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Susan Martin, Perennial Specialist

Since the 18th century, people have exchanged flowers as a sign of love and affection on February 14th – Valentine’s Day. Cut flower bouquets are certainly beautiful when they first arrive, but they begin to decline shortly thereafter. Why not exchange living plants instead that will flourish for months or even years?



Red is the symbol of romantic love so we see it everywhere we look in February. Truly, it is a welcome sight to those in cold climates who see nothing but grey and white all winter long. Red is also an outstanding color for sunny landscapes because its saturated hues really stand out from the curbside and from the view out our kitchen windows. A windowbox of Boldly® Dark Red geraniums provide a cheerful welcome when we return home after a long day, and an entire bush full of red Home Run® roses sure beats a dozen long stems.

If you’re thinking about adding a touch of red to your containers and landscapes this summer, here are a few annuals, perennials, and shrubs you may wish to consider. You can also view these plants on this Pinterest board.


Color Your Containers Red
Whether you’re looking for a thriller, filler or spiller for your containers, Proven Winners offers many varieties of red annuals to fit the bill. One of the showiest thrillers is ColorBlaze® Kingswood Torch Coleus. Use a big container when planning a combination with this thriller, as it grows quite large. In combinations, it will tower over the mounding Superbells® Pomegranate Punch, a velvety red, black-throated Calibrachoa that flowers from late spring to fall without deadheading.

A beautiful red spiller to try in your combination containers and hanging baskets is Tukana® Scarlet Star Verbena. Its red flowers have a cute little white eye and it plays very well with others. It is lovely paired with the upright cascading habit of ‘Fireworks’ Annual Red Fountain Grass.   

Flashy Red Sun Perennials
Bearing enormous 9” blooms, Rainbow Rhythm™ ‘Ruby Spider’ daylilies are an absolute showstopper in the landscape. They flower early in the daylily season, about early summer in the Midwest, on nearly three foot tall stout stems. Their strappy foliage makes a great backdrop to shorter plants in the border.

For late season interest, no landscape should be without hardy perennial Hibiscus, commonly called Rose Mallow. Summerific® ‘Cranberry Crush’ bears gorgeous scarlet red blossoms measuring 7-8” across which emerge from glossy, near-black buds. It blooms for several months beginning in midsummer and lasts into fall. Hibiscus is a large shrub-like plant, so give it plenty of room and consistent moisture to reach its glorious full potential.

Red Shrubs for Every Season
One of the most unique hardy shrubs for partial shade is ‘Aphrodite’ Sweetshrub which typically flowers in early summer, perhaps earlier in warm climates. It blooms more heavily in full sun, but bears plenty of blooms when grown under the shade of tall trees. This variety has rosy red flowers that are larger and more fragrant than typical. They look like small magnolias. 

If you tend to shy away from roses because you think they are high maintenance, give a second look at the Oso Easy® roses. Oso Easy® Cherry Pie is incredibly disease resistant so you won’t have to worry about spotted foliage, and it produces a shower of candy apple red flowers all summer long. Standing 2-4’ tall, it makes a great filler for sunny borders.





To continue the splash of red in your garden from fall into winter, plant a few Berry Heavy® winterberry hollies. These shrubs produce an incredible number of large, bright orange-red berries that put on a spectacular winter show. Since this is a deciduous holly, the leaves won’t obscure the fruit, so you’ll easily be able to see it out your kitchen window or from the curbside. Mr. Poppins™ is the male pollinator, so be sure to include him to get the fruit.

To learn more about all of the plants mentioned here, go to

About the Author: Susan Martin is a perennial specialist with over 15 years of experience in the business of Horticulture including new plant development, garden design, communications, sales and marketing. She is a native of Michigan where she has been gardening since the age of four in both sandy and clay soils in zones 4-6. 

Patent Info: Boldly™ Dark Red Pelargonium interspecific PP20245 CPBR3728. Home Run® Rosa PP18552. ColorBlaze® Kingswood Torch Coleus Solenostemon scutellarioides. Superbells® Pomegranate Punch Calibrachoa PPAF CPBRAF. Tukana® Scarlet Star Verbena PP21081 CPBR3854. Graceful Grasses® 'Fireworks' Pennisetum setaceum PP18504. Rainbow Rhythm™ ‘Ruby Spider’ Daylily Hemerocallis. Summerific® 'Cranberry Crush' Hibiscus PP21984 CPBR4254. 'Aphrodite' Calycanthus PP24014 CPBRAF. Oso Easy® Cherry Pie Rosa PPAF CPBRAF. Berry Heavy® Ilex verticillata. Mr Poppins™ Ilex verticillata PPAF CPBRAF.

Posted February 13, 2015

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