For many gardeners, spring is synonymous with color. It’s the season of flowers and fresh greenery, as well as your first chance to return to your garden after a long winter off.
But if you’re new to gardening, spring can also be daunting. With opportunity comes a great deal of planning—how do you design your garden and set it up for the coming year? And how do you make the most of spring and the stunning array of flowers and blooms that come with it?
This simple guide can help you design a beautiful spring flower garden. Here’s what to do.
Find Your Growing Zone
Growing zones (also called Plant Hardiness Zones) can help you figure out which plants will thrive in your garden and which plants will struggle to survive.
Growing zones take into account rainfall, humidity, seasonal shifts in temperature, intensity of sunlight, and other factors that determine whether a plant will grow.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) keeps an up-to-date map of growing zones on their website. You can enter your zip code to figure out your zone, and from there, you can search online for the best plants to grow in your area.
For example, if you live in Charleston, South Carolina, zip code 29401, you’ll see that your growing zone is 9a: a long growing season with hot summers and mild winters.
A Google search for “growing zone 9a spring plants” reveals that you’d do well to plant daffodils, crocuses, violets, hibiscus, hyacinths—a number of brightly colored spring flowers. You can also plant a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and non-flowering plants that tolerate heat.
Finding your growing zone and making a list of plants you like is the first step in planning your garden.
How Much Light Do You Get?
Once you have a list of possible plants for your growing zone, it’s time to look at your garden setup. How much sunlight does your garden get? Is it in full sun for most of the day?Are there areas dominated by shade?
Take a look out the window every couple hours and make note of the light levels in the various parts of your property. The three general categories are:
- Partial shade. A mix of sunlight and shade, depending on the hour.
Different plants thrive with different amounts of light. Many brightly colored flowers, for example, do better in full sun—sunflowers, coneflowers, hibiscus, zinnias, marigolds—while ferns, delicate trees, and many leafy shrubs do better in partial or full shade.
If you want a bright spring flower garden and your land is mostly shaded, don’t worry! There are still plenty of options for you. Foxgloves, impatiens, coleus, coral bells, and caladiums come to mind.
And if your yard has a mix of full sun, partial shade, and full shade, you can plant a bit of everything.
Once you know your light levels for different parts of your yard, you can find plants that thrive in each area of your garden.
If you aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry! Go to your local plant nursery or home improvement store and ask someone there. You can also look around yourself—most plants will have an insert in their pot that tells you their ideal light level and growing conditions.
Annuals or Perennials?
There’s one more thing to consider as you’re choosing plants for your garden: do you want annuals, perennials, or a mix of the two?
Many people opt for a mix of annuals and perennials. Combining the two means you can get creative with the annual parts of your garden each spring while the perennial parts will take care of themselves. A combination of annuals and perennials allows for variety without the need to replant everything.
Of course, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to annuals versus perennials. This is your garden, after all.
Flower Garden Design: Get Creative with Shape, Height, Color, and Texture
Once you have an idea of the plants you want—factoring in your growing zone, light conditions, and annuals vs. perennials—it’s time to start thinking about your actual garden layout. What plants do you want where?
This is the fun, creative part of gardening, but it can also feel overwhelming. Not to worry—there are a few guidelines to help you figure out how to plant your spring garden.
Draw a Garden Map
A sketch of your garden layout can help you visualize your design. Try drawing the rough dimensions of your planting areas on a sheet of paper. You can then write in different plant names as you make decisions. At the end of your planning, you’ll have a blueprint for your garden and you’ll know exactly where you want to put everything.
Consider Color Blocking
Color blocking is a strategy many gardeners use to create a visually appealing garden layout. It’s simple: you plant similar colors close to one another, with fairly clear divisions in color for different parts of your garden.
You can block out a purple area, a yellow area, a blue area, and so on, and then add greenery to fill in the gaps.
Color blocking almost always looks good and is a great strategy if you aren’t sure how things will look together.
Arrange Plants by Height and Size
A good rule of thumb is to plant trees and taller, larger plants in the back of your garden, medium plants in the middle, and short plants and flowers at the very front.
Arranging your plants by height adds visual depth to your garden. It also ensures that you can see all the beautiful things you plant—you don’t want a tall shrub to grow in front of your colorful flowers so that you can’t see them.
Planting by height also creates visual balance. You probably don’t want tiny flowers next to giant bushes; something will look “off” when you stand back and consider the whole picture.
Planting different textures next to one another is another simple way to make your garden more visually appealing. Consider putting smooth-leaved plants and flowers next to rough ones to create pleasing aesthetic contrast.
Get Started on Your Spring Garden
Garden design can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. There are tons of variables to consider and endless creativity to be had, but if you’re just getting started with your garden, the above considerations are plenty.
The guidelines in this article are enough to ensure that you have a beautiful garden this season; once you’re more familiar with your land and have a better sense of how everything goes together, you can let instinct guide you and dive deeper into complex design.