University of Maryland Extension

Best Practices - Ornamental Plants

mixed perennial bed

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How to Maintain a Garden of Flowering Plants 

  • Plan before you plant. Begin with a landscape plan and a vision.
  • Determine what the soil is like in the planting bed. Will it be dry or moist? Is the soil sandy or heavy clay? Plant selection will depend on the soil conditions. Soil testing is recommended.
  • Amend planting beds with (PDF) soil amendmentsbased on your soil test results. Most ornamental plants need well-drained soil.
  • Amount of sun or shade? Track the sun in the garden area during the growing season for a few days to determine the amount of light. Light is also an important factor in determing plant selection.
  • Select key plants for: 
    • Line—the silhouette or outline of a plant; 
    • Mass—the shape or denseness of the plant; 
    • Color and dependability—the plant's ability to remain attractive with a minimum of maintenance.
  • Plant to form irregularly shaped masses of color or texture. Planting in groups of an uneven number of small plants or a single large plant, such as a peony, will create the desired effect. Don't set in rows but in groups, as they would grow in nature.
  • Curved, instead of straight lines are used by landscape designers to mimic nature, increasing visual enjoyment. Line bed edges with flat stones or bricks set flush to the ground so that your mower can mow along the edge, eliminating the need to use an edge trimmer.
  • Allow sufficient space between plants for air circulation. Fill in gaps with colorful annuals until the plants become larger. 
  • Select plants with varied blooming periods for a steady succession of color.
  • Attract pollinators/natural enemies to your landscape by planting a wide variety of flowering annuals and perennials that will bloom over the entire growing season. Good choices are plants in the following families: daisy (marigolds, daises, asters, and mums), carrot (dill, fennel, anise, yarrow, and parsley) and mint (all mints and thymes). Also incorporate native plants in your design.
  • Do not set out tender annuals (impatiens, marigolds, petunias, salvia, etc.) until after the last frost date. This date varies across the state from late April on the Lower Eastern Shore to Late May in Western Maryland.
  • Mulch to reduce weeds, conserve soil moisture, and prevent soil erosion.
  • Reduce the need to use fertilizer by heavily amending the beds with organic matter before planting. Top dress beds with 1/4" – 1" of compost in the early spring.
  • Deadhead (remove old flowerheads) on a regular basis to keep your bed tidy.

Monthly ornamental plant tips

 

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