The Best Flowers for Continuous Color All Season Long (2023)

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Gardens that offer a full season of continuous color take time and care to achieve, but, like most anything worthwhile, they will offer ten-fold back to you in their beauty, comfort, and magic! Read on for a few tips and tricks that I have learned through trial and error to get color that spans the season. Plus, discover some of my favorite and trusty annuals that are essential planting on thefarm.

Thankfully, the availability of color within the world of flowers has never been wider. There are plants that flower in bold, pastel, and antique shades of colors and the options really are endless. Each year, we become a little bit better at filling in the bloom gaps between early spring, summer, and early fall with a combination of our annuals andperennials.

Gardening like living should be fun. It can’t be much of the time, but we can do our best to make it so. It is that intangible something which immediately proclaims that behind the scenes there is an original whose guiding hand has created something ephemeral, yes, but with the magic of a sunset.”

–ChristopherLloyd

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Bloom Where You’rePlanted

It’s okay to start small and spend time wondering and wandering about to see what is in bloom at various times of the season in your growing zone. It can be helpful to visit your local garden center throughout the season, since we all-too-often set out in spring with such zeal that we try to plant the whole garden in oneshot.

However, even in the garden centers, the plants in bloom in the spring will likely not be sitting pretty with flowers mid-summer and certainly won’t be in the fall. Returning a few times in the season to see what is currently in color in your region will allow you to pick up plants that are in bloom at that point of the growing season and help you to fill in the gaps where you have them. It’s helpful to remember that gardening is about the journey and the process rather than an end initself.

Flowers for Continuous Color All SeasonLong

Perennials For EveryRegion

It really helps to have a framework in the garden space with a variation of perennials where the diverse shapes and colors of their foliage can become the backdrop for the color show you plant aroundthem.

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If you’re planning out a planting schedule, the best time to add mature perennial plants (such as those bought in a nursery) is in the fall. However, there are many perennials that you can start from seed indoors and plant outdoors in early spring (near frost). See our article with a schedule on when to plant flowers (both indoors and outdoors in the ground).

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While it depends on where you live, some examples of long-blooming perennialsare:

1. Black-eyed Susans (Mid-Atlantic/OhioValley)

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2. Purple Coneflower (Midwest/GreatPlains)

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3. Dianthus(Texas/Oklahoma)

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4. Iceland Poppy (RockyMountains)

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5. Musk Mallow (NewEngland)

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A great reference to start with is “Perennials For Every Region” found in the Almanac’s Flower Gardener’s Handbook.

The chart offers a region-specific guide to some of the best perennials for your climate. It’s organized by several characteristics, including longest-blooming, best-cutting, most beautiful, and easiest to grow. This helpful guide offers various cultivars based on growing region to help you create a backbone of greenery and some short-lived color that you can then add your annuals into for a season-long color show.

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See more ideas on long-blooming perennial flowers for different regions.

Annual Flowers for SeasonalColor

Once you have a framework to work with, whether that’s in the form of a softscape of perennials, bushes, and trees or a hardscape of patio pots, picket fencing, decks, stone walls or other non-living features of the landscape, you can work in a diversity of annuals to sustain and sometimes bridge with color. Sometimes, even a well-placed colorful flower pot worked in amongst the perennials can substitute as a bridge of color when you are in between blooming plants. Be creative and curious, and havefun!

Cold-Hardy SpringFlowers

If you’re making a planting list, any of the spring-flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils must be planted in thefall.

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TULIPS

Colors, shapes, and sizes abound within the family of Tulips. The variation that is available is enormous and ranges from fringed, doubles, parrots, peony, lily-flowered, and French, to name a few. The cultivation over the centuries has created a massive array of brilliant colors in every shade and hue. Tulips, with their graceful nature, have earned their stripes within the flower pantheon and deserve a spot in every garden. Plant in the fall in clusters of ten bulbs or more throughout the garden bed for a grouping that will grab attention, offer color and definitelydelight!

To Grow:Tulips require a chilling period to flower properly. In the Northeast, plant bulbs in the fall; if your temperatures are milder, look for pre-chilled bulbs that can be planted in early spring. Planting depth is 2-3 times the size of the bulb or at least 5-6 inches. Plant in a sunny place with well-drained soil as overly wet soil can cause the bulb to rot. If voles are an issue where you live, consider planting in a wire-mesh cage to protectbulbs.

Favorites:‘Louvre’, ‘Apricot Parrot’, ‘Renown Unique’, ‘FoxyFoxtrot’

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DAFFODILS

For the earliest spring color there is nothing that warms the heart more than the daffodil. It has long enchanted poets and writers as the quintessential symbol of spring, heralding the triumph and return of warmer weather. Easy to grow, daffodils can be planted in the fall and will return season after season, offering up their fragrant beauty and enchanting soft petals. As a bonus, the bulbs multiply as the years go on and are resistant to volepressure.

To Grow:Plant in the fall as the bulbs require a cold period to flower. Planting depth is 2-3 times the size of the bulb or at least 5-6 inches. Daffodils like full sun or partial shade and well-draining soil. Plant with the pointy endup.

Favorites:‘Sir Winston Churchill’, ‘Tahiti’, ‘Replete’ and‘Delnashaugh’

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For spring flowers that are not bulbs, you can sow in the fall or start indoors in early spring or, in some cases, plant outside in the ground in very early spring. Here are two of my favorite hardy springflowers:

SNAPDRAGONS

Fragrant, frilly blooms that offer a variety of color, vigor and grace to the garden. Known as hardy annuals, snapdragons can overwinter up to zone 4 and while technically perennials, they are often treated as annuals. The seeds can be sown in the fall and will weather the winter and be one of the early bloomers in thegarden.

To Grow:Sow these tiny seeds in the fall to overwinter or start indoors in early spring, at least 8 weeks before the last winter frost. Once your seedlings have 3 sets of true leaves you can plant out. We plant in March (zone 5b) in the unheated tunnel as they are very cold tolerant. Cultivars available in the garden centers will be less cold-tolerant, but appropriate for spring planting. They prefer well-drained soil, compost and sun. Plants will benefit from pinching when a few inches tall to encourage branching and offering moreflowers.

Favorites:‘Madame Butterfly Bronze’, ‘Madame Butterfly Yellow’ ‘Potomac Appleblossom’, ‘PotomacLavender’

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NIGELLA

Last year was our first year growing this flower and I will never not grow it! It was one of the first flowers to come into bloom in the spring landscape and was super productive, elegant and fun. The unique star-shaped blooms come in a range of blues, violets and whites and some varieties offer a combination. Once the flowering is over, the seed pods that remain are visually interesting on their own and add a fun element to thelandscape.

To Grow: Hardy to zone 6 though we have grown here in zone 5b with a light mulching. Alternately, plant in early spring directly in garden, they are very cold hardy. Keep pod heads deadheaded to prevent self-seeding if you want to control for this. In gardens, keep spacing about 9 inches apart and prefersfull-sun.

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Favorites: ‘Delft Blue’,‘Love-In-A-Mist’

Heat-Tolerant Summer into Early FallFlowers

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CELOSIA

Belonging to the Amaranth family, these velvety flowers—whose blooms resemble coral, brains or mini fireworks—come in a variety of colors and hues that make their unique displays a delight in the garden. While always flashy and bold in shape, their color can vary from softer, antique hues to the vibrant attention-catching reds andpurples.

To Grow: These are sun-loving plants that prefer well-drained, fertile soil and can tolerate the heat. Water regularly, though be careful not to overwater especially if planted in pots, they like dry feet. Sow seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost in shorter growing zones or seed directly into warmed up soil if you are a warmerzone.

Favorites: ‘Supercrest Mix’, ‘Fruit Punch’, ‘Texas Plume Vintage Rose’ ‘CelwayPurple’

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ZINNIAS

Having evolved over the years from simply pinwheels of primary colors to a range of dusty pinks, corals and limes, zinnia flowers are a summertime staple in the garden. Maybe one of the easiest plants to grow, most prolific bloomers and tolerant of neglect. Early pinching encourages branching and longer stems. Keep dead-headed for a constant supply of new growth.

To Grow: In cooler zones, start indoors 4 weeks before last frost. Easy to germinate, harden off before transplanting, 2-3 weeks after last frost. In warmer zones, sow directly. Zinnia prefer sun, fertile soil and spaced 9-12 inches apart to allow forbranching.

Favorites: ‘Queeny Series-Red Lime’, ‘Lime’, ‘Orange Blush’, ‘Benary’s Giant-SalmonRose’

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COSMOS

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This beauty is an all-time favorite of mine. Graceful blooms that dance on the wind and toss their heads in all directions. Watching a well-rooted stand of Cosmos reminds me of a Tango. They are classy, hearty, and sweet in their pastel colors of blush, lemon and crème and their upturned, shell-shaped heads are a delight in anygarden.

To Grow: Start seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before planting out after last winter frost. Be sure to harden off before transplanting. In warmer zones, can be directly seeded once soil has warmed up. Pinching will encouragebranching.

Favorites: ‘Apricot Lemonade’, ‘Cupcake Blush’, ‘Rubenza’

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SUNFLOWERS

While certainly the quick-growing capacity of sunflower lends itself to an early season planting, don’t miss out on this flower for fall! A mid-season addition into the garden of the newer branching varieties fits right into the autumnal gardenscape. Easy to grow from seed these beauties will follow the sun in a yogic sun-salute as they follow it across thesky.

To Grow: Direct-sow in warm zones in groupings of 4-5 seeds about ¼” depth or start indoors, harden off and transplantout.

Favorites: ‘Firecracker’, ‘Teddy Bear’, ‘GummyBear’

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Color PalettePreferences

According to Romy Rawlings in her book, Healing Gardens, “Color Therapy is an ancient approach to healing that has been used since the earliest of times. Decades of research shows that color influences our thoughts, our actions, our health, and even our relationships with others.”Keeping a few key concepts in mind when it comes to partnering colors in the garden can help to bring together the effect that your color impact will have overall throughout theseason.

Monochrome
Color harmony is a planting theme where you plant together all of your red or yellow or blue flowers together, allowing for a larger massing of similar colored plants with the bigger focus being on their various shades and textures. This planting style, en masse, with a particular color gives off a strong statement and have a hugeimpact.

Contrast
On the color wheel, the colors opposite one another are known to complement one another. Purple and yellow, red and green, and orange and blue, are all opposites. The feeling they emit when paired together is a visual tension that evokes boldness, drama and energy.

Analogous
Colors found next to one another on the color wheel combine here to add a feeling of cohesion and visual harmony. There is a reason that a rainbow is such a delight to the eye. The colors flow from one to the next, offering a feeling of unity, joy and full-spectrumwonder!

Give me fiery reds and moody blues and all the wildness of a leafy-green vine with amission.

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In the garden, when it comes to color, there are no wrong colors and no right color palettes. More than anything, following the feelings of how you would like to feel in your space is one of the most interesting and fun ways to design. Stay curious and create somebeauty!

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