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The Best Plants For Beginning Gardeners

When beginning any new endeavor, it is appropriate to listen to the advice of those folks who have been doing it for a tad longer than never.  It seems as though everyone expects to be an expert on anything that they set their mind to, and 'Gardening Know How' falls into this category as well.  So, to aid you all on your quest for instant expert status, what I consider the best plants for beginning gardeners will give you a quick, easy start to a spectacular garden that, due to these all being perennial plants, will come back better and stronger each year. Although there are only 10 plants listed, as a rule there are so many varieties or  species available within that plant selection that you do not need to have the same plants as anyone else in the neighborhood.  Some of these plants are appropriate for shade gardens only, others crave the attention of being out in the full sun, but all make up the base for any southern garden.  These perennials can be located in any reputable local nursery or greenhouse; these stores will carry the more unique or unusual cultivars.  Many of these basic selections are also staples of the larger local stores that carry seasonal plant selections but you may be limited in your individual selections.  There will be growers that may specialize in one type of plant, make sure if you have the ability to shop from that vendor that you do so as it will allow you to acquaint yourself with far more offerings than you may imagine.  So, determine where your garden will be located so you'll know your sun requirements or restraints, then arm yourself with selections from this list of best plants and go forth to garden! 

Daylilies (Hemerocallis)
This is probably the easiest of all the plants to grow and since there are so many varieties that are so different in color, size and bloom times this puts Daylilies at the top of most gardeners' lists. Daylilies will grow in most soil and sun conditions, but prefer a well drained soil with a good mixture of organic matter and full to part sun. Daylilies bloom in the spring, but by choosing early, midseason and late varieties, you can have successive blooms from May or June through July or possibly as late as early August. Given the right conditions, almost all Daylilies will re-bloom, but the current offerings of repeat bloomers (Stella d'Oro and Happy Returns) allow for an extended show of color in your garden. Most daylily foliage will die back in the fall, but by selecting cultivars that are evergreen or semi-evergreen, you can add structure to your garden during the winter months. For many gardeners Daylilies become habit forming with so many new varieties being developed and offered for sale each year. Although Daylilies are widely available at nurseries and home and garden centers, one of the most fun ways to buy them is from a daylily nursery when they are in bloom. Many are cultivars that did not make the cut for mass production and can be sold at very reasonable prices with the added bonus of having a plant that your neighbor won't be able to buy. It is truly a treat to walk through a daylily nursery during blooming season.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Rudbeckia, more commonly known as the Black-eyed Susan,  should be a staple of any southern perennial bed. They also make great flowers for cutting. As one of the most widely adapted North American wildflowers, the black-eyed Susan is the epitome of going native in your garden. This plant rapidly will become the backbone of a perennial bed with its long bloom time which generally starts in early June and continues right up to the first heavy frost. The flowers are uniform, rarely straggly, and almost always bright and perky. Their blooms are set off well against their handsome, dark-green leaves. The plants don't get leggy, don't flop over as they have strong rigid stems. Therefore, staking is not usually required as long as the plants are in full sun and planted in well drained soil. Pests and diseases rarely trouble these plants. Heat and drought don't bother them as they are 'natives.' The cultivar “Goldstrum” is immensely popular. Each year new cultivars, like “Gloriosa Daisy” and “Indian Summer,” are being introduced which provide gardeners with additional excellent plants.

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