What to sow and grow in March

It’s time to get your spring planting tools out.
Image: Maria Evseyeva

It’s March and spring is finally here. There are lots of plants to sow and grow this month – here’s what to concentrate on:

Flowers to sow and grow

Start dahlias in March for summer displays.
Image: Dahlia variabilis ‘Giant Hybrids Mixed’ by Thompson & Morgan

These are the flowers you can be sowing and growing this month:

In the greenhouse/indoors

  • • Sow aster in a heated propagator for summer and autumn colour.
  • • Pot on rooted cuttings of tender perennial plants taken last summer.
  • • Sow Ageratum indoors to bring a splash of blue to your summer beds.
  • • Start dahlia seeds indoors to produce tubers for lifting in the autumn.
  • • Sow Brachycome in a heated propagator – they’re great for filling out baskets and containers.
  • • Repot orchids and other house plants before they start into active growth again.
  • • Sow Coreopsis indoors or in a heated greenhouse.
  • • Sow Celosia in a heated propagator to bring a fiery theme to this year’s beds.
  • • Try growing versatile salvia under glass for a long-lasting display throughout the summer and autumn.
  • • Sow Cleome on a windowsill indoors as early as possible in the season – it needs fluctuating temperatures to germinate well and this will help ensure it gets a drop in temperature at night.
  • • Sow summer bedding plants, such as lobelia, busy Lizzies, petunias and geraniums, in a heated propagator.
  • • Pot on hardwood cuttings taken last year.
  • • Sow stocks on a bright windowsill for a delicious fragrance in your summer garden.
  • • Plant begonia tubers in the greenhouse this month, positioning them just below the compost surface with the indented side facing upwards.
  • • Sow your flower seeds now, ready for planting out in June.
  • • Start sowing bedding plant seeds ready to plant out after the last frosts.
  • • Sow hardy annuals in pots or module trays for planting out later in the spring.
  • • Pot up plug plants and grow on in a sunny back bedroom or windowsill. Add some easy feed or plug boost, to give them the very best start. Give the tips a pinch a couple of times while the plants are young, this will make them nice and bushy, with more flowers.

Direct sow outdoors

  • • Direct sow wildflower seed mixtures into well-prepared soil. They’re great for bees and butterflies, and add beautiful colour too.
  • • Sow sweet peas.
  • • Direct sow hardy annuals such as California poppies, clarkia and cornflowers into workable, well-prepared soil.
  • • Sow hardy annuals directly into the soil.

Plant outdoors

After forcing hyacinths indoors, plant them outside.
Image: Sarycheva Olesia

  • • Plant bare-root roses.
  • • Plant out any forced flower bulbs, such as hyacinths and daffodils, which have finished flowering indoors.
  • • Lift and divide established perennial plants to improve their vigour and create new plants for your garden.
  • • Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as gladiolus, lilies and ranunculus into beds, borders and containers.
  • • Plant snowdrops in the green to brighten up your winter garden next year.
  • • Plant herbaceous perennials.

Vegetables and herbs to sow and grow

Sow early broad bean varieties in trays of compost.
Image: Broad Bean ‘The Sutton’ by Thompson & Morgan

There are plenty of vegetables and herbs to get growing this month:

In the greenhouse / indoors

  • • Start off aubergine seeds in the propagator – they need a long growing season.
  • • Start basil seeds off to grow on your kitchen windowsill, or for planting out after the risk of frost.
  • • Sow celery indoors from the middle of the month onwards.
  • • Sow chilli peppers and sweet peppers indoors.
  • • Sow perennial herbs such as lemon balm, rosemary, sage, oregano and thyme under cover.
  • • Sow cucumbers and gherkins in warmth now for greenhouse growing.
  • • Sow Brussels sprouts under cover.
  • • Start cauliflowers off under cover.
  • • Start celeriac under cover – it needs a long growing season.
  • • Sow tomato seeds under glass for greenhouse cultivation. Use our tomato selector guide to help you choose which variety to grow.
  • • Sow salad leaves in pots and place on the windowsill or in the greenhouse.
  • • Start sowing winter brassicas in seed trays in a cold greenhouse.
  • • Sow early broad beans, like The Sutton or De Monica, and early peas, such as Twinkle or Avola) in seed trays of compost. Just push the seeds into the compost and keep watered; you can transplant them later once they’ve germinated and have the strength to survive in the soil.
  • • Begin chitting (sprouting) seed potatoes on delivery.

In the cold frame/ under cloches

  • • Sow lettuce in module trays under glass for transplanting into the garden later. Alternatively sow lettuce outside under cloches.
  • • Sow radish seeds under glass under cloches for your first salad of the season.
  • • Start to direct sow vegetable seeds such as carrots, radishes and lettuce in greenhouse borders or under cloches.
  • • Start sowing beetroot directly into well-prepared soil.
  • • Sow broad beans directly into the ground now for a delicious summer crop. If mice are a problem, sow into modules for transplanting later on.
  • • Start to sow carrot seeds directly into light, stone-free soil.
  • • Sow chicory directly into soil now.
  • • Sow herbs, such as chives, coriander, dill and parsley, directly into the ground or in containers.
  • • Direct sow summer and autumn cabbages such as ‘Red Jewel’ and ‘Greyhound’ into well-prepared beds outdoors.
  • • Sow calabrese ‘Aquiles’ outdoors or into modules for planting out later in the spring.
  • • Sow kale seed into a well-prepared seedbed for a summer crop.
  • • Try direct sowing kohlrabi outdoors, for something unusual and fast maturing.
  • • Sow leeks directly into the ground now.
  • • Sow peas directly into the ground, or start them off in modules if mice are a problem.
  • • Direct sow parsnips in rows 30cm apart when the soil is workable.
  • • Start sowing spinach outdoors in soil enriched with plenty of organic matter.
  • • Sow spring-onion seeds in drills outdoors for a quick crop to add to salads and stir fries.
  • • Try Swiss chard sown outdoors for a colourful crop – they even look great in flower beds!
  • • Sow turnip seed directly into the ground now for an early crop.
  • • Try growing your own watercress in containers, making sure the container is sitting in 2-3 inches of water at all times.

If the ground’s not frozen, plant out onion, shallot and garlic sets
Image: rodimov

  • • Plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers as soon as the soil is workable, at a depth of 10-15cm.
  • • Plant out asparagus crowns in well-prepared permanent beds.
  • • Plant onion sets, garlic sets and shallots now for a crop this summer.
  • • Plant chitted early potatoes outside in the ground later in the month. If you don’t have enough space for growing potatoes on your plot, try a potato-growing kit for your patio. (For more on growing potatoes in bags or in the ground, see our potato growing guides.)
  • • Plant asparagus beds from crowns into a trench about 20-25cm deep and 30cm wide.Carefully place the crowns 45cm apart and ensure the emerging buds are just below soil level.
  • • Plant onion, shallot and garlic sets provided the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged.

Fruit to sow and grow

Rhubarb crowns need rich fertile soil.
Image: Rhubarb ‘Champagne’ by Thompson & Morgan

March is a great time for growing these fruits:

  • • Plant rhubarb crowns into a rich fertile soil.
  • • Plant strawberry plants in the ground now, or in hanging baskets for a pest-free crop this summer.
  • • Plant apple trees, cherry trees and other fruit trees in a sunny, sheltered spot.
  • • Plant stone-fruit trees, such as plum, cherry and apricot

Keep one step ahead – what to order this month:

  • • Order strawberry seeds to sow indoors next month.
  • • Buy wildflower seeds ready for sowing.
  • • Order garlic & shallotsif you have a light soil. If it’s heavier, wait a while.

Flower seeds to sow in March

Lots of flowers can be sown in March, including sweet peas, California poppy, cosmos, and ladybird poppies.

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Hardy annuals can be sown direct outside, where they are to flower. These do best on ‘poor’ soil, so do not enrich it with fertiliser. Half-hardy annuals such as dahlias and cleome, and perennials are best sown under glass at this time of year.

Here are just some of the flowers that you can start to sow in March.

Hardy annuals can be sown direct outside, where they are to flower.

Hardy annuals

Hardy annuals can be sown directly where they are to flower; prepare the ground well first, by clearing it of weeds and raking to a fine tilth. Do not enrich the soil. Try Ammi majus, borage, clarkia, cornflowers, Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ (pictured).

Sweet peas

Sweet peas can be sown under cover from October to March. They like a long root run, so sow into deep pots or modules.

How to grow sweet peas

Wildflower mixes

Annual flower mixes can be sown in March. As with hardy annuals, prepare the soil well by removing weeds and raking to a fine tilth, but do not enrich the soil.

Half hardy annuals

Half hardy annuals like cleome (pictured), antirrhinum, zinnia and cosmos can also be sown in March. They are not frost hardy, so must be sown under cover. Discover how to sow half hardy annuals.

Dahlias

Dahlias are tender perennials that will flower in their first year if sown in the greenhouse in March. In autumn, dig up the tuber to store over winter, or lift and store in cold areas. Find out how to grow dahlias from seed.

Fast-growing perennials

Early spring is the ideal time to sow quick-growing perennials under glass. Try sowing echinacea, coreopsis, lupin or achillea and you may be rewarded with flowers this year. Find out how to grow quick-growing perennials from seed.

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Discover which vegetable seeds can be sown in March.

What to Plant in March

It’s finally March! March is the perfect time to get those tomato and pepper seeds started indoors so they can be ready for an early spring planting! Also now is a great time to start planting cool weather vegetables that can withstand those last frost days of March and April.

Listed below are vegetable and herb varieties that are great to plant in March based on the Hardiness Zone that you live in.

Beets (Zones 7-10):
Beets are a tasty root vegetable edible for both its bulb and green tops. Beets prefer cooler weather and can be grown in early spring to late summer. For Zones 7-10, sow beets now for a fast, early summer treat!
Learn More: How to Grow Beets
Suggested variety: Golden Detroit

Broccoli (Zones 5-10):
Broccoli is a hardy, cool-season vegetable bringing colorful green nutrients to the table. If you live in Zones 5-10 and can find a quick growing Broccoli variety, you can harvest in late spring until it bolts in the hot summer sun!
Learn More: How to Grow Broccoli
Suggested varieties: De Cicco, Spring Raab

Cabbage (Zones 5-10):
Cabbage is one of the easier plants to grow in the garden as it is a hardy vegetable that comes in different colors and sizes. In Zones 5-10, be sure to select a variety that is right for your location (size and maturity length). Fertilize and water when cabbage head begins to form!
Learn More: How to Grow Cabbage
Suggested varieties: Late Flat Dutch, Golden Acre, Michihili

Carrots (Zones 5-10):
Other than the typical orange, carrots can be found in red, white, rainbow and purple colors. For Zones 5-10, start carrot seeds indoors so you can transplant them outdoors in early to mid May.
Learn More: How to Grow Carrots
Suggested varieties: Atomic Red, Black Nebula

Cauliflower (Zones 5-10):
Cauliflower varieties generally do best when started in the cool weather of spring. They are easy to grow under most conditions and will hold well. Zones 5-10, start seeds 4-7 weeks before the last frost depending on length of season.
Learn More: How to Grow Cauliflower
Suggested varieties: AmazingSnow Crown

Corn (Zones 8-10):
Corn is one of the most rewarding and fast growing crops to grow! Corn is delicious when cooked only minutes after being pulled off the stalk. For Zones 8-10, try a small plot of corn after the last spring frost, working your way to a large field of several varieties.
Learn More: How to Grow Corn
Suggested varieties: Early Golden Bantam , Ambrosia, Sweet G90

Cucumbers (Zones 5-10):
Fast growing vine or bush cucumber plants can produce an abundance of delicious fruits. Be careful to pick a variety for the space you have in your garden! Vine cucumbers can be the best tasting, but need far more space than bush varieties. For Zones 5 and 6, start seeds indoors so you can transplant them outdoors between April and June. Warmer areas can sow directly two weeks after the last frost.
Learn More: How to Grow Cucumbers
Suggest varieties: Spacemaster 80, Green Finger, Manny

Eggplants (Zones 5-10):
Eggplants are delicious in various cuisine, but also make to be a great meat substitute for its hardy, tender texture. Start eggplant seeds indoors up to 10 weeks before the last frost date.
Learn More: How to Grow Eggplant
Suggested varieties: Black Beauty, Little Finger

Herbs (Zones 3-10):
Herbs are great to grow in order to add fresh flavors to any dish. For Zones 5-10, herbs can start to be transplanted outdoors. In any Zone, herbs are definitely the most popular indoor plant to grow year-round. Also check out the Urban Farmer Herb Kit for a variety of herbs!
Learn More: How to Grow Herbs
Suggested varieties: Sweet High Oil Basil, Standard Chive, Vulgaris Thyme, Bouquet Dill

Lettuce (Zones 5-10):
Lettuce is a great source of Vitamin A and will add color to any tossed salads for a summer treat. For Zones 5-10, start a crop of salad mix greens 4-6 weeks before the last frost that gets bright sun, but not all day. Great for late summer and early fall crops!
Learn More: How to Grow Lettuce
Suggested Varieties: Gabriella, Garden Leaf Blend, Dwarf Romaine

Melons (Zones 7-10):
Melons are a sweet and colorful addition to summer meals and are great for a home garden. For Zones 7-10, start seeds indoors for a head start on your summer garden. Great for hot, long summers and a staple for summer picnics and family fun!
Learn More: How to Grow Melons
Suggested varieties: Honeydew Green Flesh, Honey Dew Stutz Supreme, Rich Sweetness

Onions (Zones 5-10):
Get those onion seeds growing! Be careful to select an onion variety appropriate for your garden zone. Northern areas should plant long day onions, and Southern regions should plant short day onions. If you live in Zones 5-10, you can start transplanting your onions outdoors.
Learn More: How to Grow Onions
Suggest varieties: Sweet White Walla Walla, Red Creole, Yellow Spanish, Candy Hybrid

Peas (Zones 5-10):
Peas are a cool-weather vegetable that will flourish in the spring. For Zones 5-10, green peas and sugar peas are good to start 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost to yield a summer harvest.
Learn More: How to Grow Peas
Suggested varieties: Sugar Snap, Alaska

Peppers (Zones 5-10):
The fresh, crisp taste of peppers are a garden favorite. Peppers take up little space and can produce high yields when planted close together. Plant as many different varieties as possible! They come small, big, hot, mild, and an array of different colors. For Zones 5-10, begin seeds 6-12 weeks before your last frost date indoors for best results.
Learn More: How to Grow Peppers
Suggested varieties: California Wonder, Early Jalapeno, Sweet Banana, Rainbow Blend Bell

Spinach (Zones 5-10):
Spinach is a tasty cool weather vegetable and will produce until the hot weather of summer. For Zones 5-10, planting in March or whenever the soil is able to be worked will ensure you have plenty of harvest before bolting!
Learn More: How to Grow Spinach
Suggested varieties: Red Kitten, Renegade

Summer Squash (Zones 5-10):
Summer Squash is a very versatile plant to grow with many options. For Zones 5-10, starting in March or 3-4 weeks before the last frost and sowing in June will lead to fresh squash and zucchini to enjoy during the hot summer.
Learn More: How to Grow Squash
Suggested Varieties: Cocozelle, Yellow Crookneck

Tomatoes (Zones 5-10):
Tomatoes are the most popular garden vegetable to grow! Growing tomatoes is not only fun, but also treats you to some of the best tasting fruits in the world. Varieties can come in many colors, shapes, taste, and sizes. Start growing a few varieties every year to find your favorites! For Zones 5-10, start seeds 6-8 weeks before your last frost date indoors for best results.
Learn More: How to Grow Tomatoes
Suggested varieties: Betty, Cherokee Purple, Vintage Wine, Sweet Million, Tasty Evergreen

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10 Flowers to Plant Right Now

With proper planning, there is a plethora of beautiful fall-blooming perennial and annual flowers that you can grow from seed. However, you may prefer the convenience of buying plantings at a nursery on an as-needed basis. In the fall, your local garden center should have a selection of cool-weather-loving flowers ready to take home.

Some will tolerate frost and last into the snowy months, while others, like cosmos and marigolds, live fast and die young with the first frost of winter. Often you can find these frost-sensitive flowers at bargain prices since their season is essentially over, and in that case, buying them might be worth it for two additional months of beautiful blossoms. Here is a list of fall flowers that you can plant right now to keep your yard looking great.

Asters

Asters produce pretty daisy-like flowers in a range of colors and, depending on the species, are frost tolerant. In order to avoid diseases, don’t plant annual asters in the same place year after year. Preferably plant in either full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil.

Cabbage and Kale

While not actual flowers, ornamental cabbages and kales have been bred to look colorful and eye-catching. They are definitely attractive and can tolerate freezing temperatures, keeping up appearances into the snowy months. Their colors may not fill out until the plant has experienced a few frosts. Plant in a sunny location with moderately moist soil.

Calendula

A cheery, golden addition to the fall garden with medicinal qualities, calendula flowers grow up to 4 inches across and come in a variety of shades. Easy to grow, they help deter some garden pests and will tolerate light frosts. Although calendulas prefer full sun, they can tolerate partial shade.

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemums (nicknamed “mums”) are very easy to grow and come in a vast array of color and size. They can tolerate light frosts so they compliment the fall garden perfectly. Autumn varieties enjoy full to partial sun and moist soil.

Cosmos

Cosmos are very pretty flowers for the fall but cannot tolerate frost. They are drought tolerant and depending on the variety, will grow from 1 to 3 feet tall. Prefer full sun.

Daisies

Another beautiful and easy to grow flower, daisies look best when planted in groups or clumps. They are rarely affected by pests or diseases and are frost tolerant. Plant in rich, well-drained soil with plenty of sunshine.

Marigolds

While not frost tolerant, marigolds come in beautiful fall reds, golds, and yellows. They will last until the first frost. Generally, marigolds are considered good companion plants for keeping pests away from vegetable gardens. They prefer full to partial sun and rich, well-drained soil.

Pansies

Pansies are one of my favorite ornamental flowers. They have a delicate appearance and come in many different color combinations. Low maintenance, they can even survive past the first frost. They like full to partial sun and moist soil.

Petunias

Trumpet-shaped and colorful, petunias are a well-liked flower. The violet-flowered petunia is frost tolerant, but other types will last until the first frost. They prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade.

Snapdragons

A front yard favorite, snapdragons produce an abundance of flowers in bright colors and enjoy cool fall weather. They can tolerate a heavy frost. They grow 1.5 to 3 feet tall and prefer full sun.

These flowers will keep your garden looking fresh for the next couple months. As an aside, the fall is also prime time to start thinking about spring flowers. Plan ahead and plant spring bulbs in October.

For gardening design, planting, and maintenance, hire an expert landscaping professional.

Updated November 29, 2018.

When to plant for the best blooms

Summer glory: sunflowers bloom about 60 days after planting any time from April through July. True annuals, they bloom once, then seed and die. So keep planting them every few weeks for a succession of blooms. Shown here is Velvet Queen. Don Shor/Courtesy photo

“I bought all these snapdragons for Mother’s Day, and now they look terrible!”

Snapdragons are cool season annuals here. They don’t bloom through the summer. We usually remove them by the end of June.

“Well, I feel like I wasted my money. You should write a column about when to plant flowers in this area.”

Happy to oblige.

As to snapdragons: the very best time to plant them is early fall. That gives each plant time to grow and develop low basal shoots that bloom in winter and spring. They continue blooming into early summer, but peak bloom here is late spring. You can plant in late winter (January to February) and get good blooms on those as well, though not as many flower spikes.

Snaps purchased on Mother’s Day were at their peak of bloom and destined to decline from that point forward. OK to plant for an event or short display, but perhaps not the best use of your money.

First, some definitions

* Annual: A plant that grows, flowers, seeds and dies in a single season. Marigolds and sunflowers are true annuals.

* Half-hardy annual or “tender perennial usually grown as annual”: A plant that we grow for its immediate blooms, which dies when weather gets too cold. Impatiens and begonias are tropical plants we grow for their bloom until they are killed by frost. We have similar flowers that tolerate frost but not heat (snapdragons!).

* Biennial: A plant that grows one season, then flowers the next and then dies. Usually this involves a “vernalization” process of overwintering, then increasing day length. Examples: foxgloves, hollyhocks.

* Perennial: A flowering plant that continues to grow and bloom for two or more seasons. Example: chrysanthemum.

These terms are defined by how we use the plant, and the climate. Many plants that we grow as perennials are grown as annuals in colder climates; e.g., lantana and verbena. Some that we grow as annuals can be perennial in Southern California, such as petunias and Vinca rosea. It’s not a firm definition for each plant everywhere. Growers are often marketing to the whole country, so the label on the pot may not be your best guide.

Our seasons of planting and bloom

Just as we have warm-season and cool-season vegetables here, we also have two full and distinct seasons for growing flowers. You can have flowers year-round by choosing the right plants for each season.

It’s disappointing that your snapdragons only gave you a few weeks of bloom, but the good news is that in this region we’re always on the cusp of another planting season. Right now, for example, you can start seeds of snapdragons for next winter’s bloom!

How long do they bloom?

Typically for two to four months. Some require “deadheading” (one of my favorite garden terms; this just means snipping or pinching off spent blossoms), or they’ll stop blooming. Others cheerfully flower until the temperatures get too cold or too hot and they just decline or die.

Some can actually be planted any time of year for immediate bloom, and may continue well past the typical defined seasons. I call these transitional annuals.

* Sweet alyssum blooms any time, and reseeds all over your yard. Great for attracting beneficial insects.

* Borage, usually sold as an herb, can be found flowering in the garden any time of year. Smells like cucumber, draws bees, and reseeds freely.

* Chinese pinks (Dianthus chinensis) bloom in every season. Hummingbirds love them.

* Lobelia is planted for summer, but often blooms well into winter here. One of the few true blue flowers.

* Paludosum daisy is planted for winter and spring bloom, but the bright white daisies can look good even in summer.

Key planting times for seasonal flowers: Early fall, early spring, early summer are the times for planting out seeds or young seedlings. Early winter, late spring and midsummer are the time to put in plants already in bloom for quick spots of color.

September to October: First plantings of cool-season annuals: calendulas; pansies, violas, Johnny jump-ups; snapdragons; stock; sweet peas; seedlings of biennials for bloom next summer, such as Gloriosa daisy; seeds of California poppies, larkspur, and nigella for bloom next spring.

November-December: Plant the mid-winter flowers that detest heat: cyclamen, nemesia, primroses, schizanthus.

Some are not technically annuals. Cyclamen are bulbs that go dormant in summer. New forms of nemesia, such as Blue Bird variety, tolerate heat. Primroses look so shabby in hot weather that we just pull them, but they are perennials and can persist to resume blooming in fall. You’ve probably never heard of schizanthus, aka poor man’s orchid. Try it this winter!

February to March: Last planting of cool-season flowers for more spring blooms, and early plantings of the transitional annuals.

April to May: Main planting season for summer flowers: begonias, impatiens (see pest notes below), marigolds, petunias and calibrachoas (see pest notes), sunflowers; continue successive plantings through July

May to midsummer: Plant the heat lovers. These sulk if planted in cool soil, and thrive on hot summer days: asters, cosmos, moss rose (ortulaca), verbena (also comes in perennial forms), vinca rosea (aka Madagascar periwinkle), zinnias.

What about pests and diseases?

In 2004, impatiens downy mildew damaged plantings in the U.K., and then in California, Tennessee and New York in 2004. Between 2011 and 2013 it became widespread in the United States, and now has been reported everywhere impatiens are grown. I have had reports from the Sacramento area.

The best guess is that the disease was spread through greenhouse production. The modern bedding plant industry consists of large growers who sell started ‘plug’ plants to wholesale growers, who then grow them on for retailers. That little flower you’re planting likely started its life many hundreds of miles away. The disease doesn’t have visible symptoms in the early stage, so it could spread widely without detection.

This isn’t a minor disease. It wipes out the whole bed (the plants appear to just melt away) and lingers in the soil for two to three years to re-infect new plantings. Because of the rapid spread and publicity, retailers and growers shied away from impatiens.

Given that they are, or were, America’s No. 1 bedding plant, this had a big impact on the horticulture industry. Breeders moved quickly to cross impatiens walleriana with resistant species, so replacements may be in the trade soon. Until then I suggest you look for alternative flowers for the shade. Fibrous begonias are one possibility. New Guinea impatiens (I. hawkeri) is resistant, but it is taller, prefers a bit more sun, and the plants are more expensive.

Marigolds: For a flower that has a mythology about repelling pests, it’s amazing how many things like to eat marigolds. Earwigs and snails can decimate them in one evening unless you use organic baits and traps right when you plant them. Spider mites love marigolds, leading to a scruffy, dusty appearance on the leaves by mid-summer. Rinsing vigorously with water every few days can manage them effectively. Marigolds also need deadheading (removal of the spent blossoms before they set seed) in order to continue blooming well.

Petunias and calibrachoas: Popularity comes from the profuse bloom and the range of strong colors. The downside is they are caterpillar food from May through October. When weather warms, geranium budworm shows up and begins eating flower buds and petals. The plant stops blooming and the remaining blooms are full of holes.

This pest has several generations over the summer, requiring that you spray every week or so to have uneaten flowers. There’s an organic spray (anything containing Bt), but most people aren’t willing to spray that often. The same caterpillar attacks your common garden geraniums.

So which are the easiest flowers to grow?

Here are my top 10 carefree annuals for the Sacramento Valley.

  1. borage (Borago officinalis)
  2. California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  3. Cosmos (Cosmos species)
  4. fibrous begonias (Begonia semperflorens)
  5. Floral carpet dwarf snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
  6. Johnny jump-up (Viola tricolor)
  7. Paludosum daisy (Chrysanthemum paludosum)
  8. pinks (Dianthus species)
  9. sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
  10. Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

— Don Shor and his family have owned the Redwood Barn Nursery since 1981. He can be reached at Archived articles are available on The Enterprise website, and they are always available (all the way back to 1999) on its business website, www.redwoodbarn.com

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