If you are like me, red is your favorite color so I try to place as much red in the yard as possible.  In general much foliage will color it down a little and let you add such colors as yellow and orange (orange is red with yellow added.) I have noticed many people do not like orange.

          One of my favorites for a background is Tithonia, aka (also known as) The Torch.  There are two sizes so check the seed packet.  It is a coarse leaved plant.  I have had it get 6 feet tall with sunflower like blooms of bright reddish orange.  It is a little temperamental to get started for me. It is a sun and heat lover so the soil needs to be warm or it won’t germinate and after coming up a cold spell can cause the leaves to yellow.  They are 3 lobed, toothed leaves with hairs on the underside as long as 12 inches.  Deadheading will bring on new blooms until frost.

          The easiest plant to grow that I know of is a daylily and there are many reds, oranges, and yellows out there.  One author says there are over 30,000 “named cultivars”. They are natives of China, Korea, and Japan.  Most of the flowers only last one day, but are on branches with a number of buds so their bloom time is for several weeks.  You can find sizes from 6 inches to 3 feet to fit anywhere you want that color.  Many people have worked with day lilies to create those 30,000 cultivars, so all colors and petal variations occur.  The plants prefer full sun and a moist but not wet soil. They are an easy plant to divide almost any time but I like to avoid the hottest months.  Yellow supposedly brings happiness while orange and red warmth and excitement. However, reds tend to fade in full sun.

          One plant that has all three of our colors is the Canna “Tropicana” with variegated foliage in a number of colors (burgundy, pink, yellow, red, and green) then topped off with a bright orange flower. They may grow up to 6 feet, even in a large pot in full sun to part shade.  As they are tropicals from Asia and South America, the bulbs must be dug before freezing.  Many of my Cannas are very prolific and I dig many more than I plant, but not Tropicana.  I have lost them over winter as they dry up easily or if damp, rot easily. If you don’t like those wild colors, there are easier ones to reproduce with green or reddish green leaves and bright red flowers.  These I store in vermiculite during the winter. With their big tropical leaves and 6 foot heights, they make a good background for any flower bed or a centerpiece in a round one.

          To get a blast of our killer colors try a clump of Crocosmia bulbs, only hardy to zone 6. The bulbs seems small to me for as tall as they can get. Lucifer is a brilliant red with pleated, mid green, 24 to 36 inches long leaves, and only about 1 inch wide. If you can find it Jackanapes, aka Fire King, is only 24 inches tall but has our three colors of orange, red and yellow flowers.  They prefer full sun but can do well in light shade.

          All of us grew up with Zinnias in most of the United States, and is one of the easiest annual to grow.  Kids are given the seeds for their first garden as the seeds are fairly big and easy to handle and come up fast.  They come in creeping form, short ones, and taller up to 30 inches. Natives of Mexico and South America, they do well in hot dry places, and come in many colors. There are even Cactus and Dahlia flowered ones.  Each spring I hunt for plants of a double flowered, 12 inches tall, brilliant red or orange (or both) to plant in a corner on the parkway. They seem to deadhead themselves, and bloom from May to October with hardly any attention.  Many blooms to each plant, they completely cover their space so weeds don’t stand a chance. The taller Zinnias can be seeded in after you pull off the dead bulb foliage. They pop up at once and are blooming in a few weeks. There are even green petalled ones.

          Our red, yellow, and orange are found in Persian Carpet and may have all three in one flower.  Most of these need to be deadheaded to get new blooms. And there is a vine that will give you this combination of colors called Spanish Flag (Ipomea lobata) and is sometimes called Mina lobata.  The flowers are several inches long with spikes aligned along the ends of many stems. The blooms start out red and fade to orange, yellow, and white so at any time all of the colors will be there together.  I like to start several plants on a small trellis inside at least a six foot taller sphere. It will fill up the entire space and seed packets say it will climb 20 feet.

          The Red Hot Poker, aka as Torch Flower (Kniphofia), is from Africa and has many color combinations of yellow, red, and orange, growing from 2 to 4 feet.  They form a good sized clump with skinny, grass like leaves. Not all  species are hardy in Nebraska so check before buying.  I have several clumps of plants that bloom on a sturdy spike that may get taller than the leaves.  The spike is surrounded entirely by tubular blooms. Some varieties are solid red, yellow, or orange and others have one color of blooms at the base of another at the top. Since they like sandy soil with hummus, I plant in a sloping area so they can drain well.

Copyright 2012