21 How to create flower beds for perennials, annuals, and more.BaoHa

Sometimes referred to as goat’s beard, the Astilbe genus includes more than a dozen species.

Hybrid A. arendsii is very popular in home gardens, and you may find varieties of A. chinensisA. japonicaA. thunbergii, and A. simplicifolia to choose from as well.

These perennials grow from rhizomes, and they’ll return each year with a thick clump of leafy foliage and tall, feather-like inflorescences. Their scent is sometimes described as being fruity, yet very subtle, and they attract bees and butterflies throughout their bloom season.

The fluffy plumage produced by these species is loaded with tiny, densely packed blooms. These open gradually in succession, so the plumes last for a long time – usually for three weeks or more.

They also grow quite tall in some cases, with heights reaching one to four feet.

When they’re planted in a shady spot, they’ll produce flowers throughout spring and summer in most regions, though flowering will be reduced in full shade. Colors range from soft white to deep burgundy with deep green foliage.

As astilbe grows, it tends to spread, and plants will eventually need to be divided. It’s best to allow about 18 inches of space between them.

A square image of a colorful garden featuring astilbe flowers.

Astilbe Rhizomes

Several colors and types are available from Spring Hill Nursery via Home Depot, like this pack of three that includes rhizomes for varieties in red, pink, and white.

Learn more about how to grow astilbe in our guide.

2. Begonias

There are thousands of species and cultivars of begonias, and quite a few are commonly chosen as additions to the home garden in suitable climates. We’ll cover garden go-to’s that are known for their mass planting appeal here.

Most of these do not have a noticeable scent or produce much nectar, so if you’re looking for a pollinator-supporting specimen to install en masse, begonias may not be your best choice.

Wax begonias, sometimes referred to simply as bedding begonias, are popular for adding blooming color and glossy, waxy leaf textures in densely planted beds.

These have a fibrous root system and showy flowers, and hybrid cultivars of Begonia x semperflorens and B. x benariensis are commonly available in garden centers.

These are frost-tender and typically considered annuals throughout most regions that experience chilly winters, but they can survive as perennials in Zones 10 and 11.

Bedding begonias are often brightly colored in tones of pink, red, or sometimes white, with foliage that can range from green to bronze. Most reach heights of six to 18 inches and bloom between spring and fall in most zones.

Place types with bronze foliage in full sun, as they need adequate light for the most prolific bloom production, and others in partial shade.

Be sure to water them frequently to avoid allowing their substrate to dry out but make sure the excess moisture drains off well. Learn all about their care in our guide to growing wax begonias.

You can find B. x benariensis Surefire ‘Red’ is available in a four-pack of live plants from Proven Winners via Home Depot.

A close up vertical image of Surefire 'Red' wax begonia flowers.

Surefire ‘Red’ Wax Begonia

A rose-colored cultivar is also available in the Surefire series.

Tuberous begonias are another commonly chosen type. They’re just as they sound – plants grown from tubers that will sprout each year in Zones 9 to 11. North of Zone 9, these must be lifted and stored for the winter.

B. maxima ‘Switzerland’ is a beautiful example, with large, double, red rose-like blooms and thick, glossy leaves that are nearly black. Sets of five tubers are available from Van Zyverden via Home Depot.

A close up square image of a potted tuberous begonia, 'Switzerland' set on a chair.

‘Switzerland’ Tuberous Begonia

The tuberous types may have an upright growing habit or blossoms that hang downward in a weeping presentation. The upright specimens are more suited to mass planting while the weeping specimens are best for containers or hanging baskets.

Nonstop ‘Double Yellow’ produces large, bright yellow, camellia-type double blooms atop green foliage. This specimen, as well as others in the Nonstop series, reach up to 18 inches in height with an 18- to 24-inch spread.

A close up of a seed packet of 'Double Yellow' begonias.

Nonstop ‘Double Yellow’

You can find ‘Double Yellow’ tuberous begonias available from Nature Hills Nursery in a two-pack of dormant tubers. This series also includes red, white, pink, orange, salmon, and bicolored cultivars.

3. Black-Eyed Susans

Perhaps you know Rudbeckia hirta by its common name, black-eyed Susan? These native North American wildflowers are found throughout the United States.

The most common species of Rudbeckia, the flowers of this plant are easily distinguished by their yellow petals and brown to black centers. Other species and certain cultivars may have green, red, or white petals instead.

In the wild, black-eyed Susans are often found in sunny open fields or near forest borders. As long as they’re receiving full sun and growing in moist but well-drained soil, they’re tolerant of heat, drought, and less than ideal soil composition.

For impactful, natural appeal, this is one flower that can’t be beat.

Not only can it make an instant meadow out of any large area, it also attracts pollinators of all types. Try it as a carefree border planting just beyond a forest edge or add it en masse surrounding a barn or outbuilding foundation.

Black-eyed Susan is a mounding perennial that spreads via rhizomes, returning year after year in Zones 4 to 9. Outside of these zones, they may be grown as annuals.

A close up square image of bright yellow black-eyed Susan flowers.

‘American Gold Rush’

‘American Gold Rush’ is available in #1 containers from Nature Hills Nursery.

This hybrid cultivar was the All-American Selection Winner in 2020, judged best based on its uniform three-inch golden blossoms, attractive foliage, and heat tolerance. It has a compact habit, with classic yellow petals and dark brown eyes.

Most species in this genus grow up to 26 inches in height with a spread of three to four feet. Learn about their growth habits and find caretaking tips in our guide.

4. Celosia

Celosias are part of the Amaranthaceae family – the amaranths – and it’s easy to see the resemblance. If you like astilbe but you’d prefer brighter colors and you have the appropriate growing conditions, feather or plume-type celosias are for you!

C. argentia plants need full sun and well-drained soil to thrive. These are annuals that can sometimes return as short-lived perennials or power through the whole year in warmer climates.

If you’re gardening in Zones 9 to 11, you may not need to replant every year, and it’s important to note that these plants self-seed readily. Otherwise, they can be removed from the garden at the end of the season.

And the colors – oh, the colors! Shocks of flame red, yellow-orange, and deep lavender are common among those in the First Flame series as well as others, and as a bonus, the leaves are even edible if you wish to partake.

There are dwarf varieties available that only reach about six inches in height, but the majority of these will grow to about 10 to 14 inches.

Give celosia about six to eight inches of space at planting time, unless you’re growing the larger types, which will need about 12 inches of space.

Bear in mind that they’re also heavy producers of seed, so if you don’t want them to self-sow and spread like mad, you’ll need to deadhead the spent blooms to keep a structured bed or shapely border neat and tidy.

Seeds can also be collected in lieu of allowing them to spread at will, so you can select where to scatter them instead.

‘Scarlet Plume’ is one option that you may like. This cultivar bears stunning bright red plumes that reach six to 10 inches in height, so they’re great additions to the foreground of a cascading bed.

A close up square image of 'Scarlet Plume' celosia flower growing in the garden.

Celosia ‘Scarlet Plume’

Seeds are available in a variety of package sizes from Eden Brothers.

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