Workhorses of the Garden

“Workhorses of the Garden”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 


There are certain plants that stand out in the garden, the showy flowering shrub, the towering tree, or the colorful spring bulbs.  Then, there are the workhorses.  The plants that make a nice show but basically just fill in some color here and there.  The ones that we can’t do without, but we really don’t gush over like we do our favorite daylily, hydrangea or magnolia tree.  A few of these workhorses, that I use in my garden, are pentas, impatiens and coleus. 


Pentas are great in a garden because they bloom from early spring to the first freeze.  If they get too tall, cutting them back just brings on more blooms.  They are very easy to propagate, too.  Whenever I cut them back, I take and root a few.  Sometimes I will take cuttings just before a freeze and root those for springtime planting.  Very often pentas will overwinter for me.  I have a few red ones that have lasted about eight years now.  Of course, when freezing temperatures are predicted, I cover them with pine straw and then plastic.  The first photo is of a penta that survived last winter.  I wish I would have taken cuttings of this one because I could not find this particular color this spring.  One reason I try to keep them through the winter is that come spring those that made it through the cold grow faster, bigger and bloom sooner.




Had to make do with the light pink instead of the dark pink for the rest of the garden since the other was not available.  The light pink gives a different look to the flower beds, so maybe this has worked out for the best.



What would the shade garden do without impatiens?  This is one tough little plant.  It comes in a variety of colors and blooms prolifically where few plants would.  And, where I needed color in a sunnier area, the New Guinea impatiens worked very well.  I know that impatiens have become somewhat common, but I still think for large areas of color for little money, they can’t be beat.  In our mild winters, I often have impatiens survive as the pentas do, especially if they are in a protected area.  These, too, are easy to propagate, easily rooting in water or soil.  Again, sometimes I do this to make sure that I have certain colors.  The deep, pure red is often hard to find, as is the cranberry, and, to make sure I have those colors, I will root some in the fall.



 Last of the workhorses is coleus.  They give a lot of color for just pennies.  I think coleus was the first plant I put in my little apartment garden when we first got married.  The Victorians were crazy for coleus, and I can see why.  These, too, are easy to propagate, but I do that for only one or two extremely favorite ones to make sure I always have them.  Coleus is easy to grow from seed.  I used to cut off the coleus flowers to keep them looking nicer, but now I let them go to seed in late fall and they have reseeded the last few years.  Of course, they do not always come back true, but then any different looking one is welcome in my garden.







There are other plants that can be considered workhorses, but these are my top three.


1 Comment

  1. Ray said,

    July 3, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I agree that these plants are workhorses. I would add begonias. I don’t know what I would do without those bronze leaf red ones. They really fill in and add color to my beds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: