by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
There are lots of annuals grown for their foliage, like coleuses and caladiums. Blooming plants remain the most popular annuals. That’s because annual plants repeatedly bloom, 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. There’s nothing like a container of annuals to brighten a porch or a deck through the spring season!
Plant breeders have done a fabulous job creating flowers that bloom non-stop with little to no help from their gardeners. Whether old classics or new designer styles, these 3 tips keep your annuals looking fresh while blooming.
#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 producing seed.
Choose annual plants to fit your garden’s 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; no amount of water keeps them from baking in our mountain sun. Shade plants just aren’t meant to tolerate the stress of mountain heat.
Plant spring annuals now! Don’t let them outgrow their pots. They need time to adjust to the garden while 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 an excellent reason to own a Moisture Meter. Even drought-tolerant annuals bloom better with regular water. Daily watering in the heat of summer is not uncommon in mountain gardens.
Good potting soil retains water long enough for roots to soak it up while permitting any excess to drain away. Flowers need to breathe, as they tend to rot when sitting in wet soil. This is why good quality Potting Soil is essential, as it allows plants to grow without root rot.
Annuals expend a lot of energy, setting buds and blooms. Feed your bloomers every two weeks with Flower Power 12-48-8 for outstanding color this spring.
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.
I tend to mulch when volunteers from last season are up and growing in the gardens. A two-inch layer of Watters Premium Mulch keeps shallow roots moist and fresh. It inhibits weeds and dissuades previous year’s flower seeds from coming back.
#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 to set buds and become whole and lush.
my secret to impressive blooms: Two weeks before a backyard wedding, party, or event, clean up, deadhead, and trim your flowers. Then feed everything with Flower Power 12-48-8. Follow up 2 days before the party with the same plant food. Your flowers will be admired and enjoyed by everyone in attendance. Utilize this insider tip, and even you will be amazed at your garden results!
A Special Invitation
Watters Garden Center celebrates our 60th Spring Open House the weekend of March 11-13. Meet the growers that create Watters plants as they travel directly from the farm to share their insider tips and tricks of the trade. This year’s newest fruit trees, roses, flower baskets with unusual perennial colors are unveiled for the 2022 planting season. “It’s been fun growing up in the family business and watching the nursery grow with the community.” McKenzie Lain, 3rd generation owner.
Friday, March 11th, starts the celebration with a 3 pm Happy Hour only with plants. The Friday afternoon garden class kicks off our 2022 Spring Open House by showcasing the first blooming colors you have never seen until now: salvias, pansies, gaillardia, and more.
Saturday, March 12th features a free, fun, information-packed class and demonstration at 9:30 am. Participants learn directly from the growers in the know about the newest plants, local favorites, and tricks of the trade for a more successful garden this spring. Experts are on hand to help with container gardens, local pest issues, rose and vegetable questions all weekend!
Sunday, March 13th – Ken and Lisa Watters-Lain, Mountain Gardener radio show, is live at the garden center and sharing their garden secrets from 10 to 2 pm.
“Gardeners will simply fall in love with this year’s colors,” says Lisa Watters-Lain, 2nd generation owner. This weekend-long event is open to the garden public.
Until next week, I’ll be helping gardeners with the best flowers here at Watters Garden Center.