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15 easy-to-grow plants for spring gardening

If you’re the kind of gardener whose green thumb tends more toward brown, or if you simply don’t have time to feed and water plants and chase away the deer — don’t despair. New varieties of reliable flower favorites are easy to grow and yet unusual enough to make you look like a champion gardener.

The best plants for busy gardeners are natives and perennials, says Gene Sumi, education coordinator for Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville. It’s hard to go wrong with old standbys like black-eyed Susans, coneflowers and perennial geraniums. These natives are accustomed to Maryland’s hot, humid summers and beneficial to bees, butterflies and birds. It also helps to pick plants that are disease-resistant, don’t require a lot of fertilizer and aren’t attractive to deer.

While native plants and perennials are the easiest to tend, Carrie Engel, green house manager of Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, also recommends adding some annuals for immediate impact while you’re waiting for the perennials to grow. Petunias, celosias, bidens, begonias, vincas and lantanas are reliable winners.

But reliable doesn’t have to mean boring. Every year, companies graft, clone or hybridize plants to create cultivars, or variations of the plant developed to have certain colors or dimensions. This gives gardeners a twist on standard native plants like coneflowers, which are purple in their natural state but come in cultivars of red, orange and other shades.

Here are five new annuals to get you started and 10 new perennials that will bring color to your garden year after year. While there’s no such thing as a foolproof plant, these should be relatively easy to handle.

By Liz Atwood, For The Baltimore Sun
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