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Ninebark – Four Season Stunner!

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Scientific Name: Physocarpus opulifolius

Common Name: Ninebark

Common Species/Varieties: Little Devil, Summer Wine, Petite Plum

Common Colors: Gold, nearly-black, green, red

Plant Type: Shrub

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 2-8 USDA

Self-Seeding: Not typically

Bloom Season: Late Spring to Summer

Grows Best In: Sun to Some Shade

Fun Fact: Common ninebark is part of the Rose Family (Rosaceae).


Ninebark is another plant that just isn’t very picky. It does like somewhat moist soil best, but it will tolerate rocky and clay soil as well. Here in Colorado, we tend to have clay soil, so this plant is a great option for you if you are local. Ninebark gets its name from the way this shrub’s bark peels away in layers once it is mature. Ninebark has a showy foliage that begins growing in Spring, and lasts until late Fall. Tiny flowers growing in little groups pop out of the foliage in Summer, and after the flowers are spent, red berries are left behind. Even in Winter this plant adds interest to the landscape with its unusual peeling bark. Ninebark is truly an all-season interest plant – and it even makes a lovely cut flower arrangement filler.

Ninebark is attractive to bees when it’s in bloom with its pink or white flowers. It doesn’t require a lot of water once it’s established, but it will need more water than Russian Sage, for example. They also grow to be taller than Russian Sage at an approximate height of eight to ten feet tall and wide. Use Ninebark when you need hedges or erosion control without sacrificing visual interest in any season.

Ninebark is related to both Rose and Hawthorne. Native Americans used this plant to treat stomach ailments (always consult a medical professional before using plants in a medicinal capacity), or as a poultice for treating sores on the skin. While there’s not widely known meaning attributed to Ninebark as there are for many flowers, it’s relationship to Rose and Hawthorn make it reasonable to relate this plant with feelings of love.

Echinacea – A Pollinator Favorite!

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Scientific Name: Echinacea purpurea

Common Name: Coneflower

Common Species/Varieties: Bravado, Summer Flare, Green Jewel

Common Colors: Purple, yellow, orange

Plant Type: Flower

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 3-10 USDA

Self-Seeding: Yes

Bloom Season: Summerl

Grows Best In: Full sun or part shade

Fun Fact: Echinacea gets its name from the Greek word ekhinos, meaning Sea Urchin.

Echinacea is an absolute favorite of pollinators, and is the perfect plant for your garden if you want to feed the bees and attract colorful butterflies! It’s not a picky plant, and can grow even in rocky soil (but it won’t like very wet beds). It’s happy with four hours of sun, and it doesn’t care if that sun comes in the morning or afternoon. Echinacea is a drought tolerant plant once it’s established, but if you’re planting echinacea for the first time you’ll want to keep it well watered until it’s big and strong. Echinacea doesn’t spread, so you can rest assured that it will grow tall and stay put year after year. You can expect it to grow to around four feet in height, so plan to place it in the back or in the center of a grouping of plants. Cut echinacea flowers and put them in an indoor arrangement, and trim away dead flowers, in order to encourage new growth. Echinacea is self-seeding, so if you let some blooms go to seed at the end of the growing season (late Fall), they will scatter and sow new plants for you. Birds and squirrels looking for winter snacks will also benefit from allowing echinacea go to seed.

Echinacea has long been used as an immune booster and is said to have the ability to shorten or lessen the severity of colds. It’s commonly used as a tea, and often as a tincture as well. It was used by Native Americans often, and to treat many different kinds of ailments. It’s considered to be anti-inflammatory, and is used in herbalism to this day (but always consult a doctor before taking anything in a medicinal capacity). Echinacea is a flower symbolizing strength and health. It comes in many different color varieties. The main color is a magenta-ish purple, but it can be found in shades of pink, white, yellow, orange… and there’s even an echinacea that has coloring similar to that of a watermelon!

Ficus Audrey

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You might have seen the Mile Marker boards that parents create for their children – they highlight things like the height, weight, likes, and dislikes of their child at various stages of life. We at Nick’s Garden Center think Plant Parents should have something like this for their Plant Babies as well! Our Plant Parent Chalkboard Photos and blogs will provide you with an overview of what each plant needs in order to “grow up” happy and healthy!

Any Plant Parent will recognize the family of Ficus. The most popular Ficus plant is probably Ficus Lyrata – or Fiddle Leaf Fig. Ficus Lyrata is known for being difficult to care for, but Ficus Audrey is a little more forgiving. This member of the Moraceae family is the official tree of India and can grow to be 100 feet tall, and acres in width! However indoors you’re likely to see about one tenth of that growth, which is still quite impressive at up to 10 feet in height.

Ficus Audrey, or Ficus Benghalensis, grows on a trunk that eventually becomes a whitish color, and has leaves similar to Fiddle Leaf Fig, but rounded instead of shaped like a fiddle. Its foliage is dark green with neon green veins. It does occasionally flower, but its flowers are small and not significant.

Water Ficus Audrey with the top inch of soil is dry. Try not to over water in order to prevent damage to roots and to discourage development of pests like gnats. Use a soil that will stay evenly moist, and make sure your pot has good drainage. This is especially important with a plant that will get as big as Ficus Audrey will. With smaller plants it’s easy to gently tip an over-watered pot and allow excess water ro run out, but that gets rather difficult with a ten foot tree. Use a moisture meter to check on the saturation of the soil at the bottom of the pot before watering, and use the Drench and Drain method of watering.

Ficus Audrey needs bright indirect light, but she will let you know when she is getting too much light. Watch for round brown spots on the leaves, as this will indicate leaf burn which means the light it’s getting is too strong. Ficus Audrey is a good communicator and will let you know when it’s unhappy… basically by throwing its leaves like a toddler throws a temper tantrum. If your Ficus Audrey is throwing leaves, check on your moisture level and light strength. Make sure to rotate Ficus Audrey when the right light level is achieved in order to encourage even growth.

Keep Ficus Audrey way from small humans and animals as the sap inside the tree can cause irritation and could be toxic if ingested. It’s also important to make sure that Ficus Audrey is kept safe from drafts and vents as she likes an even climate. Keep Ficus Audrey in temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep her from throwing her leaves. When she’s happy, Ficus Audrey will return the favor by helping to keep the air in your space clean.

Because Ficus Audrey has some demanding requirements, we think she’s best suited for Plant Parents who have some experience with picky plants, or are ready to level up in their plant care efforts.

Don’t forget to download our Plant Parent Chalkboard image for future quick reference!

Happy Plant Parenting!

Snapdragons – A Colorful Garden Character

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Scientific Name: Antirrhinum majus

Common Name: Snapdragon

Common Species/Varieties: Rocket, Candy Tops

Common Colors: Available in most colors but white, yellow, and red are most common

Plant Type: Flower

Annual or Perennial: Perennial grown as Annual

Hardiness Zone: 7-11 USDA

Self-Seeding: Yes

Bloom Season: Spring through Fall

Grows Best In: Full sun or part shade

Fun Fact: Snapdragon seed pods look like tiny skulls, and are filled with many tiny seeds.

Snapdragons are aptly named for their appearance – they look like tiny colorful heads with yawning mouths. These mouths are difficult to pry open, so smaller insects are not able to pollinate them, but their colorful appearance is likely to help attract pollinators of all kinds to their location. Snapdragon will bloom in a big way in early Spring and in Fall, but don’t worry if the blooms slow down in the heat of summer. Watch for their trademark skull shaped seed pods as flowers begin to die, and pick them before seeds begin to ripen if you’re not looking for Snapdragons to volunteer in your garden the following season. Snapdragon plants typically grow taller than they do wider, but a bushier plant can be achieved by cutting back the stems a bit. Taller varieties might require the support of a stake. Snapdragons should be watered at the standard rate of about one inch of water per week. Deer are not fond of Snapdragons, so they can be planted near gardens where deer are a concern to help keep them away (combine them with Marigold for an extra boost of deer protection).

Snapdragons are not just beautiful in the garden. They make a lovely cut flower, and the blooms are edible. Freeze them in ice cubes for an added touch of color in your favorite drinks. These colorful blossoms are frequently found in “English” or “Cottage” style gardens, and are available in sizes from small to giant. In English folklore, magicians believed that Snapdragons had the ability to break curses. In Germany, Snapdragons were placed above a baby’s crib to keep it safe from evil spirits.

Snapdragons can be prone to Aphids, so keep them away from roses and other plants that are also susceptible to aphids. Grow near Chives to help keep aphids at bay.

Chives – Natural Aphid Control

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Scientific Name: Allium schoenoprasum

Common Name: Chive

Common Species/Varieties: Chives, Garlic Chives

Common Colors: Green foliage, purple flowers (Chives) or white flowers (Garlic Chives)

Plant Type: Flowering Herb

Annual or Perennial: Perennial

Hardiness Zone: 3-9 USDA

Self-Seeding: Yes

Bloom Season: Late Spring to Early Summer

Grows Best In: Full sun to some shade

Fun Fact: Not fun but important, chives are toxic to dogs and cats as they are part of the allium, or onion, family.


Chives are well known as a delightful addition to many foods, and are especially enjoyed on a baked potato loaded with sour cream and cheese or in a big bowl of potato soup. Slightly less well known is the fact that their blossoms are both edible and delicious! Collect Chive blossoms (Garlic or regular) at the peak of their bloom and place them in a mason jar. Add distilled white vinegar just to cover the blossoms. Continue to add blossoms and vinegar to the jar until its packed comfortably full. Give the jar a little tip upside down a few times every now and then, and in a few weeks, you’ll have a delicious tasting vinegar perfect for salads! An added bonus – if you are using purple blossoms the vinegar will be a beautiful magenta color.

Chives don’t do well when dried, but you can preserve them for later use by cutting them into tiny pieces and freezing them in a freezer-safe bag. Pour olive oil into an ice cube tray and add chopped chives to each section for a quick and tasty chive oil base for cooking. Chives are cut-and-come-again herbs, so you can trim the chives growing in your garden all Spring and Summer and they will continue to grow. Never take more than 30% of the overall plant and it should stay healthy and continue to grow heartily.

In addition to being a tasty treat, Chives are also beneficial in the garden as pest deterrents. Grown next to roses, Chives can help keep aphids at bay. This goes for any plants susceptible to aphids. Plant at least two or three chive plants per foot of height of rose bush. Along with aphids, Chives are said to help repel mites and Japanese Beetles (though we’ve yet to see anything truly repel Japanese Beetles). They can also be beneficial in keeping rabbits away.

Grow chives indoors in winter in pots to keep this tasty kitchen herb around all year long. Place your pot in a sunny and warm place indoors and keep it moderately watered. Don’t overwater chives as they can be susceptible to root rot, especially in a pot.

Chive blossoms left to go to seed can be beautiful in a garden if left to over-winter. Their rounded blossoms become light brown winter garden decor in the shape of delicate round fireworks. They make a beautiful addition to dried flower bouquets or homemade holiday wreaths and arrangements.

Pansy – One Tough Flower

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Scientific Name: Viola x wittrockiana

Common Name: Pansy

Common Species/Varieties: Bolero, Cool Wave, Joker, Black Magic

Common Colors: Available in nearly all colors, most often found in cool colors

Plant Type: Flower

Annual or Perennial: Perennial, usually grown as an Annual

Hardiness Zone: 7-10 USDA

Self-Seeding: Somewhat, but not prolific

Bloom Season: Late winter to Early Summer

Grows Best In: Cool weather or heavily shaded areas once warmer weather sets in

Fun Fact: Pansies are very cold hardy plants. Any blooms already open may die in a deep freeze, but if the freeze is temporary, the plant itself will survive and bloom again.


“Don’t be a pansy” is a phrase commonly used when the speaker is calling someone out for appearing weak – but this phrase is quite inaccurate as Pansies are rather tough little flowers! Pansies can survive low and even freezing temperatures, and not many flowering plants can boast that ability. They are quite tough, and can even stick around once hot temperatures arrive if planted in a cool or shaded area.

Pansies are edible and are often used as decorative live flowers on baked goods. They make a beautiful addition to spring rolls, as well. They can even be frozen into ice cubes for use in cocktails or a delicious lemonade!

While Pansies may not flower in the heat of the summer, they are likely to bloom again in Fall when temperatures cool down again. They may go dormant but the green leaves of the plant are absorbing energy from the sun as the plant avoids blooming in order to gather its resources for another round of beautiful blooming “faces” in the Fall. If Pansies grow leggy (tall and stretched out), they likely need more sun. If planting Pansies in bright sun, plant them near other plants that will provide shade during the summer. Deadhead the blooms (nip the spent blooms before they expire completely) to encourage more flowers. Keep Pansies relatively moist (don’t drown them, but don’t allow them to dry out) and remember to water in Summer to encourage re-blooming in Fall.

Pansies symbolise sympathy and care, and are also known to represent free thinking. William Shakespeare mentions Pansies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, and The Taming of the Shrew. Most often they represent love or affection in Shakespeare’s plays. Historically, pansies were used to treat eczema, convulsions, and inflammation (always consult a physician before employing the use of herbal or plant medicine). Pansy’s cousin, Violet, is the birth flower for the month of February, along with Primrose.

Marigold – Natural Pest Control

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Scientific Name: Tagetes spp.

Common Name: Marigold

Common Species: Signet, French, African

Common Colors: Reds, Oranges, Yellows

Plant Type: Flower

Annual or Perennial: Annual

Hardiness Zone: Annual in All Zones

Self-Seeding: Yes

Bloom Season: Summer leading well into Fall

Grows Best In: Full sun (but will tolerate some shade), moderate watering levels, and are generally not picky.

Fun Fact: Marigold is the traditional Birth Flower for October, along with Cosmos.

Marigolds are one of the most useful flowering plants found in the garden. They’re easy to grow, put on a beautiful show, have edible petals, and best of all… they are wonderful pest repellents.

Marigolds are known for repelling not only tiny pests like knot root nematodes (those are the nematodes that are not beneficial), tomato hornworms, cabbage worms, thrips, squash bugs, whiteflies, but they have also been known to repel even large pests like deer! Plant marigold around the border of your gardening space to help keep deer and rabbits away (though they have been known to pluck the marigold and toss it aside to get to the plants they love the most). To help with pests of the insect variety, plant Marigold near plants preyed upon by such pests – tomatoes, cabbage, squash, strawberries, roses, etc.

Culturally, Marigolds are associated with celebrating the souls of those who have passed. Known as Flor de Muerto (Flower of the Dead), Marigold is said to be the only scent that the dead are able to detect and therefore this flower is able to attract the souls of the dead. They feature heavily in the Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The flower is used to decorate Ofrendas (altars) dedicated to loved ones who have passed on from this world. Other western cultures have been known to refer to this flower as the “Herb of the Sun,” and it is associated with warm feelings of happiness and warmth.

Planting Marigold is easy, and can be done by simply scattering the seed and dusting the seeds with a light layering of soil. They germinate quickly, and are quite tough little plants. Keep the soil moist while the seed is germinating, and water at standard one inch per week levels after established. In the Fall during garden winterization, mulch the Marigolds into the soil to help keep nematodes at bay. Allow the flowers to self-seed in order to encourage more Marigolds for the next season.

Calathea Freddie

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You might have seen the Mile Marker boards that parents create for their children – they highlight things like the height, weight, likes, and dislikes of their child at various stages of life. We at Nick’s Garden Center think Plant Parents should have something like this for their Plant Babies as well! Our Plant Parent Chalkboard Photos and blogs will provide you with an overview of what each plant needs in order to “grow up” happy and healthy!

The Calathea family is vast and contains around 300 different kinds of Calathea! This blog will cover Calathea Freddie, or Calathea Concinna. Freddie’s foliage is the same general shape and size of other Calathea plants. Freddie’s foliage coloring starts with bright green and is overlaid with darker green zebra-like stripes and edging in the same shade. One thing that helps Freddie to stand out from other Calathea plants is its lack of reddish-purple undersides. When other Calathea plants fold up their leaves at night, they show off that rosey underleaf. Freddie is also more likely than other Calathea plants to develop flowers when grown indoors.

Caring for Calathea Freddie is similar to caring for other Calathea plants. Their water requirements are somewhat needy, so they require a bit more attention than some houseplants. Water Freddie when the soil is dry one to two inches down. Watering too soon can cause root rot, or encourage the growth of pests in the soil (if you see little black gnats flying around your  home, water your houseplants less often). Make sure Freddie is in a pot with soil that will remain evenly moist. It’s also important that your pot has good drainage. Use the Drench and Drain method – soak the soil and allow the excess water to flow out of the bottom of the pot. If your pot does not have good drainage, use a moisture meter to check the very bottom levels of the soil for moisture. If you over-water, gently tip the pot to the side and allow some water to trickle out without letting the soil or the plant dislodge from the pot.

Calathea Freddie enjoys indirect bright light and high levels of humidity (higher levels than most Calathea). With the right conditions, Freddie can grow to be 2-3 feet tall, making it a great floor plant. If you live in a place without much humidity, you can add a humidifier to Freddie’s space and mist its leaves. Freddie would be very happy in a bright bathroom, as well.

Make sure Freddie’s home is at a comfortable temperature of between 65 and 75 degrees fahrenheit, and keep Freddie away from drafts and vents. Calathea Freddie, like most Calathea plants, is said to be safe for pets and people, but we always recommend checking with veterinarians and doctors to be sure! Calathea is also known to be air cleaning, so it can help keep your space fresh. Because Calathea plants do require a bit more care than other plants, we recommend them for Plant Parents who have some experience.

Don’t forget to save our Plant Parent Chalkboard image for Calthea Freddie for future quick-reference!

Happy Plant Parenting!

Emerald Ripple Pepper

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You might have seen the Mile Marker boards that parents create for their children – they highlight things like the height, weight, likes, and dislikes of their child at various stages of life. We at Nick’s Garden Center think Plant Parents should have something like this for their Plant Babies as well! Our Plant Parent Chalkboard Photos and blogs will provide you with an overview of what each plant needs in order to “grow up” happy and healthy!

Peperomia is arguably one of the most popular groups of plants, and for good reason! They’re easy to take care of and can be placed in many different places throughout an office or home, they’re widely pet safe, and they can even help clean your air!

Peperomia Rosso comes from the Piperaceae family which is, you guessed it, the Pepper family! It is a compact little houseplant that can grow to be about 8 inches wide and high in general. It has similar coloring to many other peperomia (but you definitely still need *all* the peperomia) with its red stems and green leaves with nearly-black dark green grooves. The leaves are textured, giving them a look that’s worth a double-take. The flowers of Peperomia Rosso, like other Peperomia, are more like long spikes than typical petal-bearing flowers. They are generally mostly white and can have some green on the tips of the 2-3 inch spikes.

Water Peperomia Rosso when the soil is mostly dry. You don’t want to let it dry out completely, but too much water can cause root rot to take hold of this plant. If you’re unsure of how moist the soil still is deep down in your pot, try a Moisture Meter. This handy and inexpensive little tool will read the moisture level in your soil to help you find out how wet or dry the bottom is without bothering or unsettling the plant’s roots. It’s also very handy if your plant is in a pot with no drainage. Use caution when watering using this type of pot, and if you add too much water, gently tip the pot to the side (but not so far that the soil or plant start to fall out) to drain as much as you can. With pots that have good drainage though, use the “drench and drain” method to water. Allow the plant to sit under running water for a bit, and then let it sit until all the water has run out of the bottom. You can then replace the plant in its container or on its saucer. Just be sure to never let the plant sit in water to avoid root rot.

As we mentioned previously, placement of Peperomia Rosso is pretty wide open. While they do need light to grow and flourish, fluorescent light will do to satisfy this need. Because it’s pet safe, there’s no need to worry about placing it out of a pet’s reach (unless you’re worried about said pet tipping over your pot!). You’ll want to keep it away from heating vents and doors to avoid drafts, but only where extreme heat or cold is a worry. Peperomia Rosso is happiest in temperatures between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. To add to its easy going nature, Peperomia Rosso doesn’t even have a strict humidity requirement – it can handle typical household humidity.

Because of its ease of care and simple requirements, we think this is a great plant for beginners. It’s also a great plant to gift to someone who may not be familiar with plant care, or have a lot of time to give to caring for the plant. Travelers and busy humans will love this plant!

Owl Eye Peperomia

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You might have seen the Mile Marker boards that parents create for their children – they highlight things like the height, weight, likes, and dislikes of their child at various stages of life. We at Nick’s Garden Center think Plant Parents should have something like this for their Plant Babies as well! Our Plant Parent Chalkboard Photos and blogs will provide you with an overview of what each plant needs in order to “grow up” happy and healthy!

Another from the Plant Fan Favorite group, Peperomia, is the Owl Eye Peperomia, also known as Raindrop Peperomia. While many from the peperomia family (Piperaceae, the pepper family) grow to be around 8 inches tall and wide, Owl Eye Peperomia (Peperomia polybotrya) will make a slightly bigger statement with growth up to 12 to 15 inches tall and wide. Another difference can be found in the size and shape of the foliage of Owl Eye Peperomia. The heart shaped leaves are of a waxy texture and bright green color, and have a white “eye” (similar to Pilea Peperomioides) right where the stem meets the leaf. Like many Peperomia, the flowers of Owl Eye are long white spears rather than typical petal type flowers.

Most of the attributes shared by the Peperomia family are the same for Owl Eye Peperomia, which comes originally from Columbia and Peru. This plant is pet safe, cleans the air, likes bright, indirect light and will thrive in fluorescent light, should be allowed to mostly dry in between waterings, and as a result can be placed just about anywhere! It does like a bit of humidity, so a tray filled with pebbles and water for the plant pot to sit on top of, or a humidifier nearby, could be helpful to encourage the plant to thrive. Owl Eye Peperomia will do best with a well-draining soil, such as a peat-based compost or similar.

As with most of our houseplants, water by using the “Drench and Drain” method. When using a pot with good drainage (recommended), allow the pot to sit under streaming water and run through the holes at the bottom. Once you turn off the water, allow all of the excess water to drain out of the bottom of the pot. If your pot does not have good drainage, take proper precautions to not add so much water that the bottom of the plant is sitting in water. If you’re unsure, grab an inexpensive Moisture Meter and use it to determine the level of saturation at the bottom of the pot.

Keep Owl Eye Peperomia away from vents and doors where it will experience extreme heat or cold conditions, and dust the leaves every now and then to help the plant soak up as much light as it can, and to help keep it free of pests. Overall, this plant is very easy to care for and does not require much attention, so we feel it’s a great plant for beginners. It would also make a great gift for aspiring Plant Parents in your life, and for any plant lovers who travel often or don’t have a lot of time to devote to plant care.

Happy Plant Parenting!