How to Plan and Plant Your Flower Garden from the KAB Expert

by Cindy Pantea

Here are some tips for home gardeners to help you plan and plant your flower garden from Flowerscape Director Leah Heiser. Information was from the 2017 Volunteer Adopt-A-Site Clinic. For information on becoming a Keep Akron Beautiful Adopt-A-Site volunteer next year, visit our web page at

Begonias and Hostas

Dorothy Francis and Sylvia Martin 2015 Adopt-A-Site nicely filled in with Begonias and Hostas, which can handle both the sun and shade of this site.

Plan Before You Shop

Tips to help plan your garden before shopping for flowers or plants:

  • Check your bed to see how much sun or shade the spot gets.
  • Check the soil to see if it is typically dry or if it holds a lot of water after a rain.
  • Plan for deer or groundhog visitors and pick plants that deter them.
  • Plan heights. (Take into account whether your lot’s corner gardens need shorter plants so as not to obstruct the view of drivers on streets.)

Armed with this knowledge, the planting instruction tags will help you determine before purchase the types of flowers or plants that will best suit your needs.

Know Before you Buy

Before you buy flowers, keep in mind that flowers and plants—some more than others—may need deadheading to encourage more blooms or to keep your beds looking nice. The flowers known for needing consistent deadheading are: Ageratum, Cosmos, Geraniums, Marigold, Cannas. Also, some flowers have an early or later blooming life or blooms may even close when there is no sun.

Begonia with hosta

Begonias with Hostas from Sunnyside Neighbors’ 2015 Adopt-A-Site

    • Begonias – Good in sun and shade. Does NOT require deadheading. Great for making designs in your flowerbed because they hold their shape.
    • Celosia – Sun loving. Loves dry, infertile soil.
    • Coleus – Shade loving. Deadheading puts more energy into leaf BUT no deadheading creates plumes that pollinators love.
    • Dahlia – Sun loving.  Deadheading required. Dahlia tubers, however, are sustainable and can be trimmed, dug up and overwintered.
    • Dianthus – Annual and perennial varieties exist. Annuals are self-sowing, so deadheading is important to reduce volunteer plants plus encourage additional blooming. Perennial varieties are short blooming and should be propagated by division, tip cuttings or even layering.

      dusty millers

      Dusty Millers lighten Parkway Estates’ 2015 Adopt-A-Site and Coleus have inviting plumes for pollinators.

    • Dusty Miller – Lovely addition to garden to lighten space. Great with spreading petunias and ornamental grasses. Deer resistant. Hold shape and are great for making designs in your garden.
    • Gomphrea – Can be cut at end of season and used for dried flowers in vases because they hold their color.
    • Lobelia – Great shade plant for area with consistent moisture.
    • Marigolds – Deter deer. Seed pods easy to harvest (by allowing to turn brown and then picking off) for planting following year. Otherwise, deadhead consistently to keep garden looking great.
    • Nicotiana Saratoga – Grows in both sun and shade. Likes fertile, well-draining soil. Hummingbirds love them.

      kab flwsp with cannas

      This 2016 Adopt-A-Site by Overwood Neighbors has perfect cluster of Cannas for height, yellow Inca Marigolds and a border of Begonias. A great example of a nicely arranged full-sun site.

    • Cannas – Full Sun. Deadheading and pruning needed. Bright colors may attract hummingbirds, especially pink. Look better in beds when massed together.
    • Vista Bubble Gum Spreading Petunias – Hardy and grow in sun to part sun. Both Leah and former Flowerscape Director Polly Kaczmarek have said, “You get a lot of bang for your buck with petunias.”
    • Portulacca – Likes hot, dry and sunny. When sun is not out, blooms will close, so plant with other types of blooms.
    • Verbena – Likes sun. Deer resistant. Summer to fall bloom. Do extremely well if using liquid fertilizer.
    • Zinnias – Pollinators love! Pair with Marigolds that hold its blooms. Best if watered in morning rather than at night.
    • New Guinea Impatiens – The preferred variety of Impatiens plant to buy that is less likely to get Downy Mildew virus. Likes 4-6 hours of afternoon shade.
    • Vincas – Hardy, sun loving and NO deadheading required.

Mix and match plantings for a garden that blooms with the season and adds texture. Plant perennials, too. They add texture and help fill in bare spots. Hostas and ferns are great perennials!

Planting Your Garden

Before planting, pull weeds by the root and turn soil with shovel or rototiller. Environmentally speaking, it is preferred that you pull weeds by hand rather than use weed killer. In a case where weed killer was necessary, you may want to wait two weeks before planting. Then, when you’re ready to plant, follow these tips:

  • Make sure to water your plants before planting.
  • Break root balls before planting so they have a chance to spread out.
  • Follow spacing rules on the instruction tag, as crowding can cause unwanted mildew disease—Profusion Zinnias are known for this.
  • Water after planting.
  • Watch closely one to three weeks after planting.
  • Once established, water once or twice a week—with a sprinkler and in the morning is best.

Remember that ordinary mulch robs your soil of nutrients. Want a better option? Try Sweet Peet Organic Mulch, EXCEPT for acidic loving Rhododendrons and Azaleas. In such cases, use premoistened peat moss as a soil amendment.

Final note from Leah: If you notice that insects are eating away at your hard work, consider Googling types of Integrated Pest Management before going to insecticides. Sometimes a problem can be solved by reducing fertilizer or water or even adding plants that attract birds to eat the insects, creating your own ecosystem!


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