5 Great Flowers For Brown Thumbs & Butterflies

You desperately want beautiful flowers in front of your house all summer long and yet you haven't acted. You're not an expert, after all, and what if you pick the wrong flowers and they die pathetically and the neighbors snicker and you feel like a total loser? Fear not, faithful reader! Once again, Grumpy will save you. Here are five easy-to-grow flowers that will bloom nonstop from now until frost and attract clouds of butterflies too.

Brown Thumb Bloomer #1 (above) -- Dragon Wing Begonia A cross between angel-wing begonia and wax begonia, the rugged Dragon Wing combines shiny green leaves with bright red or pink flowers. It forms a tidy mound 12 to 18 inches high and 10-12 inches wide. Baby Wing begonias grow to about the same size, but feature smaller leaves and pink or white flowers. They perform like champs in both borders and containers. Give them sun in the morning and light shade in the hot afternoon.

Brown Thumb Bloomer #2 -- Zinnias

Common zinnias (Zinnia elegans) are the easiest annuals I know to grow from seed. They sprout and grow quickly in warm weather, so it's not too late to sow. Just sprinkle the large seeds evenly over the soil, rake to just barely cover them with dirt, and water. That's it. Before long, you can have a solid, multi-colored border like the one above stuffed with long-stemmed blossoms that are great for cutting. The more you cut, the more they'll bloom. Plant in full sun.

You may not know pentas (Pentas lanceolata) aka "Egyptian star clusters," but you should. This tropical African native is a butterfly favorite and blooms continuously during warm weather. Four-inch wide clusters of red, pink, lavender, or white blossoms adorn deep green, lance-shaped leaves. Mounding plants grow 12-20 inches tall and do equally well in borders and containers. Give them full sun and moist soil.

For spiky summer flowers resembling snapdragons, you can't do better than angelonia. This tropical American native grows 18 to 24 inches tall and offers orchid-shaped blooms in colors of purple, blue, lavender, red, pink, or white. It loves heat and sun, has no pests, is great for cutting, and does well in gardens or containers. Because of its upright habit, it makes a great combination with all the other flowers you see here.

Tell me you have tried lantana before. There is no tougher flower for the South. It thrives in heat, tolerates drought, intoxicates butterflies, and blooms from spring until fall. Old heirloom selections like 'Miss Huff' get to be huge plants 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide, but the newer ones you'll see in garden centers are short and spreading, growing about 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Blossoms can mix colors of red, orange, pink, yellow, or mix, but some selections, like 'New Gold,' have blooms of a single color. Plant in borders and containers in full sun.

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