Selecting & Growing Annuals

Gardening, Home & Family, Outdoors
on April 2, 2006

Because an annual plant completes its growing cycle—seed to flowers to seed—during the course of a single season, it must pack a lot of living into a short amount of time. Fortunately for gardeners, this built-in urgency helps these one-season plants grow easily and flower abundantly.

Annuals such as zinnias, sunflowers and nasturtiums can be planted from seed right in the garden or can be started from seed indoors for an earlier bloom. An even easier option is to buy annuals as plants from a local nursery.

Of course, choosing from among the hundreds of different plants can be difficult. Start by selecting the colors and flower styles that appeal to you. Then check to see if the plant prefers sun or shade. Also consider the plant’s ultimate height and form, deciding between tall, medium, short, trailing or climbing varieties. Some plants even have special virtues such as a delightful fragrance or fancy foliage.

Once you’ve selected your plants, put them in the best soil possible. In the garden, most annuals prefer a light-textured, well-drained soil. If your soil is sandy or heavy clay, dig in some peat moss or compost to help retain moisture and allow roots to grow freely. If you’re planting in a pot or window box, don’t use garden soil. Instead purchase a quality growing mix that contains ground sphagnum moss and vermiculite or perlite.

Most annuals will flower and flourish until cold temperatures put an end to their display. To ensure healthy plants and a colorful show, be sure to pinch off or cut back spent blooms. This prevents plants from producing seeds and keeps them focused on flower production. Don’t forget to water regularly because if the soil dries out, plants get stressed and become more susceptible to disease and pest problems. If possible, apply water at the base of the plants and keep the foliage dry. And don’t forget to fertilize. In the garden, annuals require just one spring application of an all-purpose organic fertilizer. If you’re growing in containers, apply an organic-based water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks to keep your plants blooming at their best.

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