The best plants for rookie gardeners

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Gardening is a smart hobby for a wide variety of reasons. It's active and takes place outdoors, it relieves stress, and it boosts your mood - and if you choose to grow fruits and vegetables, it can help you maintain a healthy diet that's full of fresh produce. Getting your start in gardening can be intimidating, however, especially for those who don't have much experience or a green thumb. But these flowers, plants, herbs and vegetables are easy, low-maintenance options for even the novice gardener.

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Basil

Many fresh herbs are easy to grow in an outdoor pot or flower bed, but basil is a great plant for beginners. This robust, versatile herb produces lots of leaves, which can be used in pasta dishes, soups, salads, pesto and even summer cocktails.

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Begonias

Begonias are fast-growing, low-maintenance flowers that also serve as a repellent for nibbling deer and other pests. They do well in baskets, containers or garden beds and can grow in sun or shade. These colorful plants are annuals, meaning each plant's life cycle lasts one year before it dies. This makes them a low-stakes investment for rookies honing their gardening skills.

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Cacti

Cacti are some of the most self-sufficient plants out there, and they're a great landscaping option for those who live in mild-winter climates. This desert plant requires sunshine and minimal water, which Mother Nature will often provide enough of. Cacti come in interesting varieties such as tall and spiny or short and stout, so they can both complement other flowers and shrubs in your garden and be a dramatic, stand-alone star.

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Cherry tomatoes

A staple ingredient you can use in the kitchen, cherry tomatoes are prolific and grow quickly and easily, making them perfect for impatient gardeners. They are also more disease-resistant than full-size tomatoes and do well in both gardens and flowerpots. Though you will have to invest in a tomato cage or another kind of support structure, you can find dwarf or patio cherry tomato plants that will remain a manageable size.

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Daffodils

With their bright, cheerful color and sweet aroma, daffodils are a popular spring flower that even rookies can handle. A hardy perennial, daffodils can tolerate a range of soils but should be planted in the autumn before the ground freezes. They will emerge triumphantly come spring and bloom again year after year.

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Geraniums

Geraniums are charming, sweet-smelling flowers that are a favorite of gardeners of all experience levels. These perennials do well outdoors in a container or pot during the warmer months but should be brought indoors during the winter, where they'll continue to flower with enough light. You can also let them go dormant by placing them in a cool, dark space during the winter.

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Green beans

Green bean plants are extremely easy to grow. They thrive in full sun, don't need supplemental fertilizer and don't require as much space as you might think, especially with bush bean varieties. Green bean plants produce lots of beans, which are easy to prepare and packed with nutrients.

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Hostas

Hostas are versatile, low-maintenance and disease-resistant perennial plants that will give you a big return on investment. They work well in almost every type of garden and produce fragrant pink, lavender or white flowers during the summer. Their heart-shaped leaves are also beautiful.

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Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are actually shrubs, but they produce abundant, beautiful flowers. They do well in almost any soil and the color of the flowers on some varieties depends on the soil pH. In general, acidic soil yields blue or lavender blooms, while alkaline soil leads to pink and red flowers. Other hydrangeas only produce white or cream flowers.

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Lettuce

Lettuce is healthier and tastier when grown at home rather than purchased from the grocery store. Lettuce and other salad greens such as spinach and arugula yield a plentiful crop even in a smaller space and can be directly planted in your garden. Lettuce is generally resistant to diseases and pests and is an easy way to get your daily dose of greens.

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Marigolds

Golden marigolds are beginner-friendly flowers that add bursts of color to your garden in the summer and autumn. Their seeds can be planted directly in the ground and will sprout within days. They can handle almost any type of soil and can withstand very hot summer temperatures. They also act as a natural repellent to pests that might attack vegetables in your garden.

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Mint

This tasty herb can brighten up everything from cocktails like mojitos and juleps to side dishes, sauces and desserts. Mint thrives in both shade and sunlight, and with enough water and moisture, it will grow year-round and produce flavorful leaves year after year. Mint can take over your garden if not contained, so it's best to grow it in a pot, either above ground or submerged under the soil to create a barrier.

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Pansies

Known for their iconic "faces," pansies come in a variety of bright colors and patterns, and they're surprisingly hardy. They actually do better in cool weather and can even withstand a frost. Plant them in late winter to bloom in the spring, or late summer to bloom in the autumn and early winter.

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Portulaca

This vibrant flower might look dainty but it's quite resilient, making it manageable even for those without a green thumb. Portulaca, also known as moss rose, is an annual flower that is drought-resistant and can withstand high heat and winds, making it a good choice for container baskets as well as flower beds. It can even grow in the poor soil of a rock garden or stone path and needs minimal watering and fertilizer.

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Radishes

Radishes are among the easiest vegetables to grow. This nutrient-packed root vegetable doesn't need a lot of space to flourish and matures quickly without needing maintenance like weeding. Every part of the radish is edible, and there are varieties that grow in the summer or winter.

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Rosemary

Another kitchen staple herb, rosemary hails from the Mediterranean but can thrive in a variety of climates. This drought-tolerant plant can grow even in poor soil. It's generally pest-free and can actually help repel parasites from beans and vegetables. Rosemary is a great addition to many dishes, including summer grill recipes.

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Snapdragons

On top of their whimsical name, snapdragons are lush, undemanding flowers that add a splash of pink, purple, yellow or red to your garden from spring through fall. They can handle cooler weather and maintain their blooms for a long period of time without much maintenance.

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Succulents

Succulents are known for being no-brainer plants. They're popular as indoor plants but can also make a great addition to your outdoor garden. Succulents can grow in almost all climates, though if you live someplace that reaches freezing temperatures during the winter or gets a lot of rain, it's best to plant them in pots to be able to move them inside. Once in a pot or garden bed, succulents need little attention or care.

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Sunflowers

Bright and cheerful, sunflowers make a vibrant addition to any garden. Their large seeds are easily manageable, and they are tough, pest-resistant plants that require minimal watering and fertilizing. As their name suggests, they also love sunshine and are heat-tolerant. After you enjoy the sunny blooms, you can also harvest the seeds from your sunflowers to eat. The rest of the flower is surprisingly edible as well. You can make a tea from the petals, leaves and roots.

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Zucchini

All zucchini and other summer squash plants need to thrive is sunlight, water and room to grow, and they'll take 60 days or less to mature. Just a few plants will yield a big harvest, sometimes a new vegetable every day, so it's best to keep handy recipes that use zucchini, from breads to zoodles. Now that you've picked your starter plants for your new garden, here are 20 simple gardening tips for beginners.

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