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The Best Plants For Beginning Gardeners Cont.

There are approximately 300 species of Iris and almost all of them are native to the northern hemisphere. With so many options to chose from, it is not surprising that every good southern garden will have its fair share of iris. Iris are easy to grow, a gardener's only concern will be making sure the location is right for the species selected. Most species grow in well in normal soils made up of a mixture of sand and organic matter in sun or partial shade. Other species, such as the Japanese or the Siberian Iris, prefer keeping their feet (roots) in damp soil or water gardens. Although, as with most plants, late summer or early fall is the best time for planting iris, they easily handle spring planting and, with proper care, summer planting. Propagation is by division of the rhizome and can be mastered by any beginning gardener.

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium Maculatum)
Joe Pye Weed is a spectacular addition for the back of perennial border. You may have seen it growing wild by the side of the road and didn't realize what it was, but once you see this plant growing in a garden you will have to have it in yours. Joe Pye Weed will grow to a height of 5 to 8 feet and will bloom in late summer to early fall when many other plants are finishing their bloom cycle. The strong erect stems are wine red and clothed in toothed leaves. Atop the imposing stems you get dazzling flowers that are irresistible to butterflies and hummingbirds. Because of its height, you may want to consider staking your plants because the blossoms can bend them over. Also, cutting the plant partially back in June will delay the blossoming and possibly make for a shorter plant but this is not necessary to do as a matter of normal growing.

Coreopsis (Tickseed)
There are many varieties of Coreopsis and yet there seem to be more each year. But the true work horse variety and best for beginners is the Nana, which is a dwarf and can be a trouble free plant at the front of a border. It is semi drought tolerant and can take the full sun and humidity in the south. Bloom time is from late spring to late summer with proper deadheading. There will be some decline in blooming during the heat of summer. Due to the low height and many flowers, deadheading may be easier by waiting until most of the flowers have passed their peak and then sheer off the flower heads.

Hosta form the backbone of every beginner's shade garden because of the ease with which they can be grown and propagated. There are about 70 species and come in a variety of sizes to fit any garden. Although grown primarily for their foliage, which range from dark green to chartreuse with a variety of variegated leaves, most hosta put up long spikes, topped with clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers when they bloom. The flower colors range from white to bluish or purple. The variegated and chartreuse are great for brightening up a shady corner of the garden. Hostas prefer a moist, fertile loamy soil and partial to full shade, although some varieties can handle some sun. If they are placed in too much sun, especially in the south, the leaves will burn and turn brown. Propagation is by division and best done in autumn, but hosta handle spring division equally well. If you have the space and want a spectacular plant, try either the “Blue Angel” or the “Sum and Substance,” both have large leaves of about 81-144 square inches each and a plant height of 18”- 28” tall.

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