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Plant Red for the Year of the Garden 2022

Dare to plant red! It’s the trendy flower color for 2022, the official color of the Year of the Garden, and such a striking color to work with!

By Larry Hodgson

Its the Year of the Garden across Canada and all garden and gardening enthusiasts in that vast country are asked to participate. Perhaps you can do so by visiting one or more of Canada’s gardens this year, setting up a school garden to introduce young people to gardening, or, even simpler, planting red flowers in your flower beds and planters this summer. Because one of the themes of the year-long event is “Plant Red!”

Go to the Plant Red page on the Year of the Garden 2022 website and you’ll discover that the goal of the Plant Red campaign is to honor the courage and the dedication of frontline workers during the pandemic, so many of whom lost their lives. Plus Plant Red is an expression of your Canadian Garden Pride in 2022. 

Share your garden!

You can register your Plant Red Garden at no cost. All you have to do is to submit a photo of your garden. Then your entry will be pinned on the map (by community not exact location). And guess what? You’ll also receive a special downloadable Plant Red Garden Certificate of participation.

To make things even better, post photos and stories about your Plant Red Garden and tag them with #PlantRed and #YearoftheGarden on your social media feeds.

Just share the joy!

Red Flowers for PLANT RED Gardens!

Here are some ideas of red flowers you can plant in this Year of the Garden 2022!

Year of the Garden Peony

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Red Charm’

‘Red Charm’ peony with double red flowers.
Peony ‘Red Charm’ (Paeonia lactiflora ‘Red Charm’). Photo: F.D. Richards, Flickr

Did you know there is an official Year of the Garden peony: Paeonia lactiflora ‘Red Charm’? It’s a very double and intensely scented (of course!) red peony. And its sturdy stems, 28 to 36 in (70 to 90 cm) high, don’t require staking! In addition, the dark green leaves are disease resistant. Finally, the plant lives a long time—50 years and more—without requiring any more care than basic weeding. If you can’t find it at your local garden center, it’s available from the Veseys catalog (www.veseys.com), Prince Edward Island’s popular online seed store.

Hardiness zones: 3 to 8.

Also, there are dozens of other red peonies that would add red to any garden!

Year of the Garden Tulip

Tulipa ‘Graffiti’

The Year of the Garden tulip with pinkish-red flowers.
The official Year of the Garden 2022 tulip is ‘Graffiti’, a stunning, easy-to-grow variety. Photo: veseys.com

Yes! A tulip has been named the Year of the Garden 2022 tulip! And not just any tulip, but a Darwin hybrid tulip, a category of tulips renowned for their ability to perennialize well in temperate climates. So, unlike most other tulips, you only need to plant ‘Graffiti’ once and it will come back year after year for a decade and more.

Order it now for falling this fall.

And tulips really do strut their stuff! From May, they brighten up our gardens, covering them with their stunning red, yellow and pink hues. Then, once cut and placed in a pretty vase, they bring an air of spring to any room of the house.

The Year of the Garden Year 2022 tulip displaying its blue center on red petals.
It’s only when the Year of the Garden Year 2022 tulip blooms that we discover its stunning blue heart! Photo: veseys.com

The magnificent and enormous flower of the hybrid Darwin tulip ‘Graffiti’, perched on a sturdy stem that can reach up to 28 in (70 cm) in height, is full of surprises! Its classic rosy-red petals add a dramatic modern twist when they open to reveal a cobalt blue center edged in black.

Beyond its beauty, this cultivar is very resilient, and will flower for many years if given the proper care. When you plant it in the fall, just make sure to do so extra deep, at a depth of 1 ft (30 cm): that helps perennialize it. For best results, it will need rich, well-drained soil and a sunny exposure.

Hardiness zones 3 to 8.

Three Native Red Perennials

Since modern gardeners with environmental issues on their mind look more and more towards native plants for their gardening needs, you might find it helpful to take note of these red-flowering hardy perennials, all native to a wide territory in North America. Indeed, some of them probably once grew naturally in a site near where you garden today.

Canada Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird visiting a Canada columbine flower.
Hummingbirds arrive from the south just in time to pollinate the flowers of the Canada columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). Photo: gonepaddling, depositphotos

This small plant bears its pendulous red flowers with a yellow center above attractively cut foliage. It prefers partial shade to sun and doesn’t need rich soil, nor much care. The long, curious spurs reaching out of the flowers are full of nectar for hummingbirds. Plus, it’s easy to grow from either purchased plants or seed.

Height: 20 in (50 cm). Diameter: 16 in (40 cm). Hardiness zones 3 to 8.

Beebalm (Monarda didyma)

Monarda ‘Cherry Pops’ with red flowers.
Beebalm ‘Cherry Pops’, a non-invasive and powdery mildew resistant selection of wild monarda. Photo: http://www.perennialressource.com

Beebalm is a charming and easy-to-grow perennial forming an upright clump of leafy stems. The whole plant is aromatic, even the stems and leaves, and is said to smell much like a bergamot orange. We commonly use it as an herbal infusion, hence its other name, Oswego tea. The flowers vaguely resemble a daisy with ruffled rays. And pollinators love it! Not just native bees, as the name “beebalm” suggests, but also hummingbirds and butterflies. There are many cultivars, including pink, white and purple varieties. And of course, red, the original color of the species, is what you’ll be looking for this year.

This is one plant whose cultivars may be superior to the species, at least in home gardens. The wild form tends to weediness, with wandering rhizomes. Plus, it’s prone to powdery mildew, a foliar disease. But hybridizers have worked hard at developing cultivars that don’t produce offsets, so stay put in the garden. And they’ve also managed to produce varieties that stay green from summer to fall without a trace of powdery mildew. Finally, modern cultivars bloom longer too, often almost all summer. . . and attract many more pollinators.

Beebalm prefers full sun, but tolerates partial shade. Rich, moist soil is vital: this plant is not a good choice for dry soils. Depending on the variety, a modern beebalm hybrid can measure from 16 to 36 in (40 to 90 cm) in height and 18 to 36 cm (45 to 90 cm) in diameter. Hardiness zones 3 through 9.

Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Cardinal flower with a spike of scarlet flowers.
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis). Photo: waltbilous, depositphotos

This is probably the most striking red flower you can grow. Its upright spikes of brilliant rich red just grab the eye. However, our native lobelia isn’t all that easy to maintain. Many gardeners admit defeat with this one. . . because they never read the fine print. In fact, cardinal flower just is not a plant for a typical perennial border. It only grows well with its feet in water, as in a swamp or bog. But if you have a soggy area in your garden, now you know what to plant there!

For gardens in temperate regions, the wild form is best. Most commercially available cultivars have been crossed with a similar but tropical lobelia. As a result, they really aren’t cold hardy beyond the very mildest climates, say hardiness zones 7 to 10, in spite of what the plant’s label may claim. The real species, on the other hand, is perfectly adapted to cold winters and will thrive as far north as zone 3!

Finally, this flower is a real magnet for hummingbirds!

Partial sun or even shade is fine. Expect a height of between 26 and 40 in (70 and 100 cm) and a diameter of about 18 in (45 cm). And again, the species Lobelia cardinalis (but not the hybrids) adapts to hardiness zones 3 through 9.

Other Red-Flowered Perennials

There is no shortage of other perennials with red flowers. Think of phlox, oriental poppies, coreopsis, echinaceas, Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), crocosmia, etc.

Easy Annuals With Red Flowers

Here are some annuals you can use. They offer a long-blooming season—most flower all summer long—and are easy to grow from seed or from cell packs! And they’re generally very inexpensive, especially if you do grow them from seed.

Common Poppy or Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Common poppies with red flowers and black centers.
The wild form of common poppy is sold under the name ‘Flanders Fields’ by some seed companies. Photo: orestligetka.ukr.net, depositphotos

This is the famous poppy that Canadians associate with remembrance of our fallen soldiers on Remembrance Day. It’s a small and very unimpressive plant, but is capped with 2 ¾ in (7 cm) flowers, usually with a shiny black marking in the center. There are all kinds of colors these days, but the wild poppy is red.

Sow it directly in the garden where you want it to bloom. Just scratch the soil lightly in a bare spot, sprinkle some poppy seeds onto the ground, and water once. After that, it’s perfectly happy to grow on its own.

Full sun. Poor and rather dry soil. 10 to 24 in (25 to 60 cm) in height. 10 in (25 cm) in diameter.

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans and others)

Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’ with red flowers with yellow centers.
Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’. Photo: All-America Selections

Zinnias come in all sizes, from 4 to 36 in (10 to 90 cm), with large or small flowers that can be single or double. The true flowers are the little yellow stars that poke up in the center, surrounded by many broad rays giving the blossom its daisylike to pompom appearance. The rays come in a wide range of colors. . . but this year, of course, you’ll choose red!

My recommendation? Zinnia ‘Profusion Red’! Winner of numerous international awards, including Selections All-America, it never stops flowering, producing masses of small, single red flowers on a ball-shaped plant. Super easy to grow. And butterflies love zinnias!

Full sun. Rich soil. Height and diameter: 8 to 14 in (20 to 35 cm).

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflower ‘Chocolate Cherry’ with dark red flowers and a black disc.
Sunflower ‘Chocolate Cherry’. Photo credit: National Garden Bureau

This summer, we’ll all be planting sunflowers to show our solidarity with the Ukrainians. So why not plant red sunflowers to celebrate the Year of the Garden at the same time? You know, two birds, one stone! There are several red sunflowers, such as ‘Chocolate Cherry’, ‘Royale Rouge’, ‘Moulin Rouge’ and ‘Red Hedge’. Most are of intermediate height for a sunflower, around 4 to 6 ft (1.2 to 1.8 m), each bearing several dark red flowers.

They can be sown in pots or in the ground. Full sun. Rich, well-drained soil.

Other Red Annuals

Think petunias, begonias, impatiens, salvias, pelargoniums, etc.

Other Plants with Red Flowers!

But the above only scrapes the surface! There are practically limitless choices of other plants with red flowers, whether among summer bulbs (lilies, dahlias, cannas, gladioli, etc.) or spring (tulips, hyacinths, corydalis, etc.), shrubs (roses, azaleas, weigelas, etc.) or patio plants (hibiscus, mandevillas, fuchsias, etc.)

You can find even more specific suggestions of red-flowering plants here: Plant Guide for Planting Red.

So, those are my suggestions for Plant Red this summer. Do a little research and you’ll find you have plenty of other choices!

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