How to Grow a Successful Flower Garden

Garden with colorful flower varieties and grasses

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Flower gardening can become a much-loved passion, but it can also be overwhelming, especially when you're first starting out. There are millions of plants to choose from and even more ways to combine them, and inexperienced gardeners may not know where to start.

Your best bet is to start small your first year, and don't worry about making mistakes. As time goes on, you can adjust your garden, digging up what didn't work on year and embracing what did well. You'll find a garden style and plants that make you happy, and the discovery of what exactly that is can be an unexpected pleasure. For more tips on perfecting your own flower garden, start with the advice below.

  • 01 of 06

    Starting Your Garden

    Woman gardening

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    When first starting your garden, creating good soil should be your primary focus—after all, it will serve as the foundation of growth for everything you add to your garden. Start with a soil test in the area you've chosen for your garden—depending on those results (like whether the soil leans more acidic or alkaline) you'll have a better idea about what you need to add to your soil mixture to make it the best blend possible.

    Choosing the right location is another key to a successful flower garden. Most flowers thrive in full to partial sun, so it's important to choose a spot that boasts ample light to help boost your blooms. Additionally, you'll want to select a spot that's out of the way from other activities in your yard—there's nothing worse than your hard-won blooms getting trampled during a backyard BBQ.

    If this is your first garden, it's probably best to start small. Taking on a large garden plot can quickly become overwhelming, and it may even turn you off from the idea altogether. Likewise, if space is an issue, consider starting a container garden instead. This is a workable option, even if you live in an apartment or condo where breaking ground is not an option.

  • 02 of 06

    Selecting Annual Blooms

    Sunflowers and annual blooms in flower garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Many of the most beautiful flowers in the garden are annuals, meaning they need to be planted every year. These include fan favorites such as pansies, petunias, impatiens, and marigolds, which are all prized for the brilliant color they add to the landscape. 

    Thankfully, some annuals are self-sowing, or what professional gardeners like to call "volunteers." Most of the time, these blooms will seed themselves (sometimes with a little help from the wind or nearby birds) and produce beautiful plants year after year. 

    Then, there are biennial flowers, such as foxglove and black-eyed Susans. These plants have two growing seasons in their life cycle, one year focused on leaves and food production and the next focused on flowers and seeds. After this time, they will seed out so that the process can start all over again.

  • 03 of 06

    Choosing Perennial Plants

    Perennial coneflower plants in flower garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Perennial plants and flowers make a garden look better and better with age because they come back every year (though some are limited to just a few years). Additionally, there are always new perennials to try and new techniques to learn, so the opportunities for growth are truly endless for the home gardener.

    Choosing the right plants for your garden and keeping them growing year after year is what makes perennial gardening such an enjoyable journey for the gardener. Their care includes dividing them to produce larger crops, and knowing when to cut them back after their growing season ends. With careful attention, perennials will be a mainstay in your flower beds.

  • 04 of 06

    Growing Successful Roses

    Pink rose bushes climbing wooden trellises in flower garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Somehow roses got a bad rap for being difficult to grow, but the opposite is actually true. While you may never grow an award-winning tea rose, most rose bushes will thrive in almost any garden environment.

    The key to a successful rose garden lies in choosing varieties that will flourish in your area and giving them plenty of sunshine. Additionally, a few maintenance tips will help you along the way. Knowing how and when to prune your roses will keep your plants healthy, happy, and producing bountiful blooms. You'll also want to prepare them for winter properly by cutting back the plant and, in some instances, sheltering it from harsh weather conditions.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Adding Grasses for Winter Texture

    Ornamental grasses clustered behind small brick wall and bench

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    It's hard to remember a time when ornamental grasses weren't a fixture in every backyard garden. Even if you can't tell the various types apart, you can still appreciate the necessary texture, contrast, and visual interest they bring to a garden. The best news: No plant could be easier to grow. Many ornamental types of grass need little-to-no care beyond a bit of occasional watering, making them a great option for even the most novice growers.

    Ornamental grasses can function as a backdrop for your flowers, serve as a decorative privacy barrier for your backyard, and can even bring color to the garden throughout the year. Using them extends your garden into the fall when many kinds of grasses will peak—and some even can bring you joy well into the winter.

  • 06 of 06

    Finishing With Flowering Trees and Shrubs

    Flowering tree with small pink flowers growing over garden

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Few flower gardens are made up of just flowers alone. Trees, shrubs, and vines are all necessary additions to help give a garden architecture and good bones. In addition, many varietals available also flower themselves or add color and texture to the scene with their foliage.

    You can also attract birds and butterflies with the right shrub selection (like hydrangea or dogwood), which will in turn help pollinate and seed your flower selections, improving the overall health of your garden. Groundcovers are another amazing resource—they can carpet or edge a garden as well as lead you along a path. Ultimately, it's very easy to combine any or all of these elements to create a mixed garden that holds your interest all year long.