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Gardening with Mother Evelyn: Plants that bloom year-round

Almost every day at Weidner’s Gardens and at every other Garden Center, homeowners ask: “What do you have that blooms all year?”

Then they also want low care, low water — and will it grow in both sun and shade? We laugh and say, “Sorry, Mother Nature just doesn’t do that.”

But there are plants that do bloom all year long. I’m going to tell you about two of my favorites.

Choice No. 1: Dipladenia? Mandevilla? Which is it and what’s the difference?

Answer: All Dipladenias are Mandevillas, but not all Mandevillas are Dipladenias. They are similar, but the Dipladenias have smaller, more leathery leaves and grow more shrub-like. Caring for them is similar, but only the Dipladenia will bloom all year here in our sunny Southern California climate.

Whoa! Slow down — I can hear you now — my Dipladenia doesn’t bloom all the time!

That is because you probably planted it in the ground, and it needs to keep its roots warm and cozy over the winter, a little bit like your old auntie who likes the thermostat turned up to 78 degrees all the time. Planted in the ground, they suffer through the winter and then take forever to come back into bloom.

Remember Mother Evelyn’s rule: Give the plant what it likes best, and your plant will give you its best performance.

Grow your Dipladenia in a nice large but not huge pot. Give it at least a full half-day or more of sun. Remember to fertilize it all year long. Keep it watered, but a little on the drier side in the winter. They do not like cold or dampness, so don’t put your plant where the roof water will drain onto it. Watch for aphids in spring.

Do those simple things and your Dipladenia Red Riding Hood, Scarlett Pimpernel or White Faire Lady will give you blooms all year long. For more fun facts and advice, go to www.goodgardenadvice.com.

Choice No. 2: Scaevola aemula, Blue Wonder

You know them as Blue Fan Flower or Scaevola Blue Wonder. There are white Scaevolas, too. New and improved varieties come out every year. This Australian native is a true day-length-neutral plant. Slows down a little over the winter, but still enough color to keep us all happy.

(For answers about day length and how Evelyn got the Dipladenia Red Riding Hood to America, go to goodgardeningadvice.com.)

Scaevolas have many uses and are available in many sizes. They can be in small pots for planting in the ground as a ground cover, to every size in between, up to big gorgeous baskets.

Look up Scaevola on the Internet, and it is often described as drought- and heat-tolerant. This is true to a certain extent in the ground, but in a basket or smaller pot, they wilt easily and do not come back gracefully.

If you want a spectacular easy-care plant, then plant it in a large pot, especially a large tall one. Your Scaevola never stops blooming or growing. The stems just get longer and longer. Give it that big beautiful pot and follow the few simple hints below, and you will have an all-year bloomer.

On top of that, it’s not a messy plant that will drop dead flowers all over your patio.

Here are your handy hints: Sun, at least a full afternoon or all day. Keep it watered, especially in containers — “drought tolerant” doesn’t mean it will look its best without water!

Fertilize with a food that has a low middle number. That is the phosphorus part of your fertilizer mix. Australian soil does not have any phosphorus in it. All Aussie natives will do better with less of this element, and most do not like a lot of fertilizer. Check your fertilizer label and know what you are using.

Because your Scaevola flowers just disappear into nothing, you do not need to deadhead them. However, because those same stems never stop growing and blooming, that means they get longer and longer. To keep your plant at its best and most beautiful, take the longest lower branches and cut them back about halfway or so every few months. You’ll get better growth and better blooms.

With good care, your average Scaevola, in a large pot or in the ground, should look good for at least three to five years. Plant it in a beautiful pot, follow the hints and you will love it.

Until next time, this is Mother Evelyn helping you to garden better.


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