Some gardens draw butterflies, while some provide food. Others offer color and many exist for practical purposes. These days, thanks to the ever-expanding availability of seeds and plants, it's easier to find species that suit a variety of tastes, time requirements and budgets. Disease-resistant hybrids mingle with heirlooms. Ever-blooming shrubs enhance those that intensely flower once each season. Know the basics of what you need and balance certain elements to suit the type of garden you desire.
Plants don't always survive for years. Annual plants live their entire life cycle, from seed to plant back to seed, in one growing season. Biennial plants grow for two seasons. Perennials return each year. How many years a perennial lives depend on its variety. Grow perennials to save money and time. Incorporate striking annuals and biennials into a garden for variety and to extend the blooming season.
Some plants are better at withstanding temperature extremes than others. Tropical perennials, for instance, may only grow as annuals in northern states because freezes kill them. Consult the USDA hardiness zone map to see which one you live in, and use it to decide which plants to grow at which times. Remember that different plant parts, such as stems and leaves, can sometimes withstand temperature extremes better than others, such as buds. Locations next to structures and poor soil that put stress on otherwise strong plants can also affect plant hardiness.
Provide individualized care for plants according to their variety. Grow most garden plants, particularly vegetables, in soil that is well-drained. Pay attention to whether plants grow best in sun or shade, how much water they need to thrive and if they require pruning or flower deadheading. Offer fertilizer to fast-growing plants, particularly those that produce flowers and fruit. Mulch plants to protect those with roots that grow close to the surface, retain moisture in the soil and prevent weeds from growing. Keep areas around garden plants free of weeds. Regularly monitor plants for pests and diseases. Offer them enough room to grow so they are not crowded against others at maturity.
Choose plants that please the senses and palate. Grow bright orange zinnias to draw the eye to a particular area of the garden. Cultivate fragrant peonies and lilacs in a sunny spot near a walkway or seating area. Plant velvety soft lamb's ears at flower garden borders. Tuck soft-colored annual flowers amid tall, vigorous vegetables.
Create a multifunction or single-purpose garden. Grow tall ornamental grasses or vines for privacy and shade. Plant a vegetable garden to supplement meals and save money. Incorporate milkweed, purple coneflower and hibiscus into a flower garden to lure butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant all of one favorite flowering plant species in a garden, such as roses or peonies. Use containers to create a garden in a small space.