Easy to grow Russian Sage (Perovskia), Echinacea (Coneflower), Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
If you’ve just moved to a property with garden space, or you're simply looking to get into gardening for the first time: fantastic! Gardening is truly one of the most peaceful and rewarding pastimes. Planting a garden helps beautify the world around you, while also making a positive impact on wildlife, especially pollinators, in your area.
Where to start? This is often the question many beginner gardeners have when first trying to get their hands in the dirt! For all of you fantastic people getting into gardening for the first time, or those who simply want to make the wise decision to make your garden easier to care for, we're here to help! Ready on for simple steps to choose easy-to-grow plants for your region, our recommended easy to grow plants, what to expect throughout the season, and solutions for common problems, and helpful tools. Remember, it's all about having fun!
Step One: Find Your Region and Hardiness Zone
This is a big one. Before you start formulating your dream garden, it’s important to know your region and hardiness zone. Hardiness Zones are determined by the US Department of Agricultural, and are based on average low temperatures throughout the country. The coldest zones start at 1 and warm up to 10. The higher the number, the warmer the zone. Each zone has an "a" and a "b" for even more detail, though we generally group plants by full zone number. This little number/letter combo is the first step to understanding what, and when, to plant in your area.
Once you know your hardiness zone, you can shop for plants with ease knowing what will and won’t thrive in your area. Use the filters when shopping to select perennial plants for your zone!
For example, in a zone 4 garden in Vermont, most varieties of Lavender won’t survive the winter, because they are hardy, or perennial, up to zone 5. But, one could easily grow Echinacea, Peonies and many other perennials! If you find plants that are zoned for warmer or colder areas, you may be able to grow them with special care, but for an easy-to-grow garden, we recommend going with plants that thrive in your zone.
Find Your Hardiness Zone
Easy-to-grow Hosta and Astilbe are perfect for shade gardens.
Take In Your Surroundings: Light, Water, Site
Once you know your hardiness zone, the next step is to take in your surroundings.
- Are you gardening in full sun in a garden with 6+ hours of daily sun exposure? Or in partial shade, with 4-6 hours of sun? Easy-to-grow varieties like Daylilies and Black Eyed Susan thrive in full sun; Bleeding Hearts and Hostas are perfect for the shade.
- Do you have the resources to water frequently or live in a high rainfall area? Or, or is your soil often dry with little rainfall? Irises love wet soil, while drought-tolerant plants like Coreopsis and Sage thrive with little supplemental water.
- Do you have a small city garden or plenty of land in the country? Compact and dwarf plant varieties thrive in containers and small gardens, while shrubs and deep-rooted plants need room to grow.
These are easy things to take note of before you plant to make sure you get the right varieties for your garden! Use the filters when shopping to help narrow down your plant selection to fit your garden conditions. Or, contact our helpful garden experts for help!
Daylilies are some of the easiest and most rewarding perennials to add to any sunny garden.
Favorite Easy To Grow Plants
Now, the fun part: choosing your plants! There are a variety of easy-to-grow perennials that are the perfect choice for your first season of planting. As the seasons go on, you can experiment and add plants that may need more care and nurturing to thrive. In your first season, we recommend adding low-maintenance varieties that are sure to grow in your garden, offering up plenty of color with little work. As we like to say, “Green thumb not required!”
Our favorite varieties below are perfect for easy, long-lasting color that lasts for years and years. They are also a great base for a new perennial garden, offering up varied and fantastic colors, shapes, and heights for a season-long display of blooms that attract an abundance of pollinators to the garden.
What To Expect In Your First Season
Many gardeners expect perennials to shoot up in the first season, becoming just like the fabulous photos from the garden tags. Although some perennials will bloom in the first year they're planted, they often need this time to establish themselves in your garden and grow strong roots. As they do this, they may not have the energy to bloom in the first year, or if they do, the blooms may not be as big as you expected.
If you are new to gardening and can’t wait for blooms in the first season, try sprinkling easy-to-grow annual wildflowers in your young garden bed or low maintenance summer-blooming bulbs like Dahlias, Gladiolus or Lilies!
Have no fear. In the second and successive seasons, your perennials will amaze you with fantastic blooms, many spreading each season and getting wider as well as taller. Patience, as you will quickly learn, is one of the keys to becoming a successful gardener. We cannot control the rate at which our plants grow, but that’s ok; we know that with a little time, they will live up to our expectations and most of the time exceed them.
This Bleeding Heart may be all you see in the first season with your perennials. You'll most likely enjoy blooms in the second season.
Solutions For Common Problems
Now that you’ve chosen your easy-to-grow varieties and know what to expect in the first season, it’s time to talk about common problems in the garden.
Planting at the incorrect depth: This is a big one. Every plant you purchase should come with planting instructions, including which depth to plant it at. I planted some pink Peonies and they came up the second year with gorgeous foliage but no blooms. A co-worker immediately recognized that I had planted them too deep. Oops!
Over/under watering: If your plants aren’t thriving and are looking weak, one of the common culprits could be over or under-watering. An overwatered plant can look wet and wilted, turn yellow and lose its leaves. If your plant is showing signs of distress, or feels soft towards the roots, and your soil is still wet, you may be overwatering. An underwatered plant is slow to grow and the foliage is often dry and brown, with leaves that are curled at the edges. If your soil feels dry, the plant may need water.
Not the right light conditions: We’ve all done it: planted Bleeding Hearts in full sun or Lavender in the shade. If a plant isn’t thriving where it’s planted, look online and double check its sun preferences. It could be that it is receiving too much or too little sun.
Overcrowding: When planting your garden, make sure to look at the mature spacing for each plant. Many times this means you are planting varieties at least 10” away from one another. If you plant varieties too close together, they could fight underneath the surface for room to grow their roots, as well as rot from lack of air circulation through their foliage.
The good news: The good news is, plants are moveable! They are also fairly resilient! If you’ve planted varieties too deep or in the wrong conditions, we recommend digging up and moving plants in the early spring or late fall, before they’ve grown for the season or after their foliage has turned brown. Trial and error is one of the most fun challenges about gardening.
There are so many gardening gadgets on the market now, many of which you definitely don’t need. But as a new gardener, there are a few tools that will make your life much easier.
Helpful Tools To Have:
- Gloves. Unless you like to get your hands dirty (which, bravo to you), these are a must!
- Pruners/Loppers. A good pair of pruners or loppers is essential for cutting back old growth and spent foliage in the fall or early spring.
- A digging shovel. A pointed metal shovel with a long, sturdy handle is perfect for digging holes without breaking your back.
- A spade. A short-handled, pointed metal shovel is great for precision work and planting in the garden up close.
- A rake. You need something to clean out those garden beds!
- A watering can or spray nozzle for your hose.
- A wheelbarrow. This is a must for larger properties. In my small city garden, I used a 5-gallon bucket from my local hardware store to move compost, dirt, and more.
That’s what it is all about, right? At the end of the day the joy of gardening is getting outside, putting on your favorite music (or enjoying peaceful silence) and getting to play in the dirt. And once you start gardening, most likely you won’t be able to stop. It’s a lifelong pastime that will follow you from apartment to home to wherever else you may land.
So now that you have the basics down, get to work! Whether you’re growing a small container garden on your balcony or are slowly transforming your yard into pollinator-friendly gardens, the first step is to get your shovel in the dirt. The rest will be a lot of fun, sometimes challenging, but overall completely rewarding.