The best plants you can buy for your first garden

Costa Farms

  • Whether you're maintaining a single planter box on a balcony or your seeding a multi-row garden in your back yard, gardening can be a satisfying, rewarding hobby resulting in beautiful flowers and tasty foods. You just have to choose the right plants for the climate, the season, and for your location.
  • The Kimberly Fern is our top pick because it will grow just about anywhere, from a pot in the corner of the office to a hanging planter to soil in the ground.

Gardening can be a challenge, but it's also a rewarding hobby that can beautify your home and yield a bounty of nutritious foods. If you're a beginner, however, you'll need to accept that the first garden you plant may not be worthy of a Better Homes and Gardens cover, but keep in mind that your gardening skills will advance year after year, allowing you to grow ever more vibrant flowers, hardy shrubs, and tasty vegetables.

Before you consider what plants to grow, think about where your garden will be situated. If you have an acre of land that gets great sunshine and plenty of rain, then you can plant as large or as small a garden as you want and you can grow all sorts of different plants. If you have only a few square feet of space on a balcony or patio and the area is usually shaded, you still have options, but they will be limited.

As for when you should start planting, that depends on where you live. The Old Farmer's Almanac suggests sowing seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last spring frost. The Urban Farmer lists the different planting schedules based on zones.

A rather handy home gardener myself (after years of struggle, of course), I've put together a list of great plants for a first garden that includes options ideal for full sun, shade, in-ground planting, and planter or pot planting, and we've included food plants along with decorative flora. It's up to you to turn the earth and dig the holes, set up your irrigation system, check soil pH, and provide fertilizer and water as needed. But if you do all of that for one of these easy-to-grow plants, you'll soon be enjoying your new hobby.

Here are the best plants you can buy for your first garden:

Keep scrolling to read more about our top picks.

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The best overall plant for your first garden

The best overall plant for your first garden
You can plant a Kimberly Queen Fern in the ground, in a planter on the deck, or in a pot in your kitchen or office, and it will do just fine.

So you don't have much of a green thumb, you say? Well, no worries there, you probably won't kill a Kimberly Queen Fern unless you set out to do so intentionally. These hardy, handsome plants can thrive in all sorts of environments, from a shaded porch to the corner of the bathroom to your back yard. They can survive with minimal fertilization and only need watering when their soil gets dry. And ferns grow larger and larger if given space, so use them to fill a yard.

Planted outside, a Kimberly Queen Fern can bask in the sun for multiple hours a day, but partial shade is also just fine. Indoors, the fern will serve as a natural humidifier and detoxifier, cleaning and freshening the air in your home or workplace. Just note that a Kimberly Queen Fern doesn't do well with freezing temperatures, so you'll have to cover or move them in the wintertime.

Pros: Can be planted almost anywhere, minimal maintenance required, purifies indoor air

Cons: Cannot survive in cold weather

Buy a Kimberly Queen Fern from The Home Depot for $22.62

The best easy-to-grow veggies

The best easy-to-grow veggies
If you can dig a series of small holes in the dirt and occasionally water something, then you can grow Seedz Certified Organic Carrot Seeds.

With a packet of Seedz Certified Organic Carrot Seeds, you could grow enough carrots to feed a small army. Or at least, a large family. Growing carrots is easy: Once the ambient outdoor temperature stays above 50 degrees (the ideal temperature range is between 60 and 70 degrees), simply plant the seeds a half-inch under the soil and a half-inch apart from one another. Then water them lightly, just enough to keep the soil moist. Just make sure you plant your carrot seeds where they will get plenty of sun.

If it seems like every seed is sprouting, consider thinning the ranks of the seedlings by cutting some of the sprouts at soil level so that the remaining sprouts are a few inches apart. They will let you know when they are ready by poking a portion of the edible root (the orange part) above ground. Also, consider starting yours early, like I do, in planters under a grow light, then moving them to the soil once the outside temperature is right.

While growing carrots is easy, it does require the right soil. Good soil for carrots is free of rocks and roots and is rich in nutrients. For best results, use a raised planter bed or dig out some earth and turn it with a bag of nutrient-rich soil from a nursery or hardware store. You carrots should be ready to pull and enjoy in about two months time, more or less.

Pros: Tasty and nutritious, easy to grow with little effort, large quantity of seeds

Cons: Requires specific soil conditions

Get a Packet of Seedz Certified Organic Carrot Seeds on Amazon for $7.88

The best flowering shrub

The best flowering shrub
You can order a Proven Winners Zinfin Doll Hardy Hydrangea that's already one year old and is ready to be planted, soon to burst with huge pink and white blooms of color.

Hydrangeas are robust plants that dazzle with huge, colorful blooms for more than three months out of the year, needing minimal maintenance. I know this personally not because of the huge hydrangea in my front yard that comes back bigger and brighter every year, but because of the one in the back I forgot about and left fully untended for three seasons and that nevertheless, flowers just fine.

In the winter, this Zinfin Doll Hydrangea will go dormant, only to come roaring back to life in the springtime, sporting multiple large pink and white flowers. After several years, a single hydrangea bush could grow to be as big as 8-feet across, filling your yard with welcome color.

Hydrangea blooms look great on the bush, of course, but they are also suitable as cut flowers arranged in a vase indoors. And with just a bit of trimming during the winter, these flowers will come back bigger and better each and every year. A single hydrangea bush looks lovely on its own, but they can also be massed to make borders or clustered with other shrubs, trees, or flowers.

Pros: Ready to plant, huge colorful blooms, extended blooming season

Cons: Plant looks scraggly in the winter

Buy a Proven Winners Zinfin Doll Hardy Hydrangea from The Home Depot for $28.14

The best flowers to grow from seed

The best flowers to grow from seed
Swiss Giants Pansies add a multicolored splash of natural vibrancy anywhere they are planted, from window boxes to pots and large flower beds.

Usually, one selects decorative flowers for their color above all other factors. Be they red roses, white and yellow daffodils, or violets, we choose a flower that will provide a dose of a certain color to our garden, patio, or planters. With a packet of Seed Needs Swiss Giants Pansy seeds, however, it's a different story. You plant pansies when you want all sorts of rich, vibrant colors brightening your property. At full bloom, these pansies will burst with different shades of yellows, pinks, reds, whites, and purples.

While the mix of bright and bold colors is the best thing about these Swiss Giants Pansies, their ease of planting and care are almost equally lovely. Simply sow them about a hal- inch under healthy topsoil and then keep the soil moist. So long as you plant your pansy seeds after the last frost of the season, you can count on shoots poking up within a couple of weeks and the first flowers blooming within a few weeks more. In the right conditions, you will enjoy colorful flowers for weeks or even months after that. I use them wherever I need extra color, such as between hedges and along the back fence.

Pros: Beautiful blend of colors, easy to plant, grow well in full sun to partial shade

Cons: Highly susceptible to cold temperatures

Buy a two-pack of Seed Needs Swiss Giants Pansy Seeds from Amazon for $8.85

The best blend of succulents

The best blend of succulents
The Radiant Rosette Succulent Collection from Shop Succulents is affordable and diverse, with each order containing a lovely variety of these hardy plants.

Succulents have seen a marked uptick in popularity in the last few years, and for a number of good reasons. First, they're handsome plants that are charming when small and striking when large. Second, they can be grown just about anywhere, depending on the local climate. They won't love being left outside in the freezing wintertime; we had succulents all over our yard when we lived in Southern California, but home is now New York, so the succulents are indoors.

Perhaps the best thing about succulent plants is that they are really easy to care for. Just water them every few weeks and they're good to go. (If you live in the desert, water a bit more often than that.) As succulents hold their moisture in their leaves, they don't require huge root structures, so they do well in all sorts of soil and planting arrangements. Many can even be planted hanging sideways to create a living wall installation.

The Shop Succulents Radiant Rosette Collection comes with as few as four hand-picked plants or can be ordered in a volume up to dozens and dozens of individual succulents. They are the ideal easy-care plant for the person who has neither the time nor the wherewithal to care for more needy species of flora.

If you're wondering what it's like to have plants shipped to you, one Amazon customer says that all of her succulents arrived "in perfect condition," while many reported that they would be ordering more succulents from the Shop Succulents soon.

Pros: Great indoors or outdoors, require minimal care, succulents can last for years

Cons: Customers can't choose the exact succulent types

Buy a 12-Piece Shop Succulents Radiant Rosette Collection from Amazon for $23.99

The best tomato plant

The best tomato plant
The Bonnie Plants Better Boy Tomato plant will yield a bounty of delicious, juicy tomatoes, many of which will weigh up to a pound each.

According to a study conducted by the National Gardening Association, 86% of American households that have a garden in which they grow food, plant tomatoes. When you order a Bonnie Plants Better Boy Tomato plant, you'll join those ranks in no time at all. It was our first successful food plant, and we now grow at least four varieties each year, Better Boys always among them.

The young tomato seedling arrives ready to be put into the dirt right away, and it will thrive in garden beds, large planters boxes, or in individual pots. Within a period of two months after planting, you should begin to harvest your first delicious, nutritious homegrown Better Boy tomatoes. The plant will then continue producing tomatoes for a number of weeks, easily offsetting the cost many times over thanks to the bounty of food you reap.

Growing tomatoes is a satisfying, relatively easy gardening project, especially when Bonnie Plants handles the first part of the process, raising the plant from seed to seedling. To grow the best possible tomatoes, you will need decent soil, lots of direct sunlight, and some supporting hardware, such as a tomato cone or trellis. You will also need to water the tomato plants regularly and will ideally feed the plants at least once or twice during their growth cycle.

The Bonnie Plants Better Boy Tomato plant can also be found as a four-pack for purchase.

Pros: Nutritious and delicious, plants arrive ready for immediate planting, quick and reliable shipping

Cons: Tomatoes require occasional hands-on support to thrive

Buy a Bonnie Plants Better Boy Tomato Plant from The Home Depot for $4.98
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