Virtues: ‘Appalachian Blues’, a hybrid skullcap (Scutellaria), has been described as a “salvia for the shade,” thanks to its tall spikes of prominent, bee-friendly, purple-blue flowers.
‘Appalachian Blues’ skullcap blooms from late spring into summer.
Common name: ‘Appalachian Blues’ skullcap
Botanical name:Scutellaria ‘Appalachian Blues’
Exposure: Prefers shade; will grow in sun with ample moisture
Flowers: Spikes of small, salvia-like, purple-blue flowers appear in late spring, beginning a bloom that lasts for several weeks. They feed bumblebees and other pollinators.
Foliage: Broad, minty green and toothed. The leaves are evergreen in mild climates.
Habit: Herbaceous, clumping perennial growing two feet tall (in flower) and slightly wider. Does not spread.
Origin: West Virginia-based breeder Peter Heus selected this perennial as a seedling of a naturally occurring hybrid between two Scutellaria species native to the US Mid-Atlantic and South: S. ovata and S. serrata. It was introduced to the market by Plants Nouveau in 2022.
How to grow it: Provide part or full shade and dry, average soil. It will also grow in full sun, but may require more water to flourish there. Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Cut foliage back in late winter to make way for fresh growth. If it loses vigor after several years, dig and divide the plant in spring or early autumn. USDA Zones 4–8.
A classic tropical vine, mandevilla is a great way to add a splash of color to any sunny vertical space in your garden. With big, showy blooms that continue all summer and the fact that the plant is low-maintenance makes it a top vine choice. Mandevilla vines have seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years, and breeding work continues to expand the vine’s varieties.
Annual Perennial Vine
3 to 8 feet 8 to 20 feet 20 feet or more
Up to 20 feet
Red White Pink
Flowering Vines for Color
Mandevillas are all about the big, tropical-looking blooms. They come in shades of pink, red, and white, and many shades in between. Now there’s a new color added to the range, a beautiful apricot. The large five-petaled blooms often have a rich golden throat inside that adds to the tropical look. Flowers are borne in clusters that will continue to grow and add more buds all the time. Be careful not to damage these growing points of the bloom clusters or new buds will not form on that stalk. The size of the blooms can vary quite a bit depending on the variety. In general, smaller flowers tend to be much more abundant, and the larger blooms are a little more sparse, but quite grand.
As far as care goes for these plants, they are low maintenance. Like most vigorous plants that bloom for long periods of time, they will benefit from a good dose of fertilizer every once in a while. While mandevilla is usually grown as an annual because it dies when exposed to freezing temperatures, it can be overwintered indoors. When planting, it’s important to note that mandevilla is poisonous if ingested so place the plant in a spot away from curious kids or pets. The milky sap it exudes when cut can also irritate skin upon contact.
If the plants get a little too crazy for your liking, mandevilla can be pruned or trained. This can actually help to encourage more branching, and eventually, more blooms.
New Mandevilla Varieties
Initially, all mandevillas were climbing and vining plants. More recently, horticulturists and scientists have reined them in and shrunk them down. Many of the newer varieties are great options for hanging baskets and even spilling out of a container. Branching has also been improved, creating much bushier plants, and more blooming potential.
With all of the work to shrink these plants down in size, foliage can be quite variable between varieties. Older varieties tend to have much larger leaves that are a little rougher in texture and have more pronounced veins. The smaller, shrubbier types tend to have smaller leaves that are generally smooth and usually fairly glossy. The smaller leaves tend to showcase the blooms more.
‘Sun Parasol Crimson’ mandevilla
This variety of Mandevilla bears intense crimson-red blooms on a semi-bushy plant that can reach 15 feet. Zones 10-11.
Mandevilla laxa bears fragrant white flowers in summer and early autumn. It climbs to 15 feet. Zones 10-11.
‘Pink Parfait’ mandevilla
Mandevilla x amabilis ‘Pink Parfait’ bears double pale-pink blooms all summer long. It climbs to 20 feet. Zones 10-11.
Source: Mandevilla | Better Homes & Gardens (bhg.com)
Hibiscus flowers (Hibiscus spp.) are one of the easiest plants to grow to give your garden a burst of vibrant color. Their bright, five-colored petals surround a long floral tube, the large flowers standing out against the green oval-shaped leaves. Available in a variety of sizes, some species can grow up to 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide when fully mature, according to The Spruce. Hibiscus flowers are widely associated with the warm, tropical climates to which they are native, including Madagascar, Fiji, Mauritius, and Hawaii, where it represents the culture as the state flower (per Hidden Valley Hibiscus).
Growing hibiscus plants doesn’t require a lot of hard work, especially if you set them up to succeed before their blooming season in the summer to early fall. To plant your hibiscus, you’ll need a few supplies such as well-draining, slightly acidic soil, a trowel, mulch, and a designated, sunny area of your yard, according to Almanac. It’s easier to select young hibiscus plants from a local garden center or nursery, but if you decide to plant from seed, you’ll need to sow them 12 weeks before the region’s frost date. They can also be sown outside before the last frost date, but it makes the growing process longer.
Choose a spot in your garden that received full to partial sun, and is protected from strong winds. Use a trowel to dig a hole in the ground slightly larger than your young, potted hibiscus. If you’re planting multiple hibiscus plants, keep about 2 to 3 feet of space between them. Place the plant into its new home with the stem sticking out above the ground, and add well-draining soil to fill in any gaps. Pack the top of the soil with mulch to retain moisture and prevent root damage during cold weather. Water the plants regularly to keep their soil moist, especially at the beginning of their growing season. You can reduce watering in colder seasons.
How To Care For Hibiscus Flowers
Hibiscus flowers only bloom for a couple of days, but if they’re grown properly they’ll continuously produce new flowers as their old ones fall off according to The Spruce. In order to prevent their flowers from dropping prematurely, keep them in warmer temperatures and out of the cold. They enjoy temperatures from 65 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Regular pruning will also keep your plants healthy and long-lasting. They should be pruned during the winter once they’ve reached their mature stage after they have ceased blooming. Trimming off deadened leaves and damaged branches will keep the hibiscus plants alive longer.
Feeding the plants fertilizer will also help them reach their full bloom potential, per The Spruce. Fertilizers containing nutrients such as potassium and nitrogen are great to have along with formulas containing organic matter such as fish emulsion and seaweed extract. You’ll want to feed them with a half-strength solution before they first begin to bloom, and then switch over to fertilizing them every couple of weeks.
Hibiscus Flower Varieties
There are hundreds of different hibiscus species that are native to Asia and the Pacific Islands, according to The Tropical Hibiscus. Hibiscus flowers can grow as single flowers or large shrubs growing from 3 to 10 feet tall and 2 to 8 feet wide. Although there are different varieties, they fall under three separate categories: tropical, perennial, and hardy. Tropical hibiscus plants can’t tolerate cold temperatures at all, whereas perennial hibiscus’ hibernate over the winter to remerge the following spring. The most resilient, hardy hibiscus plants can last through the winter.
Though beautiful, the hibiscus plant can, unfortunately, cause some harm to your pets. The Humane Society of Charlotte reports that varieties such as “Rose of Sharon” (Hibiscus syriacus) are known to be harmful if ingested by your pets. Dogs may experience symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea if they consume the flower, and cats can be poisoned by both the stems and flowers of the plant. It is not known why some species of hibiscus are toxic to pets and others are not, but nevertheless, it is better to be safe rather than sorry and protect your pets from all hibiscus species.
Zinnias are the most cheerful flowers you can plant — plus they’re fast-growing, easy-care and add lots of color to the garden.
How to grow zinnia flowers
It used to be that most of us grew zinnias in rows. You still can, but why not toss a few seeds around in your border, like the gardener did in the photo above? Since zinnias are so easy to grow from seed, that’s a colorful, and economical, way to fill out a flower bed. Butterflies like the vivid, easy-to-spot colors and will be drawn to your garden. Plus, just imagine how many bouquets you could pick from this border!
Get your zinnias off to a good start, whether you plant seed or starter plants, by giving them the right growing conditions with these growing tips.
Choose the right spot
Choose a location with good air circulation and full sun — zinnias will be floppy and sickly in shade. And while these annuals tolerate a wide range of soil types, they’ll bloom best in a moist, well-drained soil that has lots of compost worked into it.
Plant when it is warm
Sow the seeds directly on tilled soil and lightly cover them, or set out seedlings you buy in cell packs when the soil is thoroughly warm (about the same time you’d put out tomato plants). Zinnias will languish in cold weather — they really do like the heat.
Dry conditions translate to healthier zinnias. If you have to water, apply it only at the base of the plant or use a soaker hose so the foliage stays dry — keep moisture off their leaves to prevent powdery mildew from developing. Add a couple of inches of organic mulch, such as compost, around the plants to keep the soil moist and you won’t have to do as much watering.
In good soil there’s really no need for extra fertilizer, but if you want, a light sprinkling of a low-nitrogen, slow-release food will keep them blooming all summer.