Making the Most of Annual Flowers – Ken Lain

Most of us plant annual flowers because they bloom for months, giving undemanding color all season long. There’s nothing like a container of annuals to brighten up a porch or patio. Although many annuals are grown for their foliage, such as coleus and caladiums, flowering annuals are still the most popular.

The flowers we call annuals are really hardy perennials only in tropical climates. One gardener’s annual is another gardener’s perennial or houseplant. Here we focus on flowering plants sold at the garden center meant to be enjoyed for one season and meant to be composted at the end.

Plant breeders do a fantastic job creating flowers that bloom non-stop, often without the help of the gardener. These stunning bloomers tend to be shorter for easier maintenance, shipping and display in the garden. We still grow great old-fashioned plants like Coleus, Zinnia, Sunflower, Dahlia and Petunia.

From old classics to new designer styles, these insider tips keep your annuals looking fresh and blooming all season long.

Choose and plant

  1. Look for young bushy plants that are just starting to flower. These acclimate better in your garden than potted plants that go to seed.
  2. Choose plants suited to your growing conditions. Difficulties are encountered when it comes to finding fun solar plants in gardens with less than six hours of sun or cooking flowers in partial shade with more. These flowers are not established enough to withstand this kind of stress.
  3. Get them in containers or on the ground as soon as possible. Don’t let them outgrow their nursery pot. They need time to adjust to being in the ground when young and growing.
  4. Water immediately after planting – even if rain is forecast.
  5. Water deeply and feed every 2 weeks with Flower Power Liquid Food.
  6. Annuals have shallow roots. Irrigate when the soil is dry to 1 inch below the surface. A good moisture meter is useful at this stage. Even flowers with low water content bloom best with plain water. During the heat of summer, hanging baskets and small vegetable gardens may need water more than once a day.
  7. Watch out for water – few plants like to sit in damp, soggy soil or the roots start to rot. Plant them in well-drained Watters potting soil. This mountain-specific soil retains water long enough for the roots to absorb it while allowing excess water to drain away.
  8. Aqua Boost crystals infused into the roots of your plants regulate their moisture needs. This easy-to-use soil additive cuts your water needs in half. It is beneficial for hanging baskets and small vegetable gardens.
  9. Heat makes your annuals feel hot in the afternoon. Gardens are best irrigated in the cool morning sun before 8 am. They will be ready to face the heat of the day. There will be days when the leaves become crispy and dry, that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to cut off damaged foliage and prune plants back to healthy leaves. The flowers regrow quickly.
  10. Premium mulch keeps shallow roots cool and moist. The main disadvantage of mulching is that it inhibits reseeding, so I try not to mulch until last season’s volunteers are growing.
  11. Deadhead Remove spent flowers to prevent seed formation. This is especially important with older varieties of plants that retain their old blooms, such as geraniums, marigolds, pansies, petunias, salvia, snapdragons, sweet peas, and zinnias.
  12. New modern flowers can pinch and clean. Their faded flowers seem to fade as new buds form and open. Ask us if your chosen strain needs pinching to get fat and bushy and produce lots of buds.
  13. Many of the most popular strains like Flowering Tobacco, Nicotiana alataSweet Alysse, Sea lobularImpatiens, Trailing Petunias and Begonias do not require deadheading to continue blooming.
  14. If the plants start to look ragged in mid-summer, don’t be afraid to prune them dramatically. Petunias grow long and tall and look best when cut back 3 to 4 inches to encourage new growth and blooms. Coleus grows straight and collapses if not pinched regularly until it becomes bushy and full.

Insider Tip

Here’s one for travelers planning to go away for a week or two. Prune your annuals before leaving and feed them with Flower Power Liquid Food. They will be packed with new flowers when you return.

Until next week, I’ll be helping gardeners get the most out of their flowers here at Watters Garden Center.

Ken Lain can be found at Watters Garden Center throughout the week, 1815 Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted via his website at Where

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