It’s flowering annual planting time and I had a friend the other day tell me to just advise people to plant “pretty side up” and they would be fine. I suppose he’s right but there is more to planting annuals than that, besides if it was that easy you wouldn’t need me for “well rooted” advice. Flowering Annuals are a group of plants that provide color to the landscape quickly, economically and consistently if cared for properly though the growing season from May to October. Annuals planted in spring are killed by frost in the fall or by their owners which ever comes first. I always tell people I guarantee the plants to live or die trying. Here are some “plant pointers”. Success starts with good soil. Soil should be moistened enough but also well drained. Soil texture and structure is important (to learn more click on Sense of Humus at the top of this home page). Once you have a good sense of “humus” you have to get the watering right. I find most people either over water or under water their plants. If you over water the plants they may rot, have stunted growth or develop fungal diseases. At the least the plant may produce more foliage than flowers. I see this with overwatered Impatiens producing lots of foliage but not many flowers. If you put them under some reasonable water stress the plant tries to produce seed and walla……flowers appear in abundance. You may however have to feed and water shade annuals under trees differently than your other annuals due to greedy, hungry, thirsty tree roots competing with your flowers. Of course if you under water your plants you’ll get caught with your plants down especially when windy and sunny. Try as much as possible to water at the base of the plants, not over the flowers and foliage. Automatic irrigation is not friendly to flowering annuals. Whatever you do, try to have the foliage dry heading into the night hours. Wet foliage in the evening can encourage disease issues. Another pointer is “dead heading”. Annuals respond and branch well to a pinch now and then, especially spent flowers. I like to pinch off the blooms when I get home to plant them. I know it’s painful, but a pinched sacrificed solitary bloom on a small transplant will allow the new planting to quickly out perform those that don’t get a pinch to grow an inch. Finally remember that flowering annuals live fast and hard and their time is short in Michigan compared to other landscape plants. They like to party, live for today and are heavy feeders. I recommend a dry complete fertilizer incorporated into the bed at the time of planting like Espoma Flower Tone. In the case of container grown flowering annuals I use Osmocote. Once the dry feed is in place, supplement throughout the season with a water soluble liquid fertilizer like a 15-30-15. It is quickly available to the plant both through the root system and the foliage. Apply the water soluble feeding every 14 days.
Use these plant pointers and you won’t have to “flower” the leader……your green thumb will be in a class all itself!