception

Some specialized plants have their own rules that need to be followed using the example above. Orchid roots don’t grow the way other plants do, so do your best not to damage or break any of the roots while repotting—be very delicate. Orchids also like to have some air roots, so leave some of them exposed. 

Repotting After Care Tips

Tropicals and foliage plants should be soaked deeply right after repotting. 

Cacti should not have their watering schedule adjusted when repotted—place them in the new pot and don’t water them until they’re due for a drink. 

Should I Fertilize After Repotting?

It may be tempting to break out the fertilizer after repotting. However, it’s best to wait at least a month before fertilizing. Fresh potting soil is loaded with the nutrients your plant needs to get a good head start on growing new roots, so fertilizer shouldn’t be required for up to 3 months depending on your mix.

Whatever you need for repotting your houseplants this spring, we’ve got you covered. Stop by our garden center today, and we’ll send you home with everything you need to make repotting as trauma-free as possible for your houseplants. 

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If you’re looking to add some exotic, strange, or straight-up strange-looking plants to your home, stop by our garden center. We’ve got plenty of weird and wonderful houseplants for you to discover! 


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5 Houseplants with the Most Amazing Leaves

It’s always exciting to bring a new houseplant home. But if you’re tired of the same old plain green leaves, why not look for something more exotic the next time you shop for indoor plants? There are plenty of intriguing species we can grow indoors with unique leaves packed with personality! Here are a few of our favorite striking indoor plants for Iowa

Fittonia, often called Nerve Plants, are dramatic in more ways than one. They have striking dark green leaves with bright red or white veins. They’re beautiful to look at, and they can tolerate fairly low-light situations. However, they’re very dramatic about being watered. If you let their soil dry, they’ll wilt and collapse as if the world has ended. Luckily, it hasn’t (unless you leave them like that for days on end!). Give them a thorough soaking, and they’ll perk back up within a few hours like nothing ever happened.

Lithops, often called Living Stones, are an unusual family of succulents that actually look like rocks! They’re native to very dry areas of southern Africa, and some even survive in areas that get less than 2″ of rain each year. They stay small and low-profile, and they can go months without water. However, they do need full direct sunlight for a minimum of 5 hours per day. A bit of extra shade in the heat of the afternoon is helpful. 

The warning to NOT overwater these guys is super important. Lithops are dormant for spring and summer, so don’t water them then unless the leaves start to shrivel. At that time, only offer a small amount, just enough to moisten the top of the soil. They start growing again in August or September, and plants that are at least three years old may bloom in the fall, producing cute little spiky flowers. 

In the fall, you can give them one deep watering, but make sure they have good drainage. Cactus soil is ideal, as it prevents them from staying wet for very long. Stop watering altogether by the end of September. They grow through the winter, but they need the soil to be very dry to complete their growing cycle. Do not be tempted to water if the old leaves start to shrivel; this is a normal part of their growth and reproduction process.

Staghorn Ferns have recently become more popular for their large leaves that look like moose antlers. Staghorns are epiphytic, which means that in the wild, they attach themselves to other plants and don’t grow in soil. They do best when mounted on a hanging platform of some sort, or in a hanging wire or mesh basket with little to no soil. An orchid bark mix would be well suited for staghorn. 

So, how do you water a staghorn? There are two primary ways to make sure your fern is getting enough moisture. They like humidity, so if your home is dry, you may need to mist even once per day during the driest parts of the year. The higher the humidity in the area, the less frequently you’ll need to mist or water. 

The second watering method is to soak the roots. You can dunk the entire root ball into a bowl or sink of room temperature water for a minute or two. You’ll have to pay attention to your fern to figure out how it likes to be watered. Fronds beginning to go black or brown at the base means it’s getting overwatered. Wilty fronds with brown tips are telling you the plant needs a bit more frequent watering.

Sensitive Plant has leaves that may not be that exciting to look at from a distance, but they are truly fascinating when you get closer. Kids and adults alike love to interact with this plant, because as soon as you touch its tiny leaves, they fold up and move away from your finger, only to reopen a few minutes later. This amazing reaction is a defense mechanism to keep the plant from being eaten by herbivores. Don’t touch it too often, though, as the constant folding/unfolding is stressful and weakens the plant.

The sensitive plant likes bright light, with some direct sun in the morning and high humidity. It is poisonous, so keep the plant out of reach of kids and pets and watch closely when allowing kids to interact with the leaves. Let the top of the soil dry before watering again, but don’t ever let the whole pot dry out completely. Sensitive plants can benefit from a few applications of all-purpose houseplant fertilizer during its growing season. 

Mother of 1000s is a variety of kalanchoe. Its thick triangular leaves propagate little baby plantlets all along the edges. This is another succulent species, so it needs excellent drainage; cactus soil is best. In the tropics, Mother of 1000’s can become invasive because the babies simply drop off when they’re ready and can quickly fill in an area. 

Mother of 1000’s likes plenty of indirect light, so they should be close to a window with a sheer curtain to protect the plant from direct sunlight. Thanks to its succulent leaves, it doesn’t need to be watered too frequently. Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out before watering. 

Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get exclusive tips for keeping houseplants healthy!

If you’re looking to add some exotic, strange, or straight-up strange-looking plants to your home, stop by our garden center. We’ve got plenty of weird and wonderful houseplants for you to discover! 


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The Best Living Holiday Ornaments & Inspiration

Adding living plants to your holiday Christmas decor is easier than it might seem. Incorporating live plants into your holiday decor brings a sense of vibrancy and natural beauty that you just can’t get with artificial plants. We’ve put together a festive list of our favorite ways to decorate with live holiday ornaments in Iowa, and two tutorials for fun holiday decor with houseplants.

Houseplants on a Christmas Tree

We think adding houseplants to the Christmas tree gives it a unique and elegant look. Here are a few innovative ways to add some of your favorite houseplants to your tree decor. The very best part about all of these ideas is that you can keep them out well after Christmas.

Glass Ornaments

Glass ornaments with openings can act like tiny terrariums. You can find open-sided glass ornaments in a variety of sizes and styles at our garden center. You can keep them super simple, popping a single air plant or a sprig of evergreen into each one, or get more creative by crafting a miniature ecosystem.

Get the kids involved and create tiny Christmas fairy garden terrariums. Using sphagnum moss as a base, you can create a tiny holiday scene in each one. Small pieces of an evergreen branch can stand in as a tiny Christmas tree. Hanging these on your Christmas tree, or placing them around the house, adds understated elegance and simplicity to your decor.

Wire Ornaments

Simple metal or wire ornaments in classic holiday shapes, like stars or bells, are very trendy right now. Using wire, attach a grouping of air plants or succulents to one of these ornaments, and you’ve got a beautiful mid-century modern living ornament for your home.

Terra Cotta Pots & Macrame

Macrame has come back in a BIG way in the last year or two. Our favorite versions for the holidays are tiny macrame hangers for 1-2″ terra cotta pots. You can hang these on your Christmas tree for delightfully unique ornaments. If you’ve never done macrame before, don’t be intimidated. There are numerous videos online on how to make simple macrame plant hangers. Pop a tiny bit of soil and a mini succulent, “baby” spider plant, or other small plants into the terra cotta pot, and you’ve got some super cute living ornaments for your Christmas tree.

Our Favourite Live Christmas Decor

Evergreen boughs are a classic living Christmas decoration. There are so many different kinds of evergreens available, you can never go wrong with adding some branches to your holiday decor. Whether you add some to pots on the front porch, arrange them in vases on the table, draped over the mantle, or made into a wreath, evergreens always add a traditional Christmas feel to your home.

Amaryllis is a perennial favorite holiday plant. They’re elegant and simple with dramatic flower bracts, which makes them a classic central element for a Christmas centerpiece. Because their stems and leaves are tall and slender, amaryllis won’t block your view of the happy faces around the table!

Paperwhites are another classic Christmas bulb that compliments amaryllis well. They’re also tall and slim, but they feature beautiful bunches of white star-shaped flowers that complement the voluptuous, colorful blossoms of amaryllis.

We often associate floral arrangements with warmer days, but there are tons of beautiful flowers that work very well with Christmas decor. Classic red and white roses, or red and white carnations, have a decidedly Christmas-y feel when paired with greenery. Holiday floral arrangements combine nicely with sprigs of eucalyptus, ivy, or holly.

Tiny potted living evergreen trees are delightful both indoors and outdoors. You can get different varieties and place one in each room of the house, or use them to line your front walkway. It’s fun to decorate each tiny tree with a different theme. Strings of tiny fairy lights make them just as romantic as a full-sized tree.

Our absolute favorite live decor has to be our Table Top Grinch Trees. Combining living cedar greenery, a cute pot, and some adorable ornaments, these fun evergreen designs are always a bestseller. We also hold seasonal workshops in which we show you how to create your own unique Whoville tree. These stunning arrangements keep on living right into the new year if you keep them watered. Sign up for our upcoming class on December 4th to learn how to make your own. If you can’t make it to this class, we’ve got so many others coming up featuring ideas for live holiday decor, including:

Sterling Silver Snowflake Jewelry, November 30, 9-11 AM, $25-$50

Holiday Porch Pot, November 30, 12:30-2:30 PM, $20

Vintage Santa, November 30, 12:30-2:30 PM, $60

Mini Birch Evergreen Holiday Centerpiece, November 30, 3-5 PM, $25

Succulent Christmas Tree, December 2, 6-8 PM, $20

Holiday Grapevine Wreath, December 3, 6-8 PM, $39

Holiday Creation Station, December 3, 6-8 PM, $20

Holiday Angel Painting, December 3, 6-8 PM, $45

Tabletop Grinch Tree, December 4, 6-8 PM, $40

Holiday Porch Pot, December 5, 5-8 PM, $20

Garden to Glass: Holiday Part 2, December 5, 6-8 PM, $35

Holiday Porch Pot, December 7, 9-11 AM, $20

Holiday Centerpiece, December 7, 12-2 PM, $20

You can sign up for any of our workshop classes online or in person at our garden center. By the way, if you’re really set on making a Grinch Tree but can’t make it the workshop on the 4th, let us know! You can always come to the Holiday Creation Station workshop on the 3rd instead, but if we get enough interest, we may consider adding in another Grinch Tree workshop for our friends in Des Moines!

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How to Make Your Holiday Greenery Last

Festive evergreen boughs are the foundation of so many gorgeous holiday arrangements. They show up everywhere in your seasonal decor—from bouquets to wreaths, planters to garlands. Not only are evergreen cuttings beautiful, but their scents are hallmarks of the season. The only downside is they tend to dry out extremely fast and start dropping needles all over your floor.

So, how can you keep your beautiful natural Iowa evergreens vibrant and crisp all season?

Here are a few quick tips:

Buy them fresh. The sooner you can purchase greenery after it has been cut, the better. The longer boughs sit in the open air without water, the faster they dry out.

Choose boughs from evergreens that grow easily in Iowa. Try Eastern White Pine, Red Cedar, Balsam Fir, Common Juniper, and Yew.

Keep them outside as long as possible. The cold weather will help maintain their dormancy and keep sap moving through them as slowly as possible, helping your greenery to stay greener!

Soak cuttings in water before you create your arrangement. If you’re going to create an arrangement with fresh boughs, give them a good soak first. Cut evergreen stems like you would fresh flowers, then let them sit in a bucket of water for 24 hours so they can soak up as much water as possible. Even wreaths should be soaked. If you can, lay your wreath flat in a few inches of water overnight.

Spray greenery with an anti-desiccant. Anti-desiccant spray, also known as anti-transpirant, helps to lock moisture into needles and branches. You can pick up an anti-desiccant at our garden center. Giving your greens a good spray before you start arranging will help them retain moisture as long as possible.

Keep arrangements in water. If you’re creating an arrangement in a container, make sure the stems of the evergreens are submerged in water. Keep them in a vase or a bucket of some sort inside your planter. Check the water level daily; evergreens are thirsty things.

Mist evergreen cuttings daily. Especially indoors, evergreens will dry out much faster than outside. Give them a good spray over every day so they can soak in a little extra moisture.

Keep your finished arrangements in the shade, away from heat and direct sun. Direct sunlight will cause them to dry out faster. Being too warm, or located too close to a heat source, will also accelerate dehydration.

If you’re using lights in your arrangement, use LEDs. LED lights don’t produce heat, whereas incandescent lights get very warm and dry out your evergreen needles.

Consider adding non-traditional greenery. Rosemary, boxwood, and potted ferns can add a touch of brilliant greenery to your winter decor, and they last quite a bit longer than traditional evergreens. You could also use potted evergreen trees and shrubs in your decor, which could then be potted out into your yard in the spring.

If you’re not quite sure how to get started making an evergreen holiday arrangement, join us for one of our upcoming classes! You’ll learn from the pros how to make a variety of different Christmas-themed arrangements. You won’t believe how easy it is to create a stunning holiday arrangement for your home!

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The Best Plants for a Dreamy Terrarium

Terrariums are taking over Iowa homes—and for good reason. People are really embracing the trend of bringing nature into their homes. Unlike house plants, once you’ve put a terrarium together, they’re nearly maintenance-free, which makes them excellent options for busy students and professionals. They also inspire creativity and imagination. Your terrarium doesn’t have to be for plants alone; they can also include tiny decorations or figurines, creating any scene you can imagine. It certainly would be nice to stare into a tiny green world while all of the Iowa area is covered in snow!

While you can plant almost any plant in a terrarium, there are a few types of plants that are better suited to this particular environment. The main thing to remember when selecting plants is to make sure they all have similar water and light requirements. If you have a shade-loving plant and a sun worshipper in the same container, one of them is going to be very unhappy, and trying to compromise will leave them both to suffer.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Our Top 9 Plants for Terrariums

You can design a terrarium for succulents and cactus type plants, but it’s a bit more work to tweak the environment so it’s just right for them. A humid rainforest environment is probably the easiest to replicate and maintain. Sealed or open, having plants with similar water and light needs will make your miniature oasis nearly maintenance-free. Here are a few of our favorite terrarium-friendly plants from our garden center.

Mosaic Plant is also known as Fittonia or Nerve Plant. It’s a compact spreading plant with distinctive white veins on dark green leaves. Mosaic loves humidity but does not want any direct sun. Keep it in a bright spot in a room that isn’t too close to the window. It’s a slow grower, so it won’t overwhelm your container. You can prune your mosaic if needed.

Earthstars, also known as Cryptanthus, are easy to care for, and they add a unique shape and pop of color to your container. They also prefer bright but indirect light and plenty of humidity.

Begonias can thrive in terrariums because they are such stable, controlled environments. They like humidity but need good drainage, and no direct sun. Ideally, the bottom of your terrarium should be layers of gravel or rocks, with very little soil and sphagnum moss instead.

Ferns, like the small versions of Pteris or Maidenhair ferns, are great for terrariums because they love humidity, and they also don’t like much direct sunlight. Be careful about the positioning of ferns because most of them do not like their fronds to touch the glass.

Creeping Fig is a profuse grower often used as a ground cover. It prefers indirect light and humidity, and it doesn’t mind being trimmed and pruned to keep it in check.

Chinese Money Plant, also known as Pilea, likes humidity, prefers indirect light, and adds a unique look with its circular leaves on long, slender stems.

Peperomia may look like a succulent, but they’re actually rainforest plants, and they love the humidity. They also prefer bright indirect light. Each leaf will have its own unique variation of color.

Neanthe Bella Palms add the visual look of a bamboo forest to a terrarium. They are a slow-growing, low-maintenance plant that also loves humidity. They also prefer indirect light.

Polka Dot Plant has splashy pops of red and silver on its eye-catching leaves. Growing it away from direct sunlight will help to keep it smaller, but it could still use pruning once in a while.

Remember, the most important thing is to get plants that have similar light and moisture requirements. Once you have your terrarium set up with plants and other decorations, it should be almost maintenance-free. You’ll love having an entire mini-ecosystem in your home! 

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When you’re selecting plants for your terrarium, it’s essential to keep the size of your container in mind. You don’t want to cram in too many plants and crowd them all. If you have a specific terrarium in mind already, bring it with you to our garden center in Iowa when you’re looking for plants. That way, you can be certain which plants will fit, and you can get an idea of how you want to place them. If you don’t have a container yet, no worries! We’ve got lots of beautiful options to choose from, and we’ll even help you get set up with all the materials you need to create your miniature natural world. 

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Low-Maintenance Gardening

Low-Maintenance Gardening

Daily life is so busy that even the hot and long summer days don’t give us enough time to get the things done that we want to. But sitting back with a relaxing beverage on the patio is most enjoyable when you’re surrounded by your beautiful low maintenance landscape – not unfinished projects and reminders of work still to be done.

Instead of fussing over a whole garden of Prima Donna plants, consider planting some that you know are easy to look after. You can go fully low-maintenance for a simple backyard experience or you can just choose some low-maintenance fillers to allow you to focus on your favorite plants. Either way, you can still have a yard that is thriving, blooming, and ready to be enjoyed and shared.

Low-Maintenance Gardening

Choosing the Right Plants

Watering, pruning and maintaining a weed-free look can take up a lot of time, and sometimes our plants may still fall victim to pests. A lot of this can be avoided by planting native or low-maintenance plants that are tough enough to thrive in our normal climate and conditions. 

Natives are usually your most hands-off plantings as they’ve evolved to be perfectly suited to our climate the way that it is. You can plant these and forget about them because they have all they need to thrive without any intervention. Some people are still in love with the vibrant colors of their favorite (but water guzzling) tropical annuals, so a good compromise is to select “well-adapted” plants that might have a bit more of that visual factor that you crave, while still being low-maintenance when it comes to water and upkeep.

Low-Maintenance Gardening

Our Favorite Low-Maintenance Plants

Low-maintenance doesn’t have to mean low-quality. Here are some of our favorite plants that don’t require much to be their brilliant selves:

  • Ornamental Grasses: There was a time that grass was just for the lawn, but that time is over. Now, there are plenty of grass types that are specifically meant to add a decorative element in your landscape design. While they don’t bloom, their sweeping figure is the perfect contrast to the flowers already in your garden. Not to mention, they’re hardy and easy to care for. Check out our favorites, such as Feather Reed Grass, Prairie Dropseed Grass, and Little Bluestem for the best texture, flow, and headache-free landscape care.
  • Baptisia: Also known as Blue False Indigo, this plant’s name gives an impression of what it’s like in the garden. Enjoy their bright blooms and all of the buzzing bumblebees that they attract. For a plant that’s incredibly tough, the spires of flowers on them would never suggest that they aren’t bred for beauty alone. 
  • Daylilies: This perennial is a surefire way to impress in the garden. While their blooms are short-lived, they’re so beautiful that you simply can’t help but appreciate them. These flowers capture the heart of a summer that is just slipping by too fast. Enjoy a selection of hundreds of cultivars with different colors, shapes, sizes, and bloom times. It’s not so common to find a summer bloom so easily customizable to fit your landscape design so perfectly.
  • Hostas: These plants are another opportunity to add some foliage interest to your garden without sacrificing style. Hostas are incredibly popular right now, but the sheer number of different variations means you can have this common plant without matching every house on the block. Our favorites are Island Breeze and Stained Glass for their bold colors and fun variations that make them stand out in the garden. 
  • Cone Flowers: These blooms are incredibly tough, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at their pretty shape. Like open daisies, with their petals spread perfectly around a round seed core, these flowers are a great native addition to your garden. Two of our favorites are Tiki Torch and Pow-Wow Wildberry for their impressive saturated color, but you can choose cone flowers in every shade of the rainbow. 
  • Spireas: These flowering plants have joined the ranks of hydrangeas and rhododendrons as some of the most popular blooming plants to have in your garden. Including spireas not only saves you time and work, but also makes your garden look up-to-date. We love how long their blooms last, making them something to enjoy for much longer in the season than many other plants. Check our the Magic Carpet variety for an outstanding show of color that won’t disappoint.
Low-Maintenance Gardening

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Picking the right plants is key to making sure that your garden stays low-maintenance, but there are other steps you can take to make sure that your whole landscape isn’t demanding an unfair amount of your time. 

Mulching is the underappreciated secret of low-maintenance gardens. For a landscape that just falls in place and is effortlessly beautiful, consider mulching. You’ll enjoy watering everything less, weeding less, and providing an ecological base of pest-fighters that your plants need. In addition to all this, it makes your landscape look impressively tidy. It’s a win-win-win.

Low Maintenance Lawns

Between mowing, watering, and feeding, lawn care can take up an astounding number of hours in your week. All of that hard work might have you craving an easier way that will allow you to just sit back and relax a little more. Something simple like regularly topdressing your lawn with organic material can be the key to helping it grow healthier and retain water better. This can cut down on some weeding and watering chores. 

Get started towards a landscape that doesn’t take too much of your time, but looks effortlessly beautiful, with some of these great plants and garden care tips. You’ll get to spend more time appreciating your landscape and less time working on it. Don’t worry, we won’t tell your neighbours all of your secrets to keeping things gorgeous AND stress-free.

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Planting Annuals

Planting Annuals

It’s because of, not in spite of, their short-lived nature that we love annuals as much as we do. Not only do we plant these transient blooms knowing that they will only be with our gardens for a short season or two, but their limited lifespan is part of what enables them to put on the spectacular displays of color we crave. Caring for your annuals properly is the best way to ensure that these plants can shine throughout their short lifetimes, improving the appearance of your garden and giving you that fresh summer vibrancy you’re looking for.

Plan Before You Plant:
All the basics you need to know about your annuals are actually printed right on the label. Look to the plant’s packaging when it comes to information on sun exposure, soil type, and water requirements. Use this information to plant your annuals in a place where they will have all the necessary resources to shine. Most annuals prefer 6 hours or more of sun and generous watering schedules, but there are still plenty of exceptions. When you pair the right location, care, and plants together, you’ll have the right recipe for gorgeous blooms that won’t demand as much time for maintenance.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Planting Your Annuals:
Start your annuals off right with soil that will support all their growing needs through the season. The right foundation makes all the difference, and with the right nutrients and structure, your annuals can bloom with more enthusiasm and less intervention all season. Better soil is the key to better color and longer-lived flowers all summer.

The easiest fix for your garden is to make sure that you have plenty of organic matter and structure. Rust-colored soils are likely in need of an organic matter boost, while darker soils already have tons of rich nutrients. If you need to boost the organic content of your garden, just mix in compost or worm castings. Heavy clay soils will also benefit from added sand, compost or worm castings to provide better aeration of the soil. If you are planting annuals in containers, use a high quality potting soil, do not use soil from your garden beds.  For those that want to get technical with their gardens, test kits are readily available to check the soil pH to match your garden to your plant’s needs.

Planting annuals is very straightforward. Plan out your planting area so that your plants are spaced evenly and have room for their explosive growth pattern. If you are planting bedding plants in your garden, typical spacing is 6” to 12” depending on the growth pattern of plants and varieties.  Planning out your garden or container will also give you the chance to change your design once you see the elements together, rather than after you’ve planted. Once you know where your annuals are going, gently remove them from their containers, loosen their roots with your hands, and plant them in place.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Watering and Fertilizing Annuals:
If you’ve given your annuals a great start with the right soil nutrients, they won’t need nearly as much fertilizer for the rest of the year. They’ll benefit from being consistently fed a variety of nutrients rather than relying on a quick supply of their key growing ingredients in chemical fertilizers. During the initial planting we also recommend adding Osmocote or another slow release fertilizer to your soil. A slow release fertilizer will help to keep your annuals looking their best all season long. If you’ve planted in a container with less soil to support your plants, or notice your annuals lagging during their growing season, a quick dose of water-soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro, is usually all the help they need to keep looking fabulous.

Since your annuals are tropical plants designed for a single short growing season, they keep their roots close to the surface of the soil. Since they’re so close to the hot sun, they’ll need to be watered every 1-2 days to keep them hydrated enough to fuel top-level performance. The best watering system is something low-profile that focuses on getting the water to the soil where it is needed, instead of sprinkling over the flowers, which can sometimes ruin their petals.

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Maintaining Your Annuals:
Your annuals grow fast and keeping up with them is the best thing that you can do to keep them looking great every day. The most important maintenance that you can do is keeping up with your deadheading. As soon as you see a bloom starting to wither and die, pinch it right off the plant. Not only does this remove ugly spent blooms for a cleaner aesthetic, but it prevents your annual from spending energy on spent flowers by going into seed. Preventing your plants from seeding will have them blooming for longer – so consistent deadheading will help to extend your annuals’ beauty.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Overwintering Annuals:
Despite what’s implied by their name, you might be able to keep some of your annuals for two or three years. While these tender plants don’t stand a chance against our Iowa winters, many annuals can make it to next spring in the comfort of your heated home.

Annuals that can be overwintered well include flowers like geraniums and begonias.  Tropical flowering plants like mandevillas and hibiscus also make good candidates. Not every annual is created equal when it comes to overwintering – some are known to take to it very well while others don’t have much energy left in them after an exhausting season. Before committing the time, effort, and space to overwintering your plant, ask one of our garden experts if it’s a good fit to keep for another season.

Annuals are sensitive and need to be eased into indoor life, or the shock might put an end to your plan to keep your plant around. First, dig them up and re-pot them into large containers full of fresh (from the bag, so it’s guaranteed sterile) and nutrient-rich soil. Keep your repotted plant in a sunny spot and gradually introduce them to being inside over a few weeks as they acclimate. Try bringing them in for a few hours or overnight first before you try keeping them indoors for longer stretches, eventually moving them inside for the season.

By the time the spring temperatures melt away the winter, you can slowly reintroduce your annual to the outdoors before planting them again.

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Plants = Happiness: The Benefits of Plants

While some are blinded by their perceived burden, experienced gardeners know that plants are a blessing in disguise. If you’re looking for that little extra push to take up gardening (or if you’re simply looking for an excuse to add to your collection), read on for countless reasons why you should go for it!

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Benefits of Outdoor Plants:

Of course plants are magnificent on their own, but when you consider your garden as a whole, they can really work together to serve a greater purpose. Here’s why having plants on your property is so rewarding:

Plants are aesthetically appealing. Simply put – plants are pretty! And the more you have, the more you get to admire. Plants come in endless colors, shapes and sizes. They allow you to play with different elements of design to create the perfect ambience in your garden. Whether that’s bold and bright, or simple and relaxing – it’s all up to you!

They add value to your property. First impressions aren’t made when your guests walk through the door – it’s when they first pull into your driveway. The effort you put into your garden doesn’t go unnoticed. Visitors will admire your well-maintained lawn, lined with flourishing foliage and bountiful blooms. Not only does this attract potential home-buyers, but actually ups your property value, too!

They’re great for privacy. Part of what makes our gardens so great is knowing that we can enjoy them all to ourselves. Whether you have great relationship with your neighbors, or you don’t even know their last names, privacy is warranted either way. Gardens should be a place of peace and relaxation, not a place where we can be disturbed or gawked at. Luckily, plants with dense branching, like boxwood and arborvitae, are perfect for creating your intimate sanctuary.

Plants provide protection. What better time to enjoy our garden than on a beautiful summer day? As we know, sitting directly in the hot Iowa sun can be uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous. Thankfully, dense shrubs and tall trees provide us with the shade we need to sit back, relax, and enjoy our garden in comfort. On that note, trees also help protect our property from damage during harsh weather conditions.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Benefits of Gardening Edible Plants:

Gardening provides so much more than just the crops they produce. While that’s certainly a benefit, the actual act of growing your own food also has a positive impact on our life:

Plant-based is good for you! This one might seem obvious, but it’s one of the main benefits! Plant-based foods are incredibly nutrient-dense. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. Plus, gardening is a great way to encourage yourself and your family to eat more veggies. Children especially are much more likely to eat what they helped create!

Fresher = tastier. When we pick up produce from the supermarket, it’s likely travelled for quite some time before arriving to the store. Often, it’s been sprayed with chemicals to help it grow faster and last longer. When you grow your own food, you know what goes into it. You can harvest it the same day it ends up on your plate, and there’s no debate: fresher = tastier.

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Gardening is cost-effective. While we try our best to be healthy, we all know that buying produce at the store be costly. On top of that, it goes bad pretty quickly, meaning we end up throwing some of it away. While gardening requires some initial input for soil, seeds, and other necessities, it definitely helps you save in the long run.

Gardening keeps you active. Your plants aren’t going to grow themselves – you need to get off the couch and help! The digging, planting, watering, and general puttering around you do outside is a great way to keep yourself active, without too much strain. It’s also been proven to increase hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

It can improve your mental health. For most, gardening is a positive and joyful  activity. It helps us relax our minds while our hands and bodies just simply do the work. The responsibility of nurturing another living thing makes us feel needed, and boosts our self-esteem when we see the rewards of our effort. Gardening is therapeutic, and helps many people manage their mental state.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Benefits of Houseplants:

For those who aren’t ready for the commitment of gardening yet, houseplants are a great way to test the waters. They also come with a host of other benefits!

They’re works of art. Plants are incredibly versatile, and one of the most unique design tools out there. They literally add life to the room. They add an elements of freshness and beauty that just can’t be attained by any other decoration or accent. Small plants like succulents and aloe can be easily worked into any design scheme, while larger plants can make more of a statement.

Plants purify the air. According to NASA, plants have the ability to absorb harmful pollutants, such as benzene and formaldehyde. They also absorb carbon monoxide and release oxygen, cleansing the air in the process. Having plants in your home or workspace is especially useful if there’s already little airflow.

They make you feel better. If you love the outdoors, you may already be aware of the therapeutic effect of nature. Surrounding ourselves with plants mimics that simple and calming atmosphere, right in our homes. Plants have been proven to help reduce stress and even improve concentration – another reason they’re great work buddies!

Plants are more than just bundles of roots and foliage. They contribute to the ambience of our homes and gardens, improve our health, and even help us to sustain life on earth. They serve a functional purpose, while also providing us with breathtaking beauty. Plants = happiness.

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Vegetable Seeding 101

seeding basics how to sow seeds vegetable garden

Planting your own seeds is a win for everyone. Not only does it save you money, while being good for your health, it is much easier than some myths would have you believe. Planting even a few seeds each year is important. It’s a significant reminder that despite how frantic our plugged-in lives can get, some of our most meaningful joys come from the simplest places.

Why Plant Seeds?

It might be simpler to ask, why not? Our gardening experience has changed in the last few years from the roots up. Slowly, popularity is swinging back to what gardening used to be about: a little bit of dirt on your hands at the end of the day, and getting a taste of our own home-grown food. This movement is more than just a trend, so many people worldwide are turning to home-gardening for countless reasons. All these new people have started to innovate and adapt in their own ways, creating a gardening experience that is both new and old, and totally unique. Seeing your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. Seeding your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. 

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For Your Health:

The health benefits are obvious. Your vegetables are at their best straight from the garden, where they have the most nutrients and vitamins packed in them. The longer you wait after your food is picked, the more your nutrition-per-bite suffers. Growing your own gets all of the nutrients where they belong: on your plate. You’ll also have the assurance that you know exactly where your food was grown and what went into it. Growing your own food from seed ensures the healthiest food that you can have full confidence in.

For the Flavor:

Homegrown food tastes better. If you place something straight from your garden next to produce from the store, we promise that you can tell the difference your backyard makes. After you try a home grown tomato, you will not want to go back.

For Your Wallet:

Growing your own food is basically growing money. You will actually pay much less every month, while reaping the rewards of better tasting, healthier food. You might still buy some exotic favorites from the store, but plants like peppers, beans, or tomatoes are essentially high-interest investments.

For Your Family:

Many people like to seed their own garden for their families. The delicious and healthy foods benefit your entire family, and growing your own saves money. But teaching your children how to grow their own vegetables is a valuable experience that doesn’t actually cost anything. Some lifelong rewards are just too important to be bought.

Getting Started:

The most difficult obstacle for people interested in seeding their own garden, is figuring out when to start. Some of your plants might be sown directly into the soil in the spring, while others may need to be started earlier, indoors. Thankfully, it’s not a very exact science so if your guesswork is a little off on either end, your plants and crops will still be great. For information on how to time your planting for the Iowa growing region, view our Seeding Calendar article.

Seeding Inside:

Some plants are a little more hearty and can tolerate being started outside as soon as the weather is mild. Crops like peas, beans, carrots, and salad greens all grow quickly and don’t mind a slight chill. Other heat-lovers, like peppers or tomatoes, will perform best if they get an indoor head-start on the season. Starting inside is a good way to get the most out of your summer, while offering a fresh green reminder on your windowsill of spring-to-come. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Wash your containers well, with soap and water. Young seedlings can be more susceptible to bacteria and fungi than your matured plants, so you’ll want to start them off right.
  2. Don’t start with soil from the garden. Use a packaged blend specially designed for seedlings to ensure that everything is sterile.
  3. Pick a location. Most seeds won’t need specialty lighting – a bright window will do. The seedlings will want as much light as they can get once they germinate.
  4. Maximize your humidity. Our favorite trick is to use a clear, plastic dome to keep moisture in while the seeds germinate. Once the leaves break the surface, they won’t need the dome anymore.
  5. The initial leaves on a plant are seedling leaves. These are nourished from the stores in the seed itself. Once the roots develop enough for the plant to draw nutrients from the soil, your plant will develop true leaves. Once true leaves start to develop, it’s time to transplant your seedling.
  6. Watering your freshly sown seeds could rinse them away. Instead, opt for the finest mist possible for the first few waterings. Optimally, you should use something that produces an effect like light rain.

Once your seedlings have successfully started, they are ready to move to the garden. Having started from scratch gives you extra satisfaction that will make your homegrown food taste even better, all summer long. Visit Ted Lare Garden Center to select your favorite vegetable seed varieties from Iowa’s Seed Savers Exchange.