University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Summer Article


By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Feeling patriotic? Then why not spruce up your yard for the Fourth of July with red, white, and blue bedding plants.

Don't worry about starting a garden so late in the season. That's the nice thing about bedding plants. Someone else has done all the work for you. You can make it even easier on yourself by planting containers instead of putting in a whole new bed, or use plants with patriotic colors in "mini-gardens" to fill in gaps in your landscape.

The downside is that you may not find as large a selection of bedding plants as you did in May. You also may discover that blue flowers are hard to find or the selection is limited, and even those labeled "blue" are probably not a true blue but shades of purple. If that's the case, then why not plant reds and whites in a blue container, or add a small American flag in keeping with the theme?

Look for bedding plants with healthy foliage and bushy, compact growth. Curled or brown edged leaves may indicate pests. Yellowed lower leaves are a sign of improper watering, which stresses the plant and may lead to poor growth.

Because you want instant color in your Independence Day garden, buy bedding plants grown in four- or six-inch pots if possible. Larger plants means an established root system, and this helps plants get off to a better start in the garden.

For red blooms, try begonias, zinnias, celosia, snapdragons, impatiens, geraniums, salvia, and verbena. White bloomers include many of the same varieties--zinnias, impatiens, geraniums, and begonias, for example--as well as dianthus, phlox, and cosmos. Ageratum and salvia are blue as are a few perennials like delphiniums, morning glories, and bellflowers.

Bachelor buttons come in all three Fourth of July colors and will do well in partial shade to full sun. Petunias, one of the most commonly available annuals, also can be found in red, white, and blue, including bi-colors, although the blue is actually more of a deep purple. They do best in full sun.

If you're a big fan of this holiday, then you may want to incorporate the "Fourth of July" rose into your landscape plans. This climbing rose has large, four- to five-inch flowers with red and white striped petals, which provide an explosion of color, much like the traditional holiday fireworks. "Fourth of July" was selected as a 1999 All America Rose Selections winner, the first climber to win this prestigious award in more than 20 years. It has a beautiful fragrance and blooms continuously throughout the summer, making it a wonderful addition to any garden.

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