5 Great Flowers For Brown Thumbs & Butterflies

June 22, 2016 | By | Comments (7)
dragonwing begonia

Dragon Wing begonias. Photo: Steve Bender

You desperately want beautiful flowers in front of your house all summer long and yet you haven’t acted. You’re not an expert, after all, and what if you pick the wrong flowers and they die pathetically and the neighbors snicker and you feel like a total loser? Fear not, faithful reader! Once again, Grumpy will save you. Here are five easy-to-grow flowers that will bloom nonstop from now until frost and attract clouds of butterflies too.

Brown Thumb Bloomer #1 (above) — Dragon Wing Begonia
A cross between angel-wing begonia and wax begonia, the rugged Dragon Wing combines shiny green leaves with bright red or pink flowers. It forms a tidy mound 12 to 18 inches high and 10-12 inches wide. Baby Wing begonias grow to about the same size, but feature smaller leaves and pink or white flowers. They perform like champs in both borders and containers. Give them sun in the morning and light shade in the hot afternoon.

Brown Thumb Bloomer #2 — Zinnias 

zinnias phixr copy1 e1466540834386 5 Great Flowers For Brown Thumbs & Butterflies

Mixed zinnias. Photo: Steve Bender

Common zinnias (Zinnia elegans) are the easiest annuals I know to grow from seed. They sprout and grow quickly in warm weather, so it’s not too late to sow. Just sprinkle the large seeds evenly over the soil, rake to just barely cover them with dirt, and water. That’s it. Before long, you can have a solid, multi-colored border like the one above stuffed with long-stemmed blossoms that are great for cutting. The more you cut, the more they’ll bloom. Plant in full sun.

pentas 5 Great Flowers For Brown Thumbs & Butterflies

Red pentas. Photo: Bird Ferdly

You may not know pentas (Pentas lanceolata) aka “Egyptian star clusters,” but you should. This tropical African native is a butterfly favorite and blooms continuously during warm weather. Four-inch wide clusters of red, pink, lavender, or white blossoms adorn deep green, lance-shaped leaves. Mounding plants grow 12-20 inches tall and do equally well in borders and containers. Give them full sun and moist soil.

Angelonia. Photo: Steve Bender

Angelonia. Photo: Steve Bender

For spiky summer flowers resembling snapdragons, you can’t do better than angelonia. This tropical American native grows 18 to 24 inches tall and offers orchid-shaped blooms in colors of purple, blue, lavender, red, pink, or white. It loves heat and sun, has no pests, is great for cutting, and does well in gardens or containers. Because of its upright habit, it makes a great combination with all the other flowers you see here.

Yellow lantana. Photo: Steve Bender

‘New Gold’ lantana. Photo: Steve Bender

Tell me you have tried lantana before. There is no tougher flower for the South. It thrives in heat, tolerates drought, intoxicates butterflies, and blooms from spring until fall. Old heirloom selections like ‘Miss Huff’ get to be huge plants 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide, but the newer ones you’ll see in garden centers are short and spreading, growing about 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Blossoms can mix colors of red, orange, pink, yellow, or mix, but some selections, like ‘New Gold,’ have blooms of a single color. Plant in borders and containers in full sun.

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  1. Faye Flatt

    It would be helpful to know what zone these flowers are suited for.

    May 7, 2017 at 10:31 am
  2. Patti

    Impatients love the shade

    May 7, 2017 at 8:38 am
  3. Donna

    Tell about hollyhocks. My daughter has a huge hollyhock bush. Is tall, sets out in the open and is blooming beautifully,

    July 5, 2016 at 6:38 am
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    July 3, 2016 at 8:02 am
  5. Linda

    Impatiens are great blooming plants for the shade.

    June 23, 2016 at 10:33 pm
  6. Kathleen

    “Tell me you have tried lantana before. ”
    OK, I’ve tried it & it died. Which is weird because I know it’s supposed to be tough. I see it growing wild along the highways.
    I bought 3 of the new “Bandana” series lantana & they must be planted in the wrong location or something. After several months the leaves began turning brown & fell off. Virus/fungus? Maybe that variety got too “improved” & lost it’s hardiness.

    June 23, 2016 at 2:18 pm
  7. Gail

    Are there any plants that are bloomers for shade?
    Preferably to fit an 8″ walkway that is up against a wall

    June 23, 2016 at 1:59 pm

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