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I want to see the flowers before I buy and plant them!

I want to see the flowers before I buy and plant them!

Bob Sussman 2/17/2021


We’re told early on that it’s better to plant plants/flowers before they bloom not while they’re blooming or worse after they bloom. Now there is a lot of truth to this. However, planting just when your new plants are starting to grow will produce more flowers and bigger plants, at least in the first year. All true but how do you know what the flowers look like unless they are in bloom? We’ll most of the flowering plants we buy have little pictures attached on the pot or we can see them on the “web”.  Assuming the pictures are accurate and your flowers will look like the pictures, all is good.

But, always a but, what about plants that are first blooms? These are generally new hybrids that are blooming for the first time. We’ll, you can buy them early before they bloom and take your chances. To borrow a phrase “do you feel lucky?” Or you can wait and see the flowers and then plant, the bird in the had approach. Is this a bad idea? No, it’s not. If you select one of our California natives while they are blooming how should you treat them and what should you expect?

If you plant late in the season just plant the same way you’d plant any of our natives, in the right place, dig the hole and water….and on and on . The differences are that when you hit the season where the plant begins to slow in their growth, spring,  in general continue to water deeply but somewhat less frequently or you can rot the roots.

I’m writing this with our new pacific coast iris hybrids in mind. The flowers on the new first blooms are always a surprise. Even with the same cross parents you/we get a very large distribution. Last year was an exceptional year for new blooms. This year we’ll have roughly twice as many new hybrids that will flower for the first time. The flowers are all individuals and we are too. Some of us like deep reds, others like shades of blue or purple, or heavily veined and because of this it makes sense to wait until you see the flowers.

Then bring them home and for irises plant them in the shade. Water weekly until late May then drop the watering frequency to 1x or maybe if the soil is well draining 2x/month. Less watering is better then more. If things are working out they stay green over the summer and begin to grow again in early winter and you’ll get the same flowers each spring like the first just more of them!

Here are a few representative first blooms from last year. They range from all shades for purple, reds, and yellow and combinations and veining of different colors. There were roughly 400 new first blooms last year and double this year. Given we had about 400 new first blooms it wasn’t easy picking a representative few!

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Featured Plant

Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' - California Lilac


Botanical Name

Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman'

Common Name

California lilac


Flower Color


Mature Size

12 tall × 10 wide

Climactic Requirements


Full Sun / Filtered Sun


Drought Tolerant / Occasional
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