Category Archives: Flowering Annuals

Floriforous

Flowering Annuals this summer have been “floriforous” and beautiful. It’s not a “figleaf” of my imagination. A kaleidoscope of flowering annuals have colored our world this summer responding to weather favorable for their growth. Last week I had the opportunity to tour the Ball Seed Gardens in West Chicago. Back in 1905 George J. Ball launched a one man business which today has blossomed into a world leader in horticulture. I had the opportunity to have lunch with Anna Caroline Ball the third generation leader of the family owned Ball corporation. We then walked the gardens and I thought I would share some of the beauty we saw that day.

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

Ball Seed Gardens

More “Flower” to you

It’s planting time and we’re excited about the flowering annuals we selected on our shopping trip. They’re going to look great and visions of blooming colors are dancing in our head.

More “Flower” to you!

But what if they don’t meet up to our expectations? Plants like people have basic nutritional needs. And plants just like people can’t live on just energy drinks or water, you need a meal now and then. Water alone is not enough. Well more “flower” to you. If your annuals need to go “potty” and are in a hanging basket or pot every time you water nutrients are carried out the drainage holes with it. The nutrients need to be replaced.

I recommend a combination of water soluble and time release or granular fertilizer.

Calibrachoa

Calibrachoa

One is the energy drink and the other is meat and potatoes. The great thing about water soluble fertilizer is that is quickly available to the plants and can be taken in through the foliage or roots.

Slow release “dry” on the left and water soluble fertilizer on the right

Most water soluble fertilizers recommend use every 7 to 14 days. It depends on how often you’re watering the plant. You may want to consider using it more frequently than 14 days and going to half strength. Remember that even though many of today’s annuals are sold as “self cleaning” a good pinching or pruning now and then with a dose of water soluble fertilizer will rejuvenate blooming. A dry granular feed in combination with the water soluble in tandem will get you best results. The “dry” or slow release feed is the meat and potatoes. My favorites are Osmocote and Flower Tone. Osmocote because it’s easy to scoop into a pot and provides feeding for 3 months or more. Flower Tone because in addition to the Macro Nutrients it has essential Micro Nutrients and is affordable. More “Flower” to you!

Pet-“New”-ias…..these are not your Grandma’s Petunias

For those of you looking for a “florific” easy to care flowering annual that doesn’t take a lot of care, you may find yourself steering away from Petunias. You remember the sticky old Grandiflora or Multiflora Petunias Grandma used to grow that required deadheading and would melt in the rain or heat of summer.

Supertunias in a mixed container

Today Petunias or as I call them Pet-“New”-ias are aggressive re-blooming self cleaning disease resistant beauties perfect for planting beds or containers. My favorites are Supertunias, vegetatively propagated from cuttings, or Wave petunias which grow like a groundcover.

Calibrachoa or ‘Million Bells’ look like tiny petunias but are actually an entirely different species and perfect for containers or hanging baskets.

Calibrachoa

Make a Wish

If you wish for a beautiful flower for containers or hanging baskets one of my favorite annual flowers is Wishbone flower or Torenia. The flower is called “Wishbone” flower because the two fused stamens inside the flower look just like the wishbone from the Thanksgiving turkey.

Torenia

Wishbone Flower

Two other flowering annuals that I love and are very tough………easy to grow and stand up to hot summer weather are Melampodium or Medallion flower and Gomphrena or Globe Amaranth……..two top performers and tough guys!

Melampodium

Gomphrena with Prince Pennisetum in background

Hanging Gardens to show your love

Do we have Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to thank for the inspiration for today’s spring time tradition of hanging baskets? Around 600 BC he had “hanging gardens” built for his home sick wife Amytis who longed for the trees and plants of her homeland. The hanging gardens, which were at the time in Babylon (present day Iraq), converted a dry dusty place into one of the seven original wonders of the world. That was long before Mother’s day was “invented” so to speak. Here in the US Anna Jarvis is credited for being the motivating force behind a day to honor Mothers. Her life time efforts were rewarded with a presidential proclamation on May 9, 1914 declaring the second Sunday in May to be Mother’s day. Show Mom some love this Mother’s day for letting you “hang around” the house all those years she cared for you and give her the gift of flowers..a tradition with a lot of history.

Porta Potty

Yesterday I was reflecting on the fact that 2 weeks ago we had flooding. 1 week ago we had high heat and humidity. This week a slow moving low pressure system provided dark skies and below normal temperatures all week.What a difference a week makes here in Michigan! That’s why I think one of the beauties of container gardening Porta-pottyis the versatility containers provide in the landscape. I call the art “Porta Potty” because if frost is in the forecast, drag it in the garage. If heavy rain and a storm is forecast, drag it under a overhang. If heat and wind are drying it out, slide the container to a more protected area. This kind of Porta Potty smells good and will keep you “occupied” all summer long!

Pretty Side Up

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. Yellow GerberaFlowering 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. CalibrachoaHere 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. CelosiaTry 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. ImpatiensFinally 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!