Rev Up the Garden With Red
Gardeners have numerous options when it comes to red-flowering plants that bring blasts of bright color to their gardens, containers, entranceways, and porches. Whether you desire low-growing types, climbers, year-round bloomers, houseplants, or ones to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, multiple selections will pump up the color.
Averaging about 2 feet tall and wide with upright spikes lined with small, bright red flowers with a lower lip, scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea) charms borders, containers, mixed gardens and offers a blast of red used in mass plantings. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Hardy in USDA zones 7 through 11, the native perennial flowers year-round in its warmest range and readily reseeds into the landscape. Snapping off the spent flower spikes is about the only maintenance required and makes plants bushier. The sage tolerates a wide range of soils and full-sun to partial shade and diseases and pests aren't problems. During the hot days of summer, give it a drink of water and it will keep rewarding you with an abundance of its red blooms.
Firespike (Odontonema strictum) makes an attractive landscape addition used in mass plantings with its glossy green foliage and tall spikes filled with an abundance of small, 1-inch red tubular flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Growing up to 6-feet tall and wide, it is suitable used as an evergreen hedge or screen and forms into large clumps. It puts on its main flowering show fall and winter. Hardy in USDA zones 8 through 11, in areas where freezes are common firespike may die to the ground but usually resprouts in spring. Pests and diseases aren't a problem and it tolerates well-drained soils kept moist, though once established, it is tolerant to drought. The plant tolerates partial shade; though growing in full-sun produces the greatest amount of blooms.
Jatropha (Jatropha integerrima) makes an attractive small, evergreen tree that fills with clusters of small red flowers blooming year-round. The plant grows well in protected seaside gardens with a moderate tolerance to salt spray, but won't do well grown directly along the dunes. It grows up to 10 feet tall and wide, but the cultivar 'Compacta' averages around 6 feet. Jatropha works well as a small specimen tree, used in containers, or in wildlife gardens, as it attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies to its long-blooming flowers. Rarely bothered by pests or diseases, it grows well in various well-drained soils planted in full sun to partial shade and tolerates drought once established. Hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, it's borderline hardy in zone 9 where freezes don't regularly occur. Gardeners in colder locations can grow jatropha in containers and bring it indoors during winter.
Oleander (Nerium oleander) performs as an evergreen shrub or small tree, depending on the cultivar and can grow up to 12 feet tall at maturity. Plants begin blooming in summer and continue through fall, with clusters of 2-inch flowers filling the plant. Cultivars producing a spectacular display of red flowers include 'Algiers,' 'Cardinal Red,' and 'Little Red,' which typically average around 3 feet tall. Oleanders work well as flowering specimens, screening or hedging plants, as well as containers. This is a hardy plant, tolerating a wide range of conditions, including seaside locations in USDA zones 8 through 11. It grows best in well-drained soils and tolerates partial shade, but blooms best grown in a sunny location. All portions of the plant are toxic.
Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) earns its name with its large, showy red flowers that can grow up to 8-inches in diameter and are pure eye-candy. Flowers can be single or double, depending on cultivar, and fill the entire evergreen shrub in year-round blooms and against the glossy green foliage. It performs as a perennial in USDA zones 9 through 11, however, cooler regions can grow it as an annual or in containers and protect in winter. Growing up to 10 feet tall with a similar width, tropical hibiscus makes a dense hedge or screen, and if pruned to have a single trunk, makes a small flowering tree. It tolerates a wide range of soils that drain well, with the best blooms produced in sunny locations, though it tolerates partial shade. Relatively drought-tolerant once established, the hibiscus appreciates periodic watering during hot conditions.
Red Passion Flower Vine
If you are looking for a fast-growing vine to fill a trellis, fence, or arbor that puts on a showy display of bright red flowers starting in summer, look no further than red passion flower vine (Passiflora coccinea). The 4-inch flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, making it a great addition to gardens. The vine is hardy in USDA zone 10 through 12, but cooler regions can plant the vine in containers and enjoy inside during winter; gardeners can also treat it as an annual. An additional bonus of growing this species of passion flower is after blooming the vine produces edible fruits. The vine can grow up to 12 feet tall and about half as wide, so it requires a structure for support. For best growth and flower production, plant in well-drained soil that is rich and water regularly to keep the site moist and situated in a sunny location. If grown indoors, place by a sunny window.
Filling your borders or beds with a group of red-blooming zonal geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) will be a definite eye-catcher. The flower clusters filled with a multitude of small blooms make attractive additions to hanging baskets, containers and brighten window boxes with their striking red color, complementing the fuzzy green leaves. Performing as tender evergreen perennials in USDA zones 9 through 11, gardeners in cooler regions can grow the geraniums in containers and bring indoors during winter or treat as annuals. In their perennial zones, the plant can form mounds up to 3 feet tall at maturity. For the best growth, plant in well-drained, average to rich soils and water regularly, and situate in a sunny location for the most abundance of blooms. Deadheading spent flowers promotes more blooms and pinching back the stems produces bushier plants.
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) is an old-fashion favorite that performs as an annual, so gardeners in all regions can enjoy the profuse bloomer. Bright 2-inch flowers bloom from late spring through autumn and deadheading promotes more flowers due to the plant increasing its spread. Most zinnias grow approximately 2 feet tall and wide, making them suitable for borders, adding a blast of color for mass plantings or bare areas, as well as mixed and wildlife gardens, as the blossoms attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
This guaranteed bloomer is a breeze due to its low requirements. It grows well in any well-drained soil, but adding a bit of compost to the planting site gets it off to a good start; plant in a sunny to partially sunny location and water weekly. Allow adequate space between plants to cut down on potential fungal diseases due to lack of air circulation.
Bee balm (Monardra didyman) is a native perennial suitable for filling moist sites with its eye-catching blooms. Plants have an upright habit, with large scarlet tubular flowers perched atop the sturdy stems that blooms in summer throughout autumn. Deadheading prolongs flowering. Bee balm is robust, attaining a mature height of 3 feet with an equal spread, though spreading rhizomes can become invasive. Dividing the large clumps every few years reduces disease problems. Hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9, the red-bloomer has a variety of uses in the landscape. The red flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, making it a suitable addition to wildlife gardens. Use it in mass plantings, mixed beds, cut flower gardens or in containers. Plant in a sunny to partially shady locations with rich, moist soil and keep it moist. To reduce fungal problems, allow adequate space between plants.
With their banana-like leaves and terminal spikes filled with 6-inch red flowers, canna lilies (Canna spp.) add a tropical feel to gardens throughout the U.S. In USDA zones 8 through 10, it performs as a perennial with very little winter care, but in cooler regions, the rhizomes require digging and storage during freezing temperatures. Depending on the cultivar, foliage can be green, bronze, to maroon, which adds interest against the red flowers that bloom year-round in warm climates. Cannas grow best in sunny sites with rich, well-drained soils kept moist and will even tolerate boggy conditions, making it a suitable addition to rain gardens or ponds. The hardy plants make attractive additions to containers, used in mixed beds, mass plantings, and dwarf varieties work well used along walkways and borders.
If you are looking for a hardy evergreen performer that fills with clusters of star-shaped red flowers year-round, then look no further than red pentas (Penta lanceolate). The bright red flowers are attractive against the green foliage and there's no need to deadhead spent blooms. The plant performs as a perennial in USDA zones 8 through 11, but gardeners in cooler regions can overwinter the plants indoors by growing them in pots. Penta grows into small bushy plants that reach approximately 3 feet tall and wide, with butterflies and hummingbirds loving the red flowers, making it suitable for wildlife gardens. Use the plants in mixed perennial and annual gardens, along borders and walkways, or as a mass planting to bring bold color to an area. Grow in rich soil that drains well, but kept moist by watering regularly and for the best display of blooms, situate in a sunny location, though it tolerates partial shade.
When in bloom, Japanese camellias (Camellia japonica) are eye-catching attractions with their glossy green, evergreen foliage covered in large, dark red flowers resembling a rose. Depending on the cultivar, flowers are single or double and since blooming begins in autumn and continues through spring, the blast of red blooms brightens winter gardens when many plants have lost their leaves. Hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9, the camellia grows up to 15 feet tall and 10 feet wide, forming into a large shrub or if pruned, a multiple or single-trunk tree. Japanese camellias make showy specimens, screens, hedges, foundation, and accent plants. For the best performance, grow in fertile soil that drains well, water weekly, and in partial shade. The camellia doesn't tolerate growing in salty environments.
Amaryllis' (Hippeastrum spp.) large, trumpet-shaped flowers put on a show during its blooming stage in the spring and when planted outdoors in mass groupings, the flowers are eye-catchers. The tall, center spikes filled with one to several blooms complements the strap-like green foliage. Plants can grow approximately 2 feet tall. It is versatile, growing indoors or outside in pots, and in frost-free climates, in the garden. Allow the foliage to yellow and die before pruning so the bulb will nourish itself for next season's blooms.
Amaryllis is hardy and its care is minimal when grown in well-drained organic soil, both in the ground and inside containers, situated in sun to partial sun and watered regularly during the growing season. Cut back on water during the winter months or the bulbs can rot. Amaryllis performs as a perennial in USDA zones 8 through 10 though all zones can grow it with winter protection.
Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) has short fleshy spikes filled with clusters of tiny bright red flowers. The succulent puts on its main show of color winter through spring and the striking blooms complement the thickly scalloped green leaves. Averaging around 1-foot tall and wide, planted outdoors in frost-free climates kalanchoe performs well in sunny xeriscapes, succulent, cacti and rock gardens, borders, mixed gardens, and areas that have low-water requirements. Performing as a perennial outdoors in USDA zones 10 through 11 and borderline in warmer regions of zone 9, areas that experience frosts and freezes should grow it in containers for protection during the winter. Kalanchoe's biggest requirement is growing in well-drained soil that doesn't retain moisture, as conditions too moist lead to rot. Situate in a sunny to partially shady site; it somewhat tolerant to non-dune salty environments.
If you are seeking a red-flowering annual that takes heat, drought, poor and well-drained soils, and sun and are carefree growers, then cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) will fulfill all of those needs. In fact, too much care is a detriment to the plants, though water weekly during dry spells. Cosmos' 2-inch daisy-like flowers bloom atop thin stems covered in fern-like foliage and since they can reach up to 4 feet tall, have a habit of falling over and may require staking. The red blooms put on their colorful show late spring through autumn and pinching dead blooms leads to additional flowering and bushier plants. Use the red-blooming annual in containers to brighten porches or balconies, in mixed gardens for a bright splash of color, along borders or in mass planting. Plants can self-seed in the garden and it's hardy in all USDA zones.
Whether used in hanging baskets, mixed containers, or in garden beds, the intense blast of red color petunias (Petunia x hybrida) bring to the area is definitely eye-catching. These hardy annuals with their fluffy, trumpet-shaped flowers than can grow as large as 6-inches with small sticky green leaves, are constant bloomers from summer until winter frosts. In areas where freezes and frosts aren't common, petunias are non-stop bloomers, adding color when many plants are dormant. However, where summer temperatures are hot, flowering can stop, but a dose of all-purpose fertilizer and pruning back promotes new growth. Plants have a sprawling and upright habit, averaging 2 feet wide and tall. Pinching off spent blooms and stem tips creates bushier plants and more flowers. Hardy and suffering few problems, for best performance grow in a sunny to a partially sunny location in fertile soil that drains well and water weekly.
Crown of Thorns
Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) is one tough and versatile plant. Blooming year-round, the succulent produces numerous bracts of small red flowers held atop the multiple grayish-brown thorny stems lined with oblong green foliage. This hardy performer tolerates drought, salt-spray, heat, and a wide range of soils that drain well and pests rarely are problems. The worst care you can give a crown of thorn is overwatering, planting in soggy soils, or applying fertilizer too frequently. For best flowering, situate in a sunny location. Wear gloves when handling or pruning because the thorns are sharp and the milky sap might irritate the skin. It performs as an outdoor perennial in USDA zones 10 and 11, but gardeners living in cooler regions can grow the red-flowering robust grower inside containers and bring inside during winter. When grown outdoors, use in succulent or cactus gardens, xeriscapes, mass plantings, or to brighten any area with a yearlong display of red blooms.
Gladiolus (Gladiolus spp.), put on a colorful garden show with their tall stems lined with bright red trumpet-shaped flowers blooming from spring to fall and surrounded by sword-shaped leaves. Depending on the cultivar, plants can grow up to 5 feet tall, but most average around 2 feet. Each corm typically blooms only once per season, with the flowers opening from the bottom of the spike to the top, therefore, to keep a constant supply of blooms, plant additional corms every two to three weeks. Gladiolus produce long-lasting cut flowers and brighten garden areas with their red blooms when planted in groups. They are perennials in USDA zones 7 through 10, but all areas can grow them as annuals, or dig the corms once the foliage dies and store through winter. Grow in a fertile site that drains well located in sun to partial sun. Water the corms once planted and then wait until they sprout to add additional water or the corms can rot. After sprouting occurs, water plants weekly.
Typically grown as an annual vine in all regions, though it can reseed into the landscape, cypress vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) makes a charming addition where it can twine around archways, fences, trellises, or even containers. The summer-bloomer has green, fine and fragile fernlike foliage and produces small tubular flowers shaped like stars that are bright scarlet, which attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Flowering continues into fall. Cypress vine grows around 12 feet tall and up to 3 feet wide and for the best production of blooms, plant in a sunny location, though it tolerates partial shade. The vine tolerates a wide array of soil conditions from moist to dry, but growing in well-drained soil kept moist produces the best growth.
Carnations (Dianthus spp.) are commonly grown as annuals, but can be short-lived perennials in USDA zones 3 through 9. Depending on the type, plants form mounds up 12 inches tall and 2 feet wide, and fill with bright red flowers with thin, lance-shaped grayish-green foliage. Blooming starts late spring and continues through late summer. The red flowers add constant color to borders, used in mass plantings, gardens, walkways, containers, or as a ground cover. Grow in sunny sites, with fertile soil that drains well and water regularly to keep the area moist but not soggy. Allow enough space between multiple plantings and deadhead spent blooms.
Whether you add red flowering plants that bloom for years or only last a season, you won't be disappointed with the bright color they bring to any area indoors or out. The pop of red helps highlight other flower and foliage colors, especially when used with whites or blues.