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The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

What is the deciding factor if garden plants are a good buy? The value of garden plants is best measured by how well a plant performs once it’s been planted in the ground.

Jon Carlofits, a Kentucky-based landscape designer, says, “A bargain doesn’t need lots of attention, isn’t prone to disease or insect problems, and spreads on its own.”

While there are no questions about annuals being the garden plant that packs the biggest bang for your buck in a single season; perennials, trees, and shrubs give you a longer-lasting structure and color on your backyard landscape.

In this article, we’re going to be talking about everything you need to know about the best backyard garden plants.

backyard garden plants guide

Gardening Tips

Before we look at the garden plants that are highly recommended in your backyard garden, here are some tips to improve your garden, overall.

  1. Site your garden right. Starting a garden is about finding the right location. You’ll want to put your garden in the part of your yard where you can see it regularly. This way, you’ll be able to spend more time on it.
  2. Follow the sun. Before you plant anything, you should pay attention to how the sun plays through your backyard before you choose your gardening spot.
  3. Stay near water. One of the best gardening tips is to stay near a water source. You should double-check that you can reach your garden with your watering hose. This makes it so you don’t have to deal with lugging water over to your garden every time it’s time to water your plants. The best way to figure out if your plants need water is to push your finger down an inch into the soil, if it feels dry, then you need to water the plant.
  4. Begin with great soil. The best thing that you can do for your garden is to invest in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. To do this, you might have to mix a couple of different types of soil together to get a perfect balance. You can figure this out by doing a little research.
  5. Consider containers. If you find that you’re limited on space, consider containers. You can grow most plants in pots, including shrubs, berries, fruit trees, flowers, herbs, and vegetables. However, you need to make sure that you’re using a container that is large enough for the plant it holds.
  6. Pick the right plants. When planning your garden, it’s important to select plants that will thrive in your growing conditions. For instance, you’ll want to put sun-loving plants in a sunny spot, choose plants that are heat-tolerant in warmer climates, and give room for ground gobbling vines (e.g., melons and pumpkins). Make sure that you do your research and pick garden plants that will thrive in your area and in the space you have.
  7. Discover the zone. Figuring out your “hardiness zone” is helpful when choosing the best plants for your area. The hardiness zone is describing the coldest spot where a plant can grow in your garden. The higher the number, the warmer the climate. This means that if a plant is “hardy to zone 3,” and you plant it in zone 4, that plant will thrive in your garden. If, however, you plant it in zone 2, it will be too cold to grow that plant.
  8. Learn frost dates. Planting too late (or early) in the season can be a disaster for your garden. Because of this, you need to know the average spring frost date in your area, so you don’t kill plants by planning them too prematurely. It’s also good to have an understanding of when the first frost will happen in the fall so you can move your plants indoors or harvested before the cold kills them.
  9. Mulch. Applying a layer of mulch that’s around two to three inches deep around your plants. This helps reduce the number of weeds that will grow around your plants by blocking the sun and reducing moisture loss from evaporation, making it so you have to water your plants less frequently.
  10. Feed your plants regularly. We’ve already discussed the importance of having good soil, but the soil works best in addition with regular boosts of high-quality nutrition to your plants. To put it simply, great soil + plant food = a successful garden.

Now that you know some basic tips to help you create a great and successful garden, let’s talk about some great garden plants that you can easily plant in your garden.

Annual Backyard Plants – Flowers

Annual flowers are garden plants that will last only one season. Their lifecycle includes seed, plant, bloom, produce seeds, and then die. They will need to be replanted every spring.

Pansy

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

There’s nothing like having pansies growing in your backyard garden, especially in the early spring and late fall.

These flowers are incredibly cheerful and are loved because of their tolerance of frosty and cold temperatures, their durability, and their bold color.

Pansies are one of the first seeds that you can plant to start your gardening season. Plus, if you live in a climate that has cold winters, pansies are some of the last flowers that you’ll see before the snow comes.

If you’re in a climate with mild winters, you can enjoy your pansies throughout the winter.

Pansies will bloom in almost every color you can imagine from white to deep purple-black. Many varieties of pansies have blotches on them, which adds interest and depth to the flower.

Pansies tend to grow in a tidy little mound, but some types can trail in pots, baskets, and planters. You can even use them as groundcover when you plant them in your garden. Most pansies have a strong fragrance as well.

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Sweet Alyssum

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Sweet alyssum garden plants are a must-have variety because it’s incredibly versatile. With this plant, you can combine it with any other flower or plant that you want to show the sweet alyssum off with.

After it blooms, the sweet alyssum will transform itself into a low-growing carpet of color. This flower comes in a variety of colors, including pink, purple, lavender, and white blooms. Sweet alyssum is a great accent piece and is delightfully fragrant.

This plant is often used in the front of your backyard plants or as an edging plant. It’s a cool-weather annual plant that thrives when it’s placed in planters and is usually used as a “spiller” element when used in container garden designs. Sweet alyssum is easy to grow when placed in a sunny spot.

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Snapdragon

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Every backyard garden should have a few snapdragon plants. These are a tried-and-true classic because they are so easy to grow: they thrive in just about every sunny spot. They bloom all summer in most areas and aren’t afraid of cool temperatures.

However, they aren’t fans of extended summer humidity and heat and might not thrive over the summer in warmer areas. These flowers love containers, borders, and garden beds. Snapdragons are a versatile choice that you can enjoy anywhere.

Snapdragons earned their name because some people think that the flowers look similar to the face of a dragon. If you were to squeeze the back of the flower, the flower looks like it has a jaw that opens and snaps shut.

There are a couple of different types of snapdragons. Some grow tall with majestic blooms that can get as high as 36 inches in height or more.

Other varieties are smaller, mounding flowers that produce plenty of small heads of bloom at a single time rather than one large bloom. There are even a few varieties that trail, which makes them a great addition for hanging baskets.

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Dianthus

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

If you’re looking for a fragrant flower, the dianthus is the best flower for you. Almost every variety has a distinctive spicy scent that’s described as smelling like cloves.

Dianthus is a great spring flower that best grows in cooler weather. There are even some selections that are heat tolerant, so in some areas, you can enjoy these flowers all summer.

Most varieties tend to be low-growing and are great for putting in the front of the border (they’re also great for planters and containers). They bloom in white, lavender, pink, and red.

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Marigold

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Marigolds are some of the most traditional flowers that you can plant in your garden; marigolds have been enjoyed and planted for generations. It’s a testament to how easy they are to grow and their beauty.

You can just plant them in any sunny area after the danger of frost has passed in the spring and then watch them bloom. Many marigolds bloom in orange, yellow, and rusty-red, and there are two varieties of marigolds that you can choose from: French and African.

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Vinca

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Vinca is a summer survivor and is a fabulous problem-solving plant. It blooms nonstop, tolerates a drought, is often ignored by rabbits and deer, and holds up well in hot weather.

Vinca has a wide variety of blooming colors from whites, lavenders to peach, pinks to corals, and even reds. There are also some newer types that show off blue-purple flowers.

Most selections boast relatively large flowers, but there is a variety that offers small blooms called the Soriee Kawaii collection. With this bloom, you get tiny flowers that give the plant a cottage-garden and whimsical appearance. The small blooms are also attractive to pollinators.

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Pentas

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Pentas are the perfect plant if you live in hot and sunny areas because this plant is native to the tropics and thrives in steamy, hot weather. Once they’re established, this plant will bloom nonstop with clusters of white, lavender, and red flowers throughout the summer and all year if you live in a frost-free area.

Pentas attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees to your garden, which puts them at the top of the list for pollinator plants. This plant thrives in planters and pots as well as borders and beds.

The varieties of pentas range in size, from tall types that grow to be 48 inches tall to smaller varieties that grow to be about 20 inches tall. There’s even a new collection of pentas, called Falling Star, that has semi-trailing habits.

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Perennial Backyard Plants – Flowers

Perennial flowers live longer than two years. They bloom every summer and spring, and die in the winter and autumn, then return again in the spring.

Balloon Flower

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

The balloon flower is an easy-to-grow plant that thrives in part shade to full sun and in well-drained, organically rich soil.

You can choose between blossoms of pink, purple, white, and blue, and in double- or single-petal varieties. Their silvery-green stems can grow over two feet in height, with balloon-like buds that open up to starry blossoms in August and July.

Balloon flowers work as focal points in your backyard garden. You can even plant balloon flowers among other types of flora to create a nice repetition that helps draw the eye through your garden.

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Black-Eyed Susan

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Varieties of black-eyed Susan’s range from the traditional yellow-orange petals with a dark brown center to hybrids that are in the shades of red or deep orange. This backyard garden flower blooms from June to September with stalks that can grow up to three feet tall.

Black-eyed Susan’s provide continuous medium-height color saturation during the summer months. They self-sprout, so you have to be prepared for seedlings to spout in the next year.

Black-eyed Susan’s should be planted in the middle position of beds and border. And you should plant them in early spring.

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Blazing Star

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Blazing star is a native wildflower that brings pollinators to your backyard garden. It thrives in moist, well-drained, organically rich soil.

These flowers are a great addition to your garden because they add vertical drama to it. Blazing star spikes are laden in blossoms of white, purple, and pink and can reach up to four feet. They bloom from July to September.

Another great thing about blazing star flowers is that they are sturdy. And they bloom from the bottom up, so they last for a long time when placed in a vase arrangement. You should plant blazing star seeds in the spring or fall.

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Cranesbill Geranium

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Cranesbill geranium, also called hardy geranium, is a mounding flower that grows best in full sun when placed in average, well-drained soil. They can grow to be three feet tall, which makes them a great flower for as a middle-position filler in borders and beds, especially if you were to put shrubs behind it and shorter flowers in the front.

A benefit to these flowers is that their voluminous foliage can be used to hide unsightly utility meters, hoses, faucets, and other eyesores in your backyard.

Cranesbill geranium flowers will bloom continuously from spring until the first frost and comes in a variety of colors, including white, blue, purple, and pink. You should plant these flowers in early spring.

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Daylily

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Daylilies are a clumping root flower with multiple shapely, bold blossoms per stem that will open for just one day. It grows best in full sun when placed in well-drained, organically rich soil.

They are also available in a variety of colors including, white, yellow, red, purple, pink, and orange. The best features of daylilies are their elegant shaped petals and that they can grow up to four feet tall. It looks best en masse with fall, summer, and spring bloomers because they live from spring to the first frost.

They look awesome when used as a stand-alone plant or as back-of-border plants in big garden beds. You should plant daylilies in the spring or fall.

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English Lavender

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

English lavender is an am herb that is used in culinary and medicinal applications. If you live in an area that often has full sun and sandy, dry a little acidic soil, this is a great backyard garden plant for you.

It looks great when planted for rockeries, kitchen gardens, borders, and beds. The foremost asset of lavender is the fragrance. In addition to its aroma, these blossoms can add dramatic lines to your backyard landscape.

Lavender only grows to be one to two feet tall, so you can also use English lavender to create a spot of texture and color at the mid-story level in your garden. You should plant lavender seeds early in the spring so you can enjoy it from June to August.

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Hellebore

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Hellebore is prized for blooming as early as January and lasts late into spring. It thrives in well-drained, moist, organically rich soil with a little shade once the sun heats everything up.

The job of hellebore in your backyard garden is to bring in springtime and give your garden texturally rich, one-foot tall, green foliage during the year, and it comes in yellow, red, pink, or green.

The best place to put hellebore is underneath deciduous trees as a ground cover and pairs well with spring bulbs. You should plant the plants, rootstock, or seeds in early spring.

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Backyard Garden Plants – Vines

The right vine for your garden will make any garden special. You can use them to screen your porch for privacy or use them to cover an unwanted view, or you can use them to add some romance to an arbor.

Wisteria

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Wisteria is a fragrant, purple-blue, or white raceme that is stunning in the spring. Make sure to give this vine a sturdy structure to help hold the weight of their blooms or let the wisteria flow over an arbor.

Wisterias can grow to be 25 to 35 feet tall when planted in full sun and well-drained, moist soil. Some varieties are considered to be invasive, so make sure to check with your local garden center or extension service before you plant.

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Carolina Jessamine

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

This is a twining vine that has the ability to grow up to 20 feet. It features yellow blooms that are extremely fragrant that open in late winter and last until early spring; depending on where you live, this vine can be semi-evergreen or evergreen.

Make sure that you plant them in full sun to partial shade and give them well-drained, moist soil. You can let this vine trail over the ground to cover a slope or a bank.

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Honeysuckle

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

The air in the spring will smell of honeysuckles when they open their yellow and white blooms.

These 8 to 10-foot climbers require average water and full sun and are adaptative to most soils.

The picture above shows a variety of honeysuckle that is a non-invasive plant called Scentsation, and it looks amazing when trained on trellises or fences. Pruning isn’t necessary with this vine, but you can trim them if you want.

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Purple Hyacinth Bean

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

This is an annual vine, and it tolerates most soils but requires full sun and a sturdy structure to support them as they climb to be 10 to 15 feet high.

Once they’re established, they need very little care to produce purple and violet blooms that will eventually turn into reddish-purple pods. The pods can mature to be the size of a lima bean and are typically used as a forage crop.

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Mandevilla

mandevilla flower image

There are quite a few gardeners that will plant pink, white, or red Mandevilla around the mailbox, but these plants also look great spilling from a basket or on trellises. This woody vine has tendrils that will attach to structures.

If you grow these tropicals as a houseplant, make sure to give them filtered or indirect sunlight. Make sure to let the soil dry slightly between each time you water them and fertilize them biweekly. Then move them outside in the summer.

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Passionflower Vine

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

Passionflowers might look exotic, but they are undemanding and fast-growing vines that grow extremely well in warmer climates. Put them in full sunlight and let them grow over a trellis, fence, or pergola.

You’ll find that passionflowers come in purple, yellow, white, green, pink, blue, and red varieties that can grow to be 20 feet high or higher. The flowers are followed by fruits; with some varieties, the fruit is edible, but you shouldn’t try them unless you know that they’re safe for human consumption.

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Sweet Autumn Clematis

Guide to Backyard Garden Plants

While you’ll tend to overlook this vine for the majority of the growing season, in the late summer and early fall, the small, white flowers will catch your eye once they open up.

This is a fast-growing vine that typically climbs to the top of the support and forms a mound of flowers and foliage there, making it so they won’t cover the bottom of a structure. You can let this vine ramble freely on rocks, trellises, or fences in your garden.

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Final Thoughts

There are so many different types of garden plants for you to consider when planning out your backyard garden.

While we only talked about annual and perennial flowers and vines, there are plenty of other plant species that would look nice as backyard garden plants, including vegetables and fruits, and ivies.

When planning your garden, make sure that you think about the type of climate that you live in before you pick any garden plants because you want to be sure that they will thrive in your area.

Then follow the steps that we listed above, including finding your hardiness zone, picking the right location for your garden, and using the correct fertilizer for your plants.

Use a variety of different plants to create a garden that is attractive to the eye and to pollinators. Don’t be afraid to use plants that bloom at different times and have different lifecycles so you can have a beautiful garden through the spring and summer.

Creating a beautiful garden doesn’t have to be difficult – it can instead be fun. If you use this guide to help you plan your backyard garden plants, you’ll be ready to make the most extraordinary garden you’ve ever seen.

With so many options when it comes to garden plants, you’ll never be bored of your backyard garden because you can change out the plants that you use every season – especially if you’re planting perennials!

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