180 Plants to Plant – Yikes!

It’s all too easy to get overenthusiastic when buying plants. There are dozens upon dozens of vendors all selling hundreds and hundreds of perennials, annuals, shrubs, ground covers and trees.

Waiting to be planted or potted

Waiting to be planted or potted.

If you’re like me, you can’t resist. You buy too much and then find yourself staring at a huge mass of young potted plants all wanting your attention. What do you do when you’ve put yourself into this situation?

In the past, my common response is to get overwhelmed and overcome by anxiety. The feeling of “I can’t do all this!” becomes true. Soon, new plants are dying in their pots from lack of water.

For me, and maybe for you, it’s very hard to cope with being overwhelmed. Here’s a look at the obstacles I’m facing and what I’m doing to make the situation less distressing.

More waiting plants

More waiting plants

Once again, the weather is getting hot and I have a gazillion plants to put in the ground or in pots. As I’ve mentioned before, I am quite intolerant of heat, so I may have to change my sleep schedule radically to be able to work in the early morning. This prospect does not fill me with joy, because I am very much a night person.

Two flats of mixed annuals

Two flats of mixed annuals

Do I really have 180 plants to plant? I don’t know – it’s just a round number based on what I can count. I know I have 96 annuals, because I bought two flats (one of them, I’m ashamed to say, just two days ago). I purchased another 58 perennials, shrubs, ground covers and tender plants (all but one by mail order), so that’s a total of 154. While some of these plants have been put in pots temporarily, only two are in their permanent positions.

So of the purchased plants – two down, 152 to go.

But wait! That’s Not All!

Iris 'Immortality'

Iris ‘Immortality’ blooming in a pot

This doesn’t count all the plants that were taken out of the island bed and slope garden! Counting pots doesn’t help here, because many of these plants will have to be divided before replanting.

For example, my two original ‘Immortality’ irises have become six or seven. One pot of Siberian irises could make at least 3 plants (depending on the pot size). Every pot of daylilies could make two to six plants. Isn’t that a fun thought?

It’s Classic Marcia Behavior

*Sigh* I do this every year (in years when I’m not depressed). Hell, I made myself a vow not to buy plants this year AT ALL, and look what happened. This was to be the year of renewal and renovation, and NOT a year of new plants. The only planting was to be RE-planting of perennials that had to be dug out in preparation for the renovations.

Platycodon 'Sentimental Blue' - Balloonflowers

Platycodon ‘Sentimental Blue’ – Balloonflowers

It’s some consolation that 96 of them are two flats of annuals. Pots of pansies, yellow petunias, red petunias and portulaca can dress up the front steps and back patio. Lobelias might dress up a planter with ‘Elijah Blue’ festuca.

I might leave ‘Sentimental Blue’ balloonflowers in the planter that was supposed to be temporary and add some white pansies, then plant the balloonflowers in fall.

The big white dahlias, since they are not hardy here, could get stuck in the ground just about anywhere there is sunlight most of the day, or be put in large planters.

Reducing Anxiety, One Step at a Time: Step 1

The first step in making the job less frightening is to list the plants. I used a spreadsheet with six columns. I only listed the purchased plants minus the two flats of annuals, figuring that those would be used as fillers and enhancements. Here’s a sample of the finished sheet:

Quantity Variety PLANT POT Undecided Notes:
1 Hosta ‘Fire and Ice’ X Back shade bed
1 Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ X With some annuals
3 Veronica ‘Royal Blue’ X Large pot?

Step 2 – Things I Must Plant

Once everything was entered, I began evaluating which really needed to go into the ground. For each of those, an X went into the “Must Be Planted” column. At the end, these were on that list:

Hosta 'Patriot'

Hosta ‘Patriot’

  1. 2 Mock orange shrubs (need to amend soil before planting)
  2. 2 Irises – ‘Sea Power’ and ‘Raven Girl’
  3. Hosta ‘Patriot’
  4. Hosta ‘Dancing Queen’
  5. Hosta ‘Fireworks’
  6. Hosta ‘Fire and Ice’
  7. Hosta ‘Virginia Reel’
  8. Hosta ‘Blue Ivory’
  9. Lespedeza ‘White Fountain’
  10. 3 Dianthus ‘Heart Attack’
  11. 3 Verbena ‘Snowflurry’
  12. Heuchera ‘Venus’
  13. 3 Dahlias ‘Snow Cap’ (these could go into large planters)
  14. Achillea ‘Desert Eve Terracotta’

Step 3: Plants for Containers

I sorted the spreadsheet to put all of these at the top, then turned my attention to the remainder, deciding what would – or could – do well for the summer in planters. Most of these are smaller plants that can grow and develop stronger root systems and then be put in the ground in the fall:

Festuca 'Elijah Blue'

Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’

  1. All or virtually all the annuals
  2. Festuca ‘Elijah Blue’ (ornamental grass)
  3. Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ (ornamental grass)
  4. Lemongrass (annual in my area – actually is already planted)
  5. Sedum ‘Sunsparkler Cherry Tart’
  6. Sedum ‘Candy Raspberry Truffle’
  7. Sedum ‘Blue Spruce’
  8. Sedum dasyphyllum
  9. Sedum ‘Marina’
  10. 3 Balloonflowers ‘Sentimental Blue’
  11. Fuschia ‘Gartenmeister Bonnstedt’ (annual in my area) in a hanging basket
  12. 3 Dwarf false cypresses: ‘White Pygmy,’ ‘Cumulus’ and obtuse nana lutea.
  13. Buddleia ‘Buzz Ivory’ (dwarf shrub)
  14. Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’ (dwarf tree)

Step 4: Look at What’s Left

This leaves undecided:

  1. 2 Daylilies (‘Siloam Amazing Grace’ and ‘Marque Moon’)
  2. 3 Veronica ‘Royal Blue’
  3. 9 White astilbes (3 of each of 3 varieties)
  4. Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’
  5. Shasta daisy ‘Banana Cream’ (intended for island bed, which is not ready)
  6. 3 Daylilies ‘Going Bananas’ (ditto)

Broken down this way, the once overwhelming task feels far less daunting. I was able, more easily than I’d expected, to decide where to plant the items on the “Must Plant” list.


When I add in all the perennials we removed from two entire existing gardens, the prospect becomes awfully intimidating again, especially since I don’t know how many plants each pot will yield.

And then I remember all the weeds that still have to be removed…

At this point it could be easy to fall back into a welter of anxiety. The answer is there already, though:

I’ll do the jobs I have been able to plan. When it’s too hot and/or sunny to work in gardens, I can work on planters in the garage in the morning, or on the back patio when it’s shaded in the afternoon. When it’s cloudy and not horribly hot, I can stick plants in the slope bed, where the soil is excellent already.

As for the weeds, the “undecided” items, and the plants reserved from the two gardens that needed renovation, I’ll re-evaluate I’ve finished the first phase of planting and potting.

It should work.

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