Generally in our garden, we plant flowers as a hobby, to give it a good look, or just because of that we love them. Some may also think that planting flowers is just a waste of our productive land or space. Besides all these conceptions and misconceptions, there are much deeper reasons why we should maintain flowers in our garden. Surprisingly they can act as pest controllers, weed controllers, fertilizers, ground covers, and this list goes on. Apart from benefiting our garden, they also benefit us in many ways. So let’s have a look in detail.
1. Flowers attract pollinators:
The process of transfer of pollen grains from anthers of one flower to stigma of another flower of same/different plants (of same kind) is known as pollination. Insects such as butterflies, honey bees, bumblebees, moths, wasps help in pollination which plays a major in the production of fruits and vegetables in plants. These insects are known as pollinators. You might have observed good flowering in your vegetable/fruit plants but got upset with the number of fruits they produce. This mainly happens due to the lack of pollination. A flower turns into fruits only after the pollination took place. So having flowers in your vegetable garden is very important to attract pollinators for better production.
2. Flowers are natural pest controllers:
Flowers help in pest control indirectly. Nectar, a sugar-rich fluid which is present in plants attracts pollinators, along with some other birds and beneficial insects like lacewings, ladybugs, mantids, hoverflies that feed on insect pests in your garden.
Images of lady bug, lacewing larva, mantis and hover fly larva feeding on pests
These beneficial insects are known as predatory insects. These insects feed on eggs and larvae (caterpillars, maggots, grubs, nymphs) of the pests which results in the natural controlling of pests. In other words, we can say that planting flowers also help in reducing the use of chemical pesticides in our garden.
3. Flowers can control weed growth:
We spend a lot of time, energy, and money on weeding in our gardens. There are some flowering plants that grow densely at short heights. Their profuse growth completely shades the ground below. When we grow these plants in the empty places of our garden they act as ground covers. As these plants grow very close to each other, weeds cannot grow in between them due to the lack of space and sunlight. Thus we can say goodbye to weeds.
Images of candytufts and creeping phlox acting as ground covers in garden.
candytufts, creeping phlox, deadnettle, nasturtiums are some of the examples of flowering ground covers. It is also very easy to grow these plants as these are low maintenance plants. Creeping phlox plants spread and cascade very well in slopes and garden walls and make them look beautiful. While the white flowers of candytufts are often so profuse that we can’t even see its leaves below the flowers. Thus constructs the best ground cover in your garden.
4. Flowers acts as nitrogen fertilizer:
In our atmosphere there is plenty of nitrogen, nearly 78 % of our air contains only nitrogen. Yet plants cannot use it for their growth or development. This is why we supply nitrogen artificially to plants. But there are some bacteria that can fix this atmospheric nitrogen into soil by having an association with the roots of some plants. We call these plants leguminous plants and these bacteria nitrogen-fixing bacteria.
Lupine, which is a flowering plant is one among these leguminous plants. Besides producing beautiful flowers, it also acts as free nitrogen fertilizer in your garden. These plants fix the atmospheric nitrogen into the soil by having a symbiotic association with bacteria in their roots. Here both of them are getting benefited. Bacteria help plants in extracting nitrogen from the atmosphere while plants provide shelter and energy to the bacteria. So all together we can say that lupine is an attractive nitrogen fixer, which enriches the soil of your garden.
Other benefits of lupine plants are:
- Improves the soil structure.
- Increases the organic matter content when buried/incorporated into the soil.
- Attracts pollinators with its beautiful flowers.
- Can tolerate full sun to partial shade conditions.
5. Flowering plants can act as traps for insects:
Some flower plants also act as trap crops, these plants attract insect pests to feed on them and sacrifice themselves to protect the targeted vegetable crops. For example, marigolds helps in attracting slugs, snails, and nematodes away from the plants like potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and cucumbers. While nasturtiums attract aphids such as black flies, green flies, and whiteflies, which are serious pests of vegetables(mainly cucurbits) and ornamental plants.
Marigolds are grown on borders as trap crop
Other benefits of nasturtiums:
- Flower for longer periods.
- Produce beautiful flowers.
- Available in many different shades.
- Can make good ground covers and prevent the growth of weeds.
Have antimicrobial & antibiotic properties.
Don’t forget to uproot and destroy these sacrificing plants after harvesting your vegetables. Neglecting may turn these plants into righteous habitats for pests and diseases as they are no longer resistant to their invasions and infestations.
6. Flowers add beauty to your garden:
There is no better option than adding flowers to make your garden look beautiful. With proper pruning and deadheading, we can make plants produce more flowers. Growing flowers in different fashions like traps, ground covers, hedges, trees can offer more beauty with benefits to your garden.
So these are all the benefits which flowers do to your garden but do you know that flowers also benefit us in many ways.
Benefits of flowers for mankind:
- Flowers can improve our mood
- Planting flowers/any other plants can give us a good physical activity
- Having flowers in our garden can save and make money.
- Flowers are used in the composition of many beauty cosmetics:
- Many flowers are used in making beauty products as they are having skin nourishing, whitening, refreshing, and repairing properties in them.
- Flowers like rose, lilies, lavender, jasmine, chamomile, are used in making many products like lotions, creams, serums, essential oils, perfumes, and deodorants. So you can grow some of these beneficial flowers to help your skin along with your garden.
5. Flowers in medicinal uses:
- Many flowers have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic properties which make them fit to use in making medicines (ayurvedic, allopathic, and homeopathic). We can also make use of them right in our home by making teas or kashaya (water extract of flowers). Hibiscus, nasturtiums, rose, calendula are some of the flowers that hold medicinal properties in them.
So this is all about the benefits of the flowers. So let’s get into some more useful information about flowers. Like fruits/vegetables, flowers also grow according to the seasons. Some flowers bloom in summers while some in winters. Flowers are classified into summer flowers and winter flowers based on the season they bloom.
In summers, there is nothing so relaxing than spending time in your garden that is having astonishing flowers in it. So let’s take a look at flowers that we can grow to get colorful blossoms in baking hot summers.
Marigolds, lilies, roses, zinnias, daisies, morning glory, phlox, hibiscus, cosmos, gomphrena are some of the summer flowering plants that you can sow between march to april. Some of these flowers tend to flower immediately after 2-3 months of sowing while you have to wait for a few more days/months to enjoy the beauty of other flowers. Besides producing fascinating flowers, they also provide various amazing benefits to us and to our garden as well. So let’s take a short look into them.
Benefits of marigolds:
- Act as a trap crops.
- Easy to care for and maintain.
- Roots of marigolds produce chemicals that are effective in killing nematodes in the garden.
- Attracts pollinators and predatory insects.
- Its oil helps in treating sunburns, acne, insect bites, etc.
You can intercrop vegetables with marigolds to keep the pest populations in control.
Benefits of roses:
- Flowers are also edible.
- Widely used in beauty products.
- Acts as an air freshener in gardens.
- Rosewater/ rose oil contains a good number of antioxidants.
Also contains anti-inflammatory properties.
Benefits of lillies:
- Lilies are perennials, that return year after year.
- Easy to divide and transplant.
- Roots and bulbs of lilies are known to use for medicinal purposes.
Benefits of hibiscus: hibiscus, native to warm climates is packed with a lot of shocking health benefits.
- The anthocyanin pigment which is responsible for the red color of the petals has numerous health benefits.
- Petals of hibiscus contains a huge number of anti-oxidants that can be used in making tea. This tea helps in treating high blood pleasures.
- Helps in lowering blood cholesterol levels.
- Leaves and flowers of hibiscus are also used in treating problems of skin and hair.
There are many flowers that particularly bloom in winters. Out of those cineraria, clarkia, calceolaria, petunia, impatiens, sweet williams, alyssum, hollyhock, salvia, and pansies are some of the highly recommended winter flowers as these flowers are absolutely beautiful and can give a vibrant and radiant look to your garden.
All these are seasonal plants, that are annuals/biennials. For long-lasting flowerings or all-time good-looking gardens, you can go for embracing perennial flowers in your gardens. It is nothing surprising that few flowers (shrubs/trees) also live for many years. As these plants live for three/more years we call them perennial plants. These plants either flower in a particular season every year or some may bloom continuously irrespective of the season.
Verbena, vinca species, ixora, pinwheel, tecoma, oleander, and plumeria are some of the plants by growing which, you can have colorful flowers throughout the year. We can also grow these plants in different fashions. For example, pinwheel, ixora and vinca can be grown as hedges. Believe it or not, these plants can give a perfect outline than any other metal/wooden fencing.
Benefits of growing flowers as hedges:
Ixora plants as hedge.
- They protect the plants from strong winds and can also act as windbreaks.
- Protect plants from animal grazing when grown in borders.
- Can train these plants to give particular shape for added descent look in your garden.
- These can make flawless partitions in your garden.
- Attract pollinators.
- Hedges play important role in landscaping as well.
Flowering plants as trees:
Flowers like oleander, tecoma, and plumeria can be grown as trees. As the trees grow heights they can attract more pollinators with both their fragrance and colorful flowers.
Plumeria and Oleander trees in gardens.
Additional benefits of having flowering trees:
- These flowers are definitely attention-stealing that we can’t take off our eyes from them easily.
- Provide shade to sit and enjoy under them even in summers.
- Attract birds that aid in pollination and pest controlling in our garden.
Frequently asked questions:
1. What is pollination?
The process of transfer of pollen grains from the stamen (male reproductive part) to the stigma of the pistil (female reproductive part) is known as pollination.
Any organism that helps in transferring the pollen grains from anthers to stigma is known as a pollinator. Examples: insects (bees, moths, butterflies), birds, animals (like rats, monkeys, through contact), humans too(through contact).
3. What is a pest?
Any organism that causes harm/damage to plants is considered a pest. Examples: insects, birds, animals, even humans. Humans are also considered pests while causing damage to plants.
4. What are ground covers?
Any material when used on top of soil to protect it from erosions, water loss, weed growth is known as ground covers. Examples: plastic mulching, closely growing low height plants, wood chips, dry leaves, peanut shells, etc.
5. What are the low-maintenance ground covers?
Creeping phlox, candytufts, dead nettle, trailing periwinkle, moss phlox, creeping jenny, vinca minor are some of the low maintenance ground covers for your garden to keep weeds at bay.
6. What is symbiotic association?
It is a special type of interaction between two organisms, some times both are benefited(mutualism), some times one is benefited while the other is neither benefited nor harmed (commensalism), and some times one (parasite) is benefited while the other (host) is harmed (parasitism)
7. What are nematodes?
The microscopic organisms(eelworms) present in the soil that belong to the phylum nematoda are known as nematodes. These worms damage the plant roots, while few nematodes also act as vectors in transferring viruses from plant to plant. Mixing neem powder in the potting mix helps in controlling nematodes.
8. Do nasturtiums come back every year?
It is saddening that these beautiful multi-beneficial nasturtiums are annuals. But they can be easily propagated and grown through their cuttings.
9. Do nasturtiums climb?
Yes. Nasturtiums do climb when given support. They cascade very well on the ground too, this is why we grow them as ground covers.
10. What is a hedge?
A fence or boundary formed by growing plants close to each other is known as hedges. It provides privacy when grown as walls (outer boundary to a garden). It acts like a frame to a picture.
11. Does marigold come back every year?
Even though the marigolds are annuals they come back every year due to self-seeding.
12. Does hibiscus like sun or shade?
Hibiscus plants grow well in full sun. Most of the hibiscus species like warm climates. It can also tolerate partial shade.
13. How to grow tropical and perennial hibiscus?
Tropical hibiscus grows well in moist but well-drained soil while perennial hibiscus grows well in moist soil that never completely dries out.
14. Do sweet williams come back every year?
Most of the sweet williams are biennials, they live for two years. While species of them are also perennials.
15. Do petunias need sun or shade?
Petunias are grown as annuals, even though they are perennials in real. Petunia can tolerate the full sun. Their blooming decreases when placed in the shade.
16. What is the difference between annuals, biennials, and perennials?
Annuals complete their life cycle in one growing season or one year, biennials complete their life cycle in two seasons or two years while the plants that live for three or more years are known are perennials.
17. What is deadheading a plant?
Removing dry/faded flowers to direct the energy from spent flowers to good ones is known as deadheading. This helps in producing more flowers.
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