When grown together, red, white, and blue flowers make beautiful patriotic gardens for Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day and more. Plants with these flowers can, however, fill other needs:
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Annuals like salvia are best for planting beds with red-white-and-blue color schemes. Known for their long blooming periods (with deadheading), annuals let you concentrate on great color choices rather than having to match the blooming period of one plant to that of another.
Another reason why annuals are the preferred bedding plants is that they're compact: It's easier to appreciate a color scheme when the colors occur all on one level. Annuals are also cheaper than perennials, which is important if you need numerous plants.
Salvia splendens is usually thought of as a plant with red flowers, but other colors are available. A common red-white-and-blue combination is red geraniums (Pelargonium), white salvias, and blue Ageratum. Salvia also comes in burgundy, pink, purple, lavender, salmon, and orange.
Salvia splendens becomes 18 to 30 inches tall. Grow it in full sun. It has average water needs.
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While annuals are ideal for creating color schemes, there's no reason you can't mix and match. If there's a particular herbaceous perennial in one of these colors that you love, group it with two annuals to achieve your design.
A good cultivar for a red bee balm (Monarda didyma) is Cambridge Scarlet. What makes bee balm better than many perennials for color schemes is it's a long-blooming perennial. It can grow up to 3 feet tall.
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Maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) is one of those great plants many have never heard of, which makes it a good choice if you prefer plants that your neighbors don't grow. Besides red, the unusually shaped flowers also come in pink and white.
This perennial grows up to 3 to 4 feet tall. Suited to zones 3 to 10, Maltese cross likes full sun and has average water needs.
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Many Oriental poppies (Papaver orientale) have orange flowers, but Beauty of Livermere blooms in a blood-red color. Besides their vibrant colors, the flowers of these perennial poppies are valued for their crinkly look.
Beauty of Livermere reaches 2 to 3 feet tall. Grow it in zones 3 to 7 in full sun. It has average water needs. Like bee balm, Oriental poppy is a good perennial to grow with annuals. The leaves disappear in summer, so annuals can fill the hole left over in your flower bed.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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There are also shrubs with red, white, or blue flowers. For those who crave variety above all else, including such a bush in your planting will play the important function of varying the viewer's eye level.
Among the shrubs with red flowers, roses offer some of the best choices. There are many types of roses, and they come in an astounding variety of colors. Beating the traditional rap against the genus, Rosa, some kinds are surprisingly easy to grow.
Candy Oh! is one such rose. It's 3 to 4 feet tall and wide and grows in zones 4 to 9. It needs full sun and an average amount of water.
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Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is a small annual, shorter (4 to 6 inches) than it is wide (6 to 9 inches). These dimensions suggest three uses:
Besides white, it comes in pink and purple. Plant sweet alyssum in full to partial sun and supply it with an average amount of irrigation.
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Like Maltese cross, candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) has one of those flowers you should view up-close to appreciate fully. The petals form a pattern worthy of study. The foliage is evergreen.
The Purity cultivar becomes 10 inches tall and is suited to zones 4 to 8. These sun-lovers don't need as much water as the average perennial, once mature.
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Reserve busy Lizzie plants (Impatiens walleriana) for areas in light shade to full shade to lower maintenance needs. If grown in full sun, you'll have to water these annuals frequently.
Impatiens plants average 1 foot tall and wide. Keep them even shorter by pinching back young plants, which makes them grow bushier. Besides white, they come in coral, pink, purple, red, rosy-pink, orange, violet, and yellow.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Like sweet alyssum, snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) is a plant wider (12 to 18 inches) than it is tall (6 to 12 inches). But this plant is a perennial in zones 3 to 7, provided that your climate suits it. Snow-in-summer hates humidity, so it might not live long for you unless you garden where summers are cool.
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The two have similar needs and features:
- Suitable for zones 4 to 9
- Best for partial sun
- Slightly above-average water needs
- Large flower heads (9 to 12 inches across)
- 4 to 5 feet tall and wide
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In creating flower borders of red, white, and blue flowers, it's finding the blue flowers that's most challenging. There aren't as many choices as for the other two colors.
That's why flossflower (Ageratum houstonianum) is popular. This annual does bloom in other colors (pink, purple, lavender, and white), but it makes its living as a blue flower. Red geranium, white alyssum, and blue Ageratum are the traditional trio of red, white, and blue flowers for Americans who plant for Memorial Day and July 4th.
The most creative designs vary not only in color and size but also form and texture. Ageratum has something to contribute here, too. Its blue threads (the "floss") give its flowers a fine texture to contrast with the coarser texture of petunias, etc.
The height range of this annual is from 1 to 2 feet, but keep it around 1 foot tall through pinching. Grow it in full sun and give it a bit more water than most of your other annuals.
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Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) is a shade perennial native to North America. Another bluebell is the Spanish (Hyacinthoides hispanica). Both are suited to zones 3 to 8, have average water needs, and offer display value only in spring.
Such similarities aside, they're very different. Spanish bluebell (7 to 16 inches tall) is a bulb plant that can take sun in the North, whereas Virginia bluebell (up to 2 feet tall) is simply a perennial and always needs a lot of shade. Virginia bluebell's flower is a richer blue than Spanish bluebell's.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Lupinus perennis is strictly blue, a fact that might seem to make it the logical choice when you need blue flowers. But Lupinus polyphyllus also blooms in blue (as well as in pink and white), and it's a taller perennial (3 feet) than Lupinus perennis (2 feet). Along with its superior vigor, this height advantage may sway you to choose Lupinus polyphyllus: It offers a better display.
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As with annuals, shrubs with blue flowers are something of a rarity. Blue-flowering rose of Sharon bushes are among the most useful, being late-summer flowering shrubs. Their blooming time helps you achieve continuous sequence of bloom since most other flowers have petered out by this time.
Hibiscus syriacus Blue Chiffon (8 to 12 feet tall, 6 to 10 feet wide) can be grown in zones 5 to 8. It likes full to partial sun and an average amount of water. Blue Bird needs the same growing conditions. It's smaller (8 to 10 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide) than Blue Chiffon, but the bigger difference is in flower color: Blue Bird is a richer blue.
Regardless of the theme you're interested in, remember to implement basic design principles. For example, rather than making a hodge-podge, repeat plant types in your flower bed to promote unity. Viewing distance also matters. A small group of short plants is fine around a mailbox. But if such a planting is grown too far back from the street, it won't show up. The further away from a planting the viewer will be, the greater the need either to mass plants together or use larger plants.