Gardeners throughout history have cultivated some plants merely for the beauty or fragrance of their flowers. Those that are easy to grow and tend to be free of disease and insect problems are favored, as little effort is required to enjoy their large, colorful flowers or perhaps a profusion of thousands of tiny blossoms for an attractive display. Consult local plant nurseries or cooperative extension offices for recommendations for plants with nice flowers that are hardy in your region's climate and soils.
Annual flowers are those nonwoody plants that grow quickly, flowering and bearing seeds all within one growing season. Usually an autumn or winter frost kills these plants, and in some species, if no frost would occur they would live for several years. Annual flowers that appreciate growing in the warmth of summertime include petunia, marigold, impatiens, Madagascar periwinkle, star cluster, zinnia, sunflower, butter daisies, morning glory and wishbone flower. Other species prosper when temperatures are cool in early spring or fall, including pansy, snapdragon, alyssum, pot marigold/calendula, wallflower and pink/annual dianthus.
Biennial plants are much like annuals except they take two years to complete their life cycles. Thus, you may grow a plant from seed in the first growing season, then it survives the winter dormancy, and continues growing the second spring and displays its flowers. Some biennial plants may return a third year--it all depends on climate and the plant species. Examples of biennial flowers are hollyhock, forget-me-not, sweet William, carnation, foxglove, evening primrose and Queen Anne's lace.
Perennial flowers are those that survive the winter months in a dormancy underground and then repeatedly sprout back and grow each spring and summer. Popular flowering perennials with showy blossoms include peony, bearded iris, Louisiana iris, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, red hot poker, Joe pyeweed, beebalm, phlox, coral bells and hardy hibiscus. Don't forget about late summer and fall flowering plants like mum, aster and boltonia. Many spring flowering bulbs act as perennials, too, such as daffodils, snowdrops, crocus, fall crocus, hyacinth and glory-of-the-snow. Tulips are perennials in regions with cool summer soil temperatures and ample moisture.
Some amazingly beautiful flowers develop on woody plants in the garden--trees and shrubs. They produce blooms that fill their branches heavily to mask the foliage, sometimes easily cut and used in bouquets in a vase. Some flowering trees worth growing include magnolia, flowering cherry, crape myrtle, crab apple, jacaranda, flowering dogwood, redbud, golden chain tree and trumpet tree. Common shrubs with spectacular blooming displays are hydrangea, camellia, tropical hibiscus, forsythia, viburnum and lilac. Woody vines also can provide some amazing flowers such as those of wisteria, clematis and coral vine.