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3 Ways to Harness Flower Power Through to Fall

When visitors tour the grounds of Moss Mountain Farm, they always marvel at the annuals looking so bright-eyed and bushy tailed all the way into fall. And they start fishing for the secret to keeping those garden beds flourishing through the dog days of summer. Now that we’re in the tail end of those days, I’ll share those secrets now. Hopefully, you can employ those secrets through the rest of the season or file them away for next year.

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    Proven Winners Snow Princess® Lobularia

    Cutting back: If flower beds were a metaphor for the human life cycle, this period might be midlife where things start to “creep” or broaden and widen. You must stay vigilant and trim up those creepers that would overpower the more timid plants. Plants like sweet potato vine, which can be thuggish and push over smaller flowers. It’s also helpful to cut back the spent blooms, and I pay special attention to plants like my Snow Princess® Lobularia or the Angelonia.

 

  1. Feedings: You should continue feedings, even though it’s hot. I usually give a dose of liquid fertilizer every third watering.

 

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    Flirtation® Orange Diascia

    Filling in: I will typically pull out plants that haven’t fared well and plug in new things for fall. Sometimes the animals help with that task. For example, I had some petunias rooted out by armadillos. So, I’ll either plant more petunias or prepare for fall by substituting plants that like colder temperatures like nemesia, diascia or argyranthemum.

 

Read more:

Five Easiest Annuals to Grow

Cool Season Annuals

Annuals versus Perennials

Dark purple sweet peas

Secrets to Growing Sweet Peas from Seeds Successfully

I covet sweet peas for their heavenly fragrance and old-fashioned simplicity. These little vining flowers are a delight to see and smell. Sadly, they can be a tricky annual for me to grow. They prefer cool temperatures but won’t withstand a frost. If I sow the seeds in early spring in my zone 7 garden they are likely to get wiped out by a late frost. Unfortunately, mid-South springs tend to be short, so if I try sowing them any later, the plants melt in the heat before they have time to bloom.

The solution is to start the seeds in the greenhouse in February and move the pots outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. Starting the seeds indoors gives them the head start they need to bloom before spring ends.

Gardeners in climates with long, cool springs can sow sweet peas outdoors as soon as the threat of frost has passed. If you are like me and need to sow the seeds indoors, do this about 6 to 8 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

The secret to good seed germination is soaking the seeds in milk a few hours before you sow them. That’s right, milk. This helps to soften the outer covering of the seed.

Whether starting indoors or direct sowing in the garden, plant sweet peas in a spot that receives full sun. They like a sweet soil with a pH of 7 or 8, so if you know that your soil is acidic add garden lime to make it more alkaline. Be sure to following the package directions on the garden lime bag. Sweet peas have relatively extensive roots, so the soil should be friable at least 24 inches deep.

Provide immediate support for your young seedlings. Metal can get hot on warm spring days, so try twine or twigs.

Once they are up and flowering, you will want to do everything you can to keep the plants full of blooms. One of the best ways to encourage continuous flowering is to cut bouquets for the house. I like to cut the blooms about every other day. Flowers remaining on the plant will develop into seed pods. It’s a good idea to remove the flowers before this happens because you want the plant’s energy to go into creating more blossoms, not seed.

Five Easiest Annuals to Grow

Whether you are a longtime gardener or planting for the first time, I recommend choosing at least a few plants that are guaranteed to be successes. No-brainer varieties that will be showy all season without a lot of fuss. Here are my five tops picks for this year. They are all annuals so you can depend on them to mature rapidly and quickly fill your garden with color.

Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia

Full sun; height: 16 – 14 inches; spacing maximum: 24 inches; trails to 60″. I plant Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum in my garden every year. It’s a vigorous growing that covers itself in bright pink blooms. An exceptional plant for containers and in mixed borders.

Proven Winners Supertunia Vista Bubblegum Petunia

Snow Princess® Lobularia

Full sun to part shade; height: 4 – 6 inches; spacing: 10 inches; trails up to 24 inches.
Snow Princess® will reign throughout the growing season producing mounds of white, fragrant blooms from spring through the first frost. A dazzling choice for an all-white or moon garden.

Proven Winners Snow Princess Lobularia

Senorita Rosalita® Cleome

Full sun; height: 24 – 48 inches; spacing 24 inches.
Senorita Rosalita® will add height to your garden and thrill in large containers with the perfect combination of large, lavender-pink flowers and lush, dark foliage. It’s heat and drought tolerant, thornless and doesn’t produce seeds.

Proven Winners Senorita Rosalita Cleome

Graceful Grasses Vertigo® Elephant Grass (Pennisetum purpureum)

Full sun; height: 36 – 48 inches; spread: 24 – 36 inches.
Visitors to my garden rave about this majestic ornamental grass. The impressive height and rich color give this plant star power. I love to combine it with Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum petunias and Senorita Rosalita® cleome.

Proven Winners Graceful Grasses Vertigo

Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantana

Full sun to part shade; height 24 – 36 inches; spread: 20 – 30 inches.
Vibrant berry pink and yellow flowers – the birds, butterflies and hummingbirds will love the vibrant berry pink and yellow flowers. Luscious® Berry Blend™ doesn’t need deadheading and it thrives on neglect since it’s heat and drought tolerant too.

Proven Winners Luscious Berry Blend Lantana

Caring for Summer Annuals

Whether you are interested in growing annuals to use as cut flowers, or just to add color and blooms to your garden, there are a few basic principles you can follow for a more successful growing season and a more beautiful garden.

Coreopsis at Moss Mountain Farm

Watering Annuals

When it comes to watering the key is consistency. You never want your flowerbeds or containers to dry out completely. This can be tough on your plants, particularly young ones. They rarely recover. One of my favorite ways to water is to use a soaker hose. It deep soaks the ground, which encourages a deep root system and a stronger plant. Then I just put a layer of mulch around them, to hold in the moisture.

Osteospermum and Diascia

Fertilizing Annuals

To grow beautiful stands of annuals it is important to feed the plants. An organic slow-release fertilizer will cut down on the amount of time spent applying fertilizer and you won’t have to worry about burning the plants by over feeding. Choose one that includes microorganisms that will enrich the soil too. At the farm we use Jobe’s Flowering Plant Food with Biozome.

Deadheading Flowers

Another way to keep your flowers blooming longer is to remove spent flowers. If this seems like too much work, look for varieties that are self-cleaning, which means the dead blossoms will drop on their own.

Hardy Volunteers

Now at the end of the season, to encourage hardy volunteers like larkspur, bachelor buttons and globe amaranth to come back next year, I shake the plants out and make sure the seeds get scattered through the beds. Then next spring they come up and bloom again.

A mixed border of shrub roses, perennials and annuals.

Drought Tolerant Varieties

If water conservation is a concern you can still enjoy the abundant color of annuals because many varieties are drought tolerant.

  • Agastache
  • Proven Winners® Diamond Frost Euphorbia
  • Lantana
  • Cleome
  • Scaevola
  • Proven Winners® Supertunia®
  • Gaura

Bodacious Bi-Color Blooms

If you are looking for something outstanding for your garden this summer, be sure to put these annual flowers on your planting list. Give them a place in your garden or containers and these eight bi-color blooms from my Proven Winners® Platinum Collection will reward you with conversation-starting color all season.

Proven Winners Supertunia Lemon Slice Calibrachoa

Superbells® Lemon Slice Calibrachoa

Cheery yellow and white striped blooms cover these mound forming plants. Perfect for containers. Grows 7 to 10 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Supertunia Blackberry Punch Calibrachoa

Superbells® Blackberry Punch Calibrachoa

The dark tones of this striking bloom will add depth to color combinations. The trailing form makes it a good option for spilling over the edges of containers. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Luscious Berry Blend Lantana

Luscious® Berry Blend™ Lantana

This plant loves the heat! It’s a great choice for dry climates and will tolerate less than ideal soils. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Luscious Citrus Blend Lantana

Luscious® Citrus Blend™ Lantana

If you’re into bright colors Citrus Blend™ is the flower for you. Red-orange and yellow blooms brighten sunny spots in the garden. The hotter the temperatures, the more this plant flowers. Grows 24 to 36 inches tall. Plant in full sun.
Proven Winners Supertunia Bordeaux Petunia

Supertunia® Bordeaux Petunia

The cascading habit of this petunia makes it especially attractive in containers. Grows 6 to 10 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Supertunia Pretty Much Picasso Petunia

Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso Petunia

If bold color is what you need, look no further than Supertunia® Pretty Much Picasso. This sassy flower will jazz up any bed or container. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Superbena Royale Peachy Keen Verbena

Superbena® Royale Peachy Keen Verbena

Combine this verbena’s salmon and coral hues with chartreuse, blue, gray and cream for a charming container garden or flower bed. Grows 6 to 10 inches tall. Plant in full sun.

Proven Winners Opal Innocence Nemesia

Opal Innocence Nemesia

This is delicate beauty loves the cool temperatures of spring and fall. The iridescent petals sparkle in the sunlight. Grows 10 to 16 inches tall. Plant in full sun to partial shade.

Tips for Growing Annuals

Plant annuals in good soil that includes plenty of compost or humus. If you don’t want to bother with amending garden soil, plant annuals in containers using a commercial potting mix. I find that a few pots placed around the garden is the easiest way to enjoy annual color.

Keep your containers and flowerbeds consistently moist – not too soggy or too dry. If Mother Nature isn’t supplying enough water, deep soak in ground plantings every five days. Check containers regularly and water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Annuals need plenty of nutrients to produce all those beautiful blooms. Fertilize every 10 days with an all-purpose, granular organic fertilizer.

Cool Season Annuals

My spring garden always looks so bare. I know that pansies and violas will bloom during the cool months but isn’t there anything else I can plant?

Spring is one of my favorite times in the garden. Everything is fresh and full of expectation. There is a minimal amount of weeds and pests to deal with and blooms on a spring day can be so enchanting.

Of course the first thing that comes to mind when talking about this season’s blooms are bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. No spring garden is complete without them. That being said, it is important to plant cool season annuals as a compliment to your spring bulbs. Not only does this add even more color to your beds, but a dense planting of annuals will hide the often unattractive foliage of the bulbs after their flowers have faded.

As soon as the soil is workable and I am fairly sure that temperatures will not fall below freezing I head out to my local garden center to pick up a few of my annual favorites for adding color to my early spring garden. Check with your local garden center for the best planting time for you. And if you live in an area of the country were summer temperatures are cool, some of these plants will continue to thrive until fall if planted where they will get morning sun and afternoon shade.

Here is a list of a few of my favorite cool season annuals.
Violas – Violas are heavy bloomers with tons of small flowers. Use in containers and border edgings. Violas are both cold hardy and heat tolerant. In the Northeast and parts of the Northwest this little workhorse has been known to bloom year-round. In these areas plant in full sun during the cold months and partial shade during summer. In the South, you can count on violas to provide abundant blooms from fall to late spring.

Pansy – The pansy is the larger faced cousin of the viola. I like to plant these two annuals together in containers and as a border edging.

Snapdragon – Available in both upright and cascading forms, snapdragons are the perfect choice for both flower borders and containers. Plant in full sun in early spring. Will tolerate temperatures down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Argyranthemum – This daisy shaped bloom is cold hardy down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it perfect for unpredicted spring freezes. I’ve seen this plant bloom in December in Southern gardens were winters are mild. You can also count on this tough plant to reward you with blooms well into the summer. Plant in full sun.

Helichrysum ‘Silver Spike’ – ‘Silver Spike’s’ silvery, spiky foliage is an excellent complement adding texture and silver contrasts to beds and containers. This plant will tolerate a light frost. Plant in full sun.

Persian Shield

I purchased the Woman’s Day magazine “52 Best Annuals & Perennials.” On page 79 there is a plant called the Persian Shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus). I have to have this plant. Where do I find it? Thank You.

Persian shield is indeed a lovely plant. Its metallic purple foliage make it an excellent complement to many of my favorite blooming plants.

Persian shield is only cold hardy to zone 9 so you won’t see it in your local garden center until the arrival of other warm season plants this spring.

Fast Facts
Persian Shield
Strobilanthes dyerianus
Habit: Upright
Color: Dark Green with Metallic Purple
Height: 15 – 20 Inches
Light: Partial Shade
Hardiness: Cold Hardy to Zone 9
Soil: Well-drained

Pentas

We saw you on TV one night and you were talking about pentas. We purchased some in white and pink. We have received many compliments on them. Are they an annual or a perennial?

Pentas are an annual and, unfortunately they don’t reseed like larkspur and the tall verbena, you will have to replant it every year.

But the extra effort will be rewarded with ease of care and plentiful blooms. Plus it is one of the best plants for attracting butterflies.

You’ll find that pentas flourishes in full sun. And if you will feed it regularly with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer it will bloom all summer long.

Pentas can make a statement in the flowerbed, but it’s also ideally suited for growing in containers. I know penta is a funny name for a plant, but it begins to make sense if you look closely at its individual flowers. They have five petals, sort of like a pentagon has five sides. Another name this plant goes by that’s perhaps a little more glamorous is Egyptian star cluster.

Growing Pansies

Hi, I have a problem with my pansies. Some have turned yellow and are trying to die. What can I do? I’ve got a sort of sandy clay soil, but I mixed a gardening soil with it and fed them with a recommended fertilizer; a time release pellet. Thank you.

Pansies, Viola x wittrockiana, are charming plants that bloom in colorful profusion with cheerful faces. They are mildly fragrant and even edible. They brighten containers on the porch or patio or next to the entrance of your home and depending on where you live, bring color to your garden during fall, winter and spring.

Because they are not heat tolerant, spring pansies will not over-summer well in the south and are best used as a cool season planting. In warm regions they are most often planted in the fall. They will grow throughout winter, blooming whenever the weather is favorable and then really take off in spring. A 2 to 3 inch layer of mulch to prevent the ground from freezing will help protect them during freezes and cold snaps.

In colder zones they may not persist during extended cold weather and they will not over-winter so planting is done in the spring through the early summer, until temperatures get too warm.

Without seeing your plants it’s hard to diagnose the problem, but here are some general guidelines to follow that should lead to success.

If you are planting pansies in the fall, wait until temperatures cool down. Plants weakened by heat may not recover enough to be as beautiful as they can be.

Plant your pansies in full sun to partially shaded places. Lanky plants are an indication that the light levels are too low.

They prefer a loose, organic, slightly acidic soil that is cool, rich, moist, and well-drained. A natural, slow release fertilizer such as blood meal or compost can be added into the soil as you are planting.

Mulch around your pansies with 2 inches of organic material such as pine straw or pine bark to help conserve moisture, reduce wilting during the heat of the day and keep weed growth in check.

When you water try not to get moisture on the leaves of the plants.

Pansies are heavy feeders and benefit from a monthly application of a liquid fertilizer. Be sure to follow the package directions.

Root rot, leaf spot, powdery mildew, and bumpy growths on the stems are all conditions of too much water caused by the plants either being overwatered or in too wet of an environment. Make sure that the soil is allowed to dry slightly between watering. In areas that grow them over the fall and winter you may not need to water them much once the cooler weather sets in. If you notice that the leaves are purplish colored, that is a sign of stress, usually from the cold.

In addition to moisture related diseases the usual pests need to be watched for ¬ aphids, mites and slugs. Insecticidal soaps and slug traps are the best organic defenses.