Ten easy flowers to grow in Oklahoma

Zinnia angustifolia x elegans ‘Profusion Apricot.’ In this photo, the weather has cooled a bit and given the zinnia its pinker color.

I haven’t done a ten easiest in awhile, so I thought I’d update us all with flowers instead of veggies. I get a lot of searches from folks who want to know how to garden in our very tough conditions, and I’m here to help. Some of these flowers may not work in every situation, and in some states may even be aggressive or invasive. Not so here. It is a testament to our tough growing conditions that there isn’t a large invasive plant list in Oklahoma.

Pink garden phlox with black-eyed Susans (rudbeckia)
  1. Rudbeckias in all their forms. The easiest one to grow is R. fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm.’ It was selected as the Perennial Plant of the Year in 1999 and with good reason. It is simple to grow. However, it does spread by rhizomes and seed and can be quite aggressive if you don’t keep it in check especially in areas with irrigation. I make sure its dark seedheads are promptly chopped off to prevent spreading. Other rudbeckia cultivars are ‘Irish Eyes’ which has a lovely green eye, and a couple of newer ones, ‘Cherry Brandy’ and ‘Denver Daisy’ (both of which I bought to try this year.)

    Iris ‘Oklahoma Centennial’ I know it’s purple.
  2. Irises. They don’t bloom for a long time, but they are magical when they do, and their foliage is simply spiky and lovely all at the same time. Grow a few and enjoy their sonata to spring. Personally, I like blue irises and yellow ones. It’s just my thing.

    One of the easiest peonies you can grow, ‘Karl Rosenfeld’ peonies with birdbath.
  3. Peonies. Herbaceous in the sun, and Tree peonies in the shade. Give the herbaceous type (which come up from the ground every spring) some extra support in case it rains. You can almost always count on it raining during peony and Arts Festival season.

    OSO Peachy Cream rose
  4. Roses. I know what you’re thinking . . . just bear with me. Roses can be easy and some of the easiest I’ve found are the OSO Easy rose collection. I was given OSO Easy Paprika as a trial plant a few years ago, and she has performed under some very severe conditions. In fact, I just moved her to a new location the other day, and I should have done it in February when she was dormant. This will be her biggest trial yet. I loved Paprika so much, I purchased OSO EasyPeachy Cream which has also done famously. These are small roses so place them at the edge of a border if you try them. I think I’ll buy OSO EasyStrawberry Crush if I see it at the nursery. Maybe I should do a Top ten roses for Oklahoma sometime.

    Hemerocallis ‘Spider Miracle’ from last summer. Easy to grow.
  5. Daylilies. Everyone knows I love daylilies, but part of the reason is they’re so easy to grow. Give them some water, fertilizer and sun, and you have a month of beautiful blooms. Choose three plants, early, mid and late blooming, and you can have a month of blooms. ‘Autumn Minaret’ is a late blooming heirloom which can grow scapes to six feet or more.

    ‘Alaska’ shasta daisies
  6. Shasta daisies. Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Becky’ is one of my all-time favorites. She will grow and give you two to three months of white flowers on strong stems. If she gets too much water, she can have stem rot. I also have ‘Silver Princess’ which is a dwarf cultivar topping out at one foot. ‘Alaska’ is an older cultivar which doesn’t have as strong stems, but is still pretty. ‘Broadway Lights’ opens with yellow blooms fading to cream. I planted it last year. The jury is still out.
  7. Good old-fashioned garden phlox. I have the best passalong which is pink, and I’ve grown the purple too. They are bullet proof in central Oklahoma. Everyone should have a stand of garden phlox. I also like the cultivars ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘Mt. Fuji,’ a white I can grow much better than ‘David’ which I’ve killed more times than I can count. ‘Mt. Fuji’ just wants to be in full sun to keep from getting powdery mildew. In fact, all garden phlox need full sun.

    Persian Carpet zinnias. Ten easy flowers to grow in Oklahoma.
    Persian Carpet zinnias are an easy flower to grow.
  8. Zinnias. I like the taller types you can bring inside as cut flowers.  I don’t sow my seed until it is super hot. Then, the zinnias are fresh when other things are fading. I also love Persian Carpet which are low growing and the Profusion series. You can often buy the latter as plants. They will spread and do well if you keep them deadheaded. Nothing seems to bring in the butterflies better than zinnias and black-eyed Susans. Botanical Interests has great seed including Persian Carpet ones. I’ve also grown their Art Deco mix. So beautiful.
  9. Hollyhocks. These can also be grown from seed. Start them early to get the best bloom. Some years with our long summers, they will bloom the first year. Other years, the second. They look great at the back of the border. ‘Indian Spring’ is a good mix of single bloom seeds.

    Sunflower at the end of the season. About to become seed for the birds.
  10. Sunflowers. Another easy one to grow from seed and so many varieties from which to choose. Check our Renee’s Garden Seeds for many varieties. I’m trying the Sun Samba mix this year.

Those are my top ten, go-to flowers. What are the ones you plant year after year in your garden? Do tell.



  1. Thanks Dee, I was trawling back through your posts looking for some ideas for a full sun bed between the house and garage that faces south. Bingo, you have given me some great ideas here with what I had already.

  2. Gerry McCormick says:

    About three years ago I planted a flat of those little pink zinnias from Lowe’s and I have not had to replant them since. I shake the seed heads around in the fall cleanup, and I have to thin them every spring or transplant baby ones!! They are great little plants for my area, OKC/Yukon.

    I love your column in OK Gardening and also your blog!

    Gerry McCormick

  3. Melanie says:

    I tried both the denver daisy and cherry brandy last year. They are beautiful!! Mine didn’t reseed. .but I did get a few to sprout in my greenhouse. .not sure if they will remain true to the parent plant or if they will look different. .I’ll let you know!! Southern Kansas seems to do well with your top 10 list too. I grow a curled petal shasta called Old Court Variety. .which is in its 3rd season in my garden. .and it’s blooms are just exquisite!! Enjoyed your list for sure!!

  4. Donna says:

    Dee, your top ten work here too. Easy peezy.

  5. mary says:

    Oxeye daisies grow like crazy for me! I love them because they bloom earlier than my Shastas and extend the bloom time for my whites. I too love hollyhocks (black and pink) and daylilies, irises. Also have lots of coneflowers, cosmos, poppies, and cleomes. Roses don’t like me! I have some old “flat bloom” climbers. Don’t have a clue what they are, but they were already here.

  6. those little zinnias are darling…

  7. Alan says:

    Great line-up of plants, Dee. Many of these are great to grow here in VA also. I especially like the pink garden phlox with black-eyed Susan combination. I may have to steal that idea!! Thanks

  8. karen says:

    Hi Dee,
    With all of the humidity here on Long Island Holly Hocks get rust but I grow them anyway because they are one of my favorites, especially “Nigra”… I think that’s the name. Although this year I am trying a powder puff type, forgot the name. I love Irises… bearded, Siberian and Japanese. The Great Heron is beautiful.
    Peonies are amazing ! I know they only last for 2 weeks, but what a two weeks!
    With very little care from me they are a keeper.
    Sunflowers do really well here, as do Hydrangeas, but again the humidity is so hard on the roses.
    I love your OSO Easy Peachy Cream Rose, beautiful! I haven’t seen that name in our nurseries…

  9. Well, I am pleased as punch to say that your top 10 all do pretty well in my garden, too! I like easy. And, these beauties always made me look like a rock star back before I knew what I was doing in the garden. Not that I know what I’m doing these days but I guess I’m getting a little smarter… 🙂

  10. Sweetbay says:

    These flowers are classics for a reason!

    I always go with rugosas roses, Chinas, teas, climbers; foxglove, iris (everything from bearded to virginica), beardtongue, Blueberries, Baptisias, Lespedeza, Amsonia, and American beautyberries. Bidens are always my reliable fallback flower. I can fill any bare spots with that.

  11. Greggo says:

    Salvia farinacea, Mealy Blue Sage. Flower Carpet Rose. Aster spp. Hosta. Veronica spp. Gallardia. Coreopsis spp. Salvia perennial. Echinacea coneflower. an additional 10 with the gallardia being the one that winter rots sometimes

  12. Jess says:

    These are great, AND I would love to hear your 10 easiest to grow roses!

  13. Donna says:

    Love the list…here zinnias have to wait for our hot summer and hollyhocks sometimes get rust from too much humidity, but all in all these are some of the best plants to grow!!

  14. gail says:

    They are the ten best to grow in my Central South garden, too. I would add~Penstemon X which is actually, P calycosus. It can tolerate wet feet and dry shade. I grow Fairy Baby~its parent is Fairy Queen. I have very little luck with hollyhocks but, sure wish I could grow them~They were my mother’s favorite flower. gail ps I have great success with Oxe-Eye daisy. But thugs love my garden.

  15. Kathryn/plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com says:

    Nasturtiums. Always and forever. Mine are peeking up through the earth already and I’m pleased as punch. Some of them stay fairly low to the ground and some climb up over everything and then wend their way around the front porch, which I LOVE. They are so cheery. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get sunflowers in soon. Looking forward to that!

  16. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    A great list that would work in a lot of areas. Isn’t it odd that I have such bad luck with daisie s? I really like them but I don’t have great luck with them.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Lisa, I wonder if it because of all the rain you guys get? The year we had so much rain, I lost many of my daisies. I just replaced them though.

  17. Jeanne Mapes says:

    Dee, I agree you need to do an article on the top ten roses for Oklahoma. And I love the quote you currently have at the top of the page. I get those irresistable urges to weed when visiting others!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jeanne, I’ll do that soon. Thanks.

  18. I’m so glad you like hollyhocks. They are among my favourite plants. Sometimes I have come across people who don’t like them – and I am flabbergasted.

    I wish I could grow white daisies. I’ve tried Oxeye Daisies (which look much like your shastas) but they didn’t get anywhere are all. Perhaps I should see if I can get Alaska here.


    1. Dee Nash says:

      I adore hollyhocks. They were among the first flowers I ever grew from seed. I’ve never had luck with oxeye daisies. They just aren’t for me either I guess. If I were going to try a shasta type, I’d get ‘Becky.’ She is better than ‘Alaska’ IMHO.

  19. Angelonia, dianthus, , crinum, Russian sage, lantana, coleus, verbena, Dragonwing begonia, Wave petunia, and daylily.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yup, Steve, those are all great ones too. I grow them all. Bill said if I bring home one more plant, the gardens will explode. He may have something there.

  20. Jennie Brooks says:

    Cosmos are extremely easy and reseed. i love them bc they’re tall and sway nicely in the wind. i collected many, many seeds at the end of last season to give to friends and my aunt and cousins are now growing them in Texas. i haven’t gotten around to planting my zinnias either. oh and i planted blue and white salvia last year bc the nursery folks said they would come back but only one did. probably due to our hard, cold winter. and i’m planting black eyes susans from seeds a friend harvested in KC. i love the idea of seeds going from state to state. thanks for your top ten, Dee.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Jennie, I like cosmos too, but my problem with them is they fall over because they’re so shallow rooted. I still grow them sometimes though. I like the airy foliage. If you come over, I’ll give you some of my Susans, daisies and phlox for your garden.

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