Updated: Jul 8
Image credit: Caleb Woods Unsplash
July fourth — America’s Independence Day — celebrates the birth of the nation and its independence from England. The red, white, and blue colors of the flag abound at barbeques, parades, and fireworks. These three colors are steeped in symbolism that dates from the time of heraldry. Red symbolizes hardiness, sacrifice, and valor; white signifies purity of purpose, innocence, and hope; and blue means loyalty, perseverance, and justice.
Flowers can play a part in the celebration, too, and can carry the symbolism from the colors of the flag. You can plant a patriotic bed or use the flowers for a July fourth cut flower arrangement. There are a number of beautiful red, white, and blue flowers for your garden that are easy to grow and that are in bloom through Independence Day. Early July is an excellent time in the garden, when a lot of the flowers are at their best. Here are some suggestions for July fourth flower combinations.
Red White Blue
Carnation Alstroemeria Bachelor’s Button
Dianthus Carnation Delphinium
Lobelia Daisy Iris
Rose Dianthus Lobelia
Salvia Lobelia Lupine
Zinnia Rose Salvia
Alstroemeria, Peruvian Lily, Lily of the Incas (Alstroemeria sp.)
Alstroemerias are beautiful herbaceous perennials that grow from tubers every spring. Their trumpet-shaped flowers are a favorite in florists’ arrangements and will last at least two weeks in a vase. Over 50 species are native to South America with numerous cultivars that come in a rainbow of colors, one of which is white. Plant the tubers in spring after the soil has warmed in moist, well-draining soil. They make excellent additions to the garden, and also do well in containers. Alstroemerias grow best in part shade and like to be kept consistently moist, but not wet. Mulching can help with this. They are hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9.
Bachelor’s Button, Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
There are two species of Centaurea that are known as Bachelor’s Button or Cornflower, but only one of them, Centaurea cyanus, is an annual that will bloom over the Fourth of July. You can plant seeds in the spring after danger of frost is passed, and expect up to 2.5’-3’ tall stalks with bright blue flowers by late spring. Deadheading the spent flowers will encourage them to keep blooming through the summer, although they will self-seed if the fruits are allowed to ripen. Bachelor’s Buttons are great for brightening up a garden or for adding the color blue to an Independence Day cut flower bouquet. C. cyanus grows in USDA hardiness zones 2 to 11 and prefers full sun or dappled shade.
Carnation, Clove Pink (Dianthus caryophyllus)
Spicy, perky carnations are herbaceous perennials that typically flower for three to four years. Since they have been cultivated for over 2,000 years in the Mediterranean area, several colors have developed, including red and white. Carnations are easy to grow, they reach an average height of 24”, and need full sun and well-draining soil in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. They can be grown in containers in addition to the garden and can be encouraged to put out more blooms if spent flowers are deadheaded.
Daisy: Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare, syn.Chrysanthemum leucanthemum), Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum × superbum)
Oxeye Daisy is the flower of daisy chains and the childhood petal game, “S/he loves me, s/he loves me not.” It is native to Europe, and has naturalized widely in North American meadows. Oxeye Daisies are herbaceous perennials that grow readily in sun to partial shade in the garden. They have white flowers 1”-3” in diameter and grow 1’-3’ high. Oxeyes flower from late spring through the summer in USDA zones 3 to 8 and make a perfect addition to Independence Day gardens or cut flower bouquets.
Shasta Daisies are herbaceous perennial hybrids named after Mount Shasta in California. They can grow taller than Oxeye Daisies, up to 4’, and their flowers can grow to 5” in diameter depending on the variety. These classic, white beauties bloom in USDA zones 5 to 9 and prefer full sun. They flower from late spring to fall and make a bold statement when grown in a grouping. Shasta Daisies are a favorite among florists for their sweet innocence and long vase life.
Delphinium, Candle Larkspur, English Larkspur (Delphinium elatum)
Delphinium, an herbaceous perennial native to Europe, sends up 4’-8’ tall spikes of bright blue flowers from spring to late summer. They will bloom again in the fall if deadheaded during the first flowering. Delphiniums prefer full sun, but like their roots to be cool, so a sunny spot with mulch is in order. They grow best in USDA zones 3 to 7 and provide a beautiful blue backdrop for a mixed border, against a wall, or in a cottage garden. They are not edible by humans or four-legged pets since all parts of the plants are poisonous!
Dianthus, Sweet William, Pinks (Dianthus barbatus)
Cute little Dianthus flowers with their fringed edges come in white and deep red, among other colors. They are related to carnations and have a similar spicy scent, but they are smaller, only growing 6”-18” tall and they are biennials or short-lived perennials. Dianthus are excellent bedding or container plants that grow in the sun from May through the fall in USDA zones 3-9.
Iris (Iris spp.)
There are around 300 species of Iris native to much of Europe, the Middle East, northern Africa, Asia, and North America. In addition, hundreds of varieties have been developed that come in a rainbow of colors, including shades of blue that are beautiful in an Independence Day garden or a cut flower bouquet. They grow from perennial rhizomes or bulbs and reach anywhere from 8” to 36” high. In general, Irises need full sun for at least part of the day to bloom in the spring and summer in USDA zones 3-9.
Lobelia (Lobelia spp.)
Lobelias are native to a band of temperate and tropical areas around the world. There are over 400 species that are either annual or perennial, 12”-4’ high, terrestrial or aquatic, and in a number of colors. There are beautiful red, white, and blue lobelias that would grace a garden, window box, or container. The bloom time and hardiness zones (2 to 11) are dependent on the variety, so if you’re planning an Independence Day garden, choose a midsummer-flowering Lobelia for your zone. They grow well in full sun to partial shade with consistently moist soil.
Lupine (Lupinus spp.)
There are nearly 200 species of Lupine, but Lupinus polyphyllus, known as Bigleaf or Garden Lupine, is a popular ornamental with numerous hybrids and cultivars in a variety of colors, the most common of which is bright blue. This is an herbaceous perennial that can grow to 4.5’ tall, and that does best in full sun to dappled shade in soil that is not heavy with organic matter. Since it is a legume, Lupine will fix the nitrogen in the soil, making it a useful companion plant in the garden. Its tall spikes of blue flowers can brighten a garden or enhance a bouquet at its bloom time in midsummer, just in time for the fourth of July. It is hardy to USDA zones 5 to 9.
Rose (Rosa spp.)
The beauty of roses is not only seen in gardens worldwide and in classic bouquets, but also in art and poetry. Rose oil is a fragrant perfume and flavoring, and the fruit of some species (rose hips) are a good source of vitamin C. There are more than 150 species of these valuable perennial shrubs that are native to the temperate areas of the northern hemisphere with thousands of cultivars. Fewer than ten species have been the source of today’s amazing hybrids as bush, climbing, and miniature types. Roses come in many colors — red and white being the most appropriate for an Independence Day motif. Most of the cultivars today bloom on and off from spring to fall and are known as “everblooming,” while species or antique roses only bloom once a year, or once in the spring and once in the fall. They all do best in direct sunlight, but can do almost as well in bright, indirect light. Depending on the variety, roses can thrive in USDA zones anywhere from 3 to 10.
Salvia, Ornamental Sage:
Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea)
Scarlet Sage (Salvia splendens)
Native to Texas and Mexico, Mealycup Sage is perennial in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 11, and is grown as an annual in colder zones. It grows 1’-3’ high, and the blue varieties are truly blue, making them excellent border or bedding plants for a July Fourth garden. They grow in full sun to partial shade and display their spikes of flowers from May until late fall.
Scarlet Sage is a native of Brazil and is commonly seen in gardens throughout the U.S. It is a tender perennial only in zones 10 and 11, and it is grown as an annual in cooler zones. Scarlet Sage matures to a height of 1’-2’ and its brilliant red flowers bloom in June through late fall in sun to partial shade.
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
These bright discs of color are cheerful additions to a summer garden. Zinnias come in a variety of colors with red commonly seen, and white available but less common. They are annuals in USDA zones 2 to 8 that grow readily from seed, and perennials in zones 9 to 11. They are native to South America, Mexico, and the southwestern U.S. Zinnias grow 1’-4’ tall in full sun and bloom from late spring through late fall.
Red, white, and blue flowers for Independence Day gardens and bouquets are easy to come by. But when you’re planning a patriotic display, make sure that the varieties of the flowers you plant will all be in bloom by the beginning of July so that your garden will pop with the colors of the flag. Happy gardening!