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How to Start a Flower Garden: 8-Step Planting Guide

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Jul 16, 2020 • 4 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

Flower gardens serve many purposes. Aside from being visually stunning, a flower garden can also attract pollinators, ward off pests, provide shade for sensitive plants, and add a pleasing, fragrant layer to your yard. If you have the room, the right tools, and a fertile location, you can start your very own flower garden.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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How to Start a Flower Garden

Whether this is your first garden, or you’re an aspiring green thumb who needs a few extra flower gardening tips, check out the following step-by-step guide:

  1. Check your hardiness zone. The region you live in will determine which crops will flourish best (or at all), and provide frost dates to inform your growing season and planting schedule.
  2. Choose the location. Unless you intend to grow heat-tolerant or desert plants solely, your new flower bed should be in a spot that receives a balance of full sun and shade. Location can affect the size and shape of your garden, as will planting on flat ground or a slope. These factors will determine which kinds of flowers you can plant.
  3. Check your garden soil. Perform a soil test to check your soil pH to determine how much acid or alkaline is present in your soil. Certain flower plants do well with an acidic soil, while others thrive in a more neutral or alkaline base. Knowing which nutrients your soil lacks (or has in excess) will help you figure out which flowers may grow there—or at least help you figure out the kind of fertilizer you’ll need to change the pH. The quality of your soil is one of the main factors contributing to plant growth, and dry, infertile soil full of rocks with an unbalanced pH will not yield good results.
  4. Choose your flowers. Once you know the location and size of your flower bed, you can select the types of flowers you want to plant. While you may be tempted only to pick the most beautiful flowers, you should also plant flowers that will grow best in your garden’s environmental conditions. It is also helpful to note which of your plants are perennial flowers—the kind that can grow back on their own (like pansies and daylilies)—as that will affect the kind of maintenance you do. Annual flowers, however, will need to be replanted yearly and may require different care. Some simple annual flowers you can grow in your garden are impatiens, marigolds, and zinnias. Flowers like geraniums, nasturtiums, and salvia come in both perennial and annual forms, so know which kind you’re planting to give your vegetation the best care.
  5. Practice companion planting. Consider companion planting (or intercropping) to yield the best results. For instance, spring flower bulbs like tulips and daffodils grow well together, but a tall sunflower may inhibit sunlight for a shorter growing plant.
  6. Know your watering schedule. A consistent watering schedule can be the difference between thriving, healthy plants, and limp, lifeless vegetation. Some plants need water once a week, while others should only be watered once the soil dries. When a plant needs water, it tells you. There are two ways to tell when a plant is underwatered: The state of the leaves and the dryness of the soil. Underwatered leaves will curl in on themselves and start drooping. An adequately watered leaf, by contrast, has strength in it, and the stalk is stiff. After wilting leaves, another good way to tell if your plants need water is to stick your hand in the soil, a couple inches down, and see if it’s dry. If it is, it needs water. If it’s not, hold off.
  7. Set up protections. Your flower blossoms, bulbs, and seeds may be susceptible to wildlife or other pests, so equip your garden with coverings, wire cages, or organic solutions (like vinegar and tea) to help ward off unwelcome visitors and certain fungal diseases. You can also plant animal-deterring plants like hyacinths as a border around your garden, which keep deer, squirrels, and other rodents at bay.
  8. Research plant care. Learn when your plant is expected to bloom, and what to do leading up to when and after your flower blossoms. Certain flowers should be pruned at specific stages, watered a certain amount, receive consistent mulching, or have exposure to partial shade during the day. If you know your garden bed’s specific needs, you can take much better care of it while your flowers grow, eliminating weeds or threats, and ensuring healthy, bountiful blossoms.
  9. Get the right tools. Gloves, trimmers, rakes, and shovels are all useful tools to keep around your garden. If any of the flowers you have selected require special tools or equipment to help cultivate, make sure you keep them handy. Keep your tools clean and sterile to avoid contamination, and out of the sun to avoid rusting or melting.

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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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