Choosing the right combination of flower varieties and colors can make a big difference in the beauty and impact of a flower bed or border. It is important to choose flower varieties which are adapted to the amount of sun, shade and heat of the location. Although color choice is a matter of taste, certain combinations are more pleasing than others.

Impatiens, begonias and pansies are three of the best annuals for shady locations. Perennial alyssum, astilbe, columbine, bleeding heart and hosta are some of the most widely available shade tolerant perennial flowers.

For east or sunny north exposures, lobelia, poppies and snapdragons grow well. Perennials such as delphinium, foxglove, lupine and rock cress also prefer cool locations.

Heat tolerant flowers are the best choice for full sun and south and west exposures. Our most popular annuals such as alyssum, petunia, marigold, geranium and zinnia prefer these areas. Heat tolerant perennials include daylily, baby’s breath and Oriental poppy. All of these flowers need at least 5 hours of direct sun a day. They can tolerate reflected heat from buildings and paved areas as well.

There are dozens of other good flower choices for each type of location. Some flowers, such as pansy, are adaptable to a wide range of conditions. If you are not sure, check with an experienced gardener, nurseryman or book on flowers.

For small or narrow beds, sometimes the best choice is a single color which coordinates well with adjacent buildings. Choose bright colors like red, orange or pink to attract attention. Pastel colors create a more restful atmosphere.

Two or more shades of a single color can be very attractive. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel (known as complimentary colors) are also very pleasing. Blue and orange or purple and yellow are two of my favorite complimentary color combinations for flowers.

White can be combined with any other color to make a contrasting two-color combination. Pastel pink and deep burgundy is a striking combination. The only color combinations which I personally find distracting are bright pink combined with red or orange. That is why I seldom combine petunias with marigolds. The only marigold color which seems to combine well with petunias is yellow. And the only petunia colors which seem to combine well with marigolds are white and violet blue.

When two or more kinds of flowers are planted together, the taller kinds are traditionally placed in back with the shorter ones in front. However, placing the taller varieties in the middle of a large bed with shorter ones in front and back can be very attractive. Use an irregular S curve of the taller variety in the middle using a third or less of the bed. Fill in the rest of the bed with a shorter variety. With some experience, you can combine several kinds and colors of flowers.