by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
There are lots of annuals grown for their foliage, like coleuses and caladiums, but blooming plants remain the most popular annuals. That’s because annual plants bloom repeatedly, giving undemanding joyous color throughout our warm months. They are intended to deliver season-long color and then be added to the compost pile as we head into winter. But during warm weather there’s nothing like a container of annuals to brighten a porch or a deck
Plant breeders have done a fabulous job creating flowers that bloom non-stop with little to no help from their gardeners. Whether they be old classics or new designer varieties, these 3 tips will help keep your annuals looking fresh while flowering.
#1 What, When, Where to Plant
Look for young, bushy plants that have many flower buds. Young plants acclimate better in the garden than pot-bound plants already going to seed.
Choose annual plants to fit into your gardens’ growing conditions. Sun-loving plants need 6+ hours of sun or they will st-r-e-tch reaching for more light. Shade lovers want no more than six hours of sun, as no amount of water will keep them from baking in our summer sun; they just aren’t meant to tolerate the stress of mountain heat.
Plant annuals ASAP! Don’t let them outgrow their pots. They need time to adjust to the garden while they are young. Water immediately with Root & Grow after planting, even if rain is predicted. This organic rooting solution stabilizes young plants and encourages deeper roots for more flowers.
#2 Water and Feed Often
Annuals don’t have deep root systems. Water whenever the soil feels dry about 1 inch below the surface. This is a good reason to own a Moisture Meter. Even drought-tolerant annuals bloom better with regular water. Everyday watering in the heat of summer is not uncommon in mountain gardens.
Flowers need to breathe, as they tend to rot when sitting in wet soil. This is why a good quality Potting Soil is essential, as it allows plants to grow without root rot. Good potting soil retains water long enough for roots to soak it up, while permitting any excess to drain away.
Annuals expend a lot of energy setting buds and blooms. Even in soil rich in organic matter, it helps to feed them every 2 weeks with Flower Power 12-48-8, a water-soluble flower food.
The heat of some summer afternoons can leave blooming annuals wilting. Their flowers prefer a deep soak very early in the morning, before the heat of the day.
A two-inch layer of Watters Premium Mulching keeps shallow roots moist and fresh. It inhibits weeds but also dissuades last year’s flower seeds from coming back. I tend to mulch when volunteers from last season are up and growing in the gardens.
#3 Groom and Pinch
Deadhead often. Remove faded flowers and don’t let seed pods form. This is most important with plants that hold onto their spent blooms like geraniums, marigolds, pansies, petunias, salvias, snapdragons, sweet peas, and zinnias.
Many modern hybrids have been developed to be self-cleaning. Their faded flowers seem to disappear as new buds form and open. Don’t hesitate to ask a garden center’s expert if a particular plant needs pinching in order to set buds and become full and lush.
Sometime this summer, we’ll be allowed to have friends over and enjoy a backyard BBQ. When that time comes around, remember my secret to impressive blooms: Two weeks before a backyard party, I clean up, deadhead, and trim my flowers. Then I feed everything with Flower Power 12-48-8. I follow up 2 days before the party with the same plant food, guaranteeing that I’m sure to have flowers that everyone will admire and enjoy. Utilize this tip and even you will be amazed at your gardening results!
What I’m listening to these days
Even at the height of his popularity in the seventies, John Denver was considered “sappy”. Even so, he did publish 300+ songs that have sold over 33 million records. I can tell you, streaming John for a little while is sure to bring some internal sunshine your way.
April classes and instructors are finalized and ready to be live-streamed through Watters Facebook page. With over 9000 likes, we must be doing something right! Follow the page for timely updates.
April 10 @ 3 pm – Gardening for Newcomers – Gardening 101
April 17 @ 3 pm – Herbs and Vegetables from Garden to Table!
April 24 @ 3 pm – Arbor Day and the Top 10 Blooming Trees
Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners with annuals here at Watters Garden Center.