SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Each year, Heidi Teal grows about 7,000 geraniums and between 10,000 to 20,000 petunias.
Most of those plants leave the Cliff Avenue Greenhouse and Garden Center for homes and lawns around South Dakota.
Geraniums and petunias tend to be the most popular flowers chosen by gardeners each season, Teal said.
“For vegetables, it’s tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers,” Teal said. “Those are probably the top three for vegetables.”
For plants that grow back each year, or perennials, hydrangeas, clematis and hostas are among the most popular, Teal said.
Midwest Living describes geraniums as a “dependable workhorse, perennial geraniums are lovely massed as a groundcover or used as an accent plant. The plant is tolerant of wet or dry soils in full sun to part shade.”
Teal said there are also some new flower varieties that sport bright colors and tend to attract hummingbirds. She explains one in the video below.
This is a busy week for greenhouses and gardeners. The pandemic influenced plant and seed sales in 2020 and Teal is seeing a similar impact this year.
“Last year, because so many people stayed home, we had a real uptick in garden plants,” Teal said. “This year, it seems to be as strong or stronger. They’re not buying one or two tomato plants they are buying 12.”
But not everyone is prepared to plant and care for multiple plants. They could be new gardeners or don’t have the space or don’t have the time to care for multiple plants.
“First off, if you’re a first-time gardener, don’t get overwhelmed,” Teal said. “So you want to start small.”
Teal recommends starting with plants in pots as a way to see if you like it and can tolerate it.
Planters may get overly ambitious with multiple pots, multiple raised beds and a good-sized garden but those require work, including during the heat of summer.
And with plants, come weeds and the need to respond.
A 1939 publication from then South Dakota State College cautions about allowing weeds to grow in a garden. “Weeds should not be allowed to grow in the garden,” the author said.
The advice from 1939 sounds a little stern, but Teal said gardeners can get overwhelmed with weeds. Enough that it could keep them from gardening the next year.
That’s why Teal said it’s a good idea to plant based on time and interest.
Young gardeners joining the ranks
Interest in growing vegetables and raising flowers has spread to the younger generations, Teal said.
Bloomberg and Business Insider have reported increased interest from millennials in growing plants.
“We are seeing younger people picking it up now,” Teal said. They are taking pride in raising their plants, she said.
Growing vegetables and flowers also provides satisfaction, Teal said.
A person can grow their own herbs for seasoning dishes, she said.
Vegetables also provide food.
Flowers and plants add a beauty to the outside of a living space.
“We’re so dark most of the year…,” Teal said.
How can a garden grow?
“Varieties of flowers should be selected according to the soil, the light requirements of the plants, the size of the area and the drainage,” according to the 1939 publication.
A 2009 South Dakota State University Extension planting report had this advice about choosing vegetables. “Is there room for long vines of squash and pumpkin, or do you need to look for bush varieties? Do you need to save space by trellising pole beans, or do you prefer the ease of bush plants? Do you need size-limited plants for container growing? Is your area windy? If so, you may want to choose short-growing varieties.”
Teal said to remember that three-to-four inch tomato plants today grow into three-to-four feet during the summer. Planters need to make sure they have space for those tomatoes.