Adding Color to Your Garden
Adding colorful blooms to your garden just in time for spring can be easily done with a wide variety of Spring blooming annuals. Spring annuals can be planted in flower beds, hanging baskets, clay pots or planter boxes and add a burst of color to any garden design, front entry, back porch and curb. Before planting can begin however, preparing the soil is the first step. See our recommendations and a list of favorite flowers below.
When planting spring annuals, add to your native soil a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch and one pound of soil acidifier per 100 square feet. Then, spade to a depth of 10 inches. For potted annuals, use B-2 potting mix. This is a formulated blend of acidified mulch, sand, soil and major and minor nutrients. Most spring annuals are sold in 3.5- or 4-inch pots or color six-packs. After you have carefully removed the plant from the container, gently loosen the roots, place the plant in a hole and firmly pack soil around the root ball. Water thoroughly and talk with your local nursery about adding a solution to minimize transplant shock and promote a vigorous and healthy root system. For weed control in your annual beds, apply weed preventer 10 days after planting.
Water thoroughly after planting. Check plants in three to four days for additional watering as needed. As they grow larger, change watering frequency to once or twice per week. For Vincas and Celosia, deep watering once a week after they are established is sufficient. Overwatering will cause root rot and the plant will look like it needs water–but is actually drowning. Also, as sprinklers can damage petals, we suggest using a drip system instead. Add a half-inch top layer of mulch during the warmer months to help retain moisture, keep soil cool and prevent weeds.
To maintain vigorous plants with lots of beautiful flowers, fertilize regularly with a balanced (15-15-15) slow release fertilizer that lasts for 100 days and should be applied only to the soils surface. It feeds automatically as you water.
For insect control, we recommend organic Neem Oil for complete insect protection of all flowers. For best control, and to keep bees safe, spray after sundown. Slugs and snails love plants that grow close to the ground; use snail bait to protect your flowers.
Favorite Spring and Summer Bedding Varieties
Local garden centers offer lots of choices. The selection below represents our picks that will tolerate the summer heat and give lasting, fuss-free color.
Celosia: These plants grow from 6 to 24 inches tall with plume, feathery or cockscomb-type flowers. They are vigorous growers and can take the heat. Space the plants according to variety. Do not overwater.
Cosmos: ‘Ladybird’ and ‘Sonata’ Series offer bright pastel colors and are best used as a backdrop flowers.
Dahlberg Daisy (Golden Fleece): This daisy is a great border plant, has a yellow flower, is a prolific bloomer and loves the heat.
Dusty MIller: This is used primarily as an accent plant and has beautiful grey leaves-perfect to show off the color in your flower bed.
Geranium: This beautiful bloomer will burn out in full Summer sun, but likes sun in the Spring. It is fantastic in containers or the ground and can be planted in Fall for a long blooming season.
Gomphrena: For purple, pink, white, lavender and red border and backdrop plants, Gomphrena is great.
Lantana: Generally used as a perennial, Lantana comes in many colors. It is not quite as showy as annuals but covers a lot of ground.
Lisianthus: These dwarf and mid-size flowers come in pink, purple, blue, white, yellow, red. They make a great cut flowers. For best results, keep the soil acidified.
Marigolds: From cream to bright yellow and orange to brownish red to maroon, sunny Marigolds will flourish in amended soil and generally live through July if flowers are removed.
Nierembergia: This beautiful, low growing, bushy, border plant comes in purple, white and blue.
Petunias: These flowers vary greatly with flower series in size, shape and color. They require well-fertilized and acidified soil and medium amounts of water. The ‘Madness’ and ‘Fantasy’ series are the most heat tolerant. Wave, Easy Wave and Double Wave also tested well in field trials. But all need full sun.
Portulaca/Purslane: These trailing (4 to 6 inches) and cheery colored flowers will provide quick cover for sunny beds and containers. They are very tolerant of high heat and sunlight. Flowers open in the morning and some varieties won’t close until dusk.
Salvia: Salvia is a great backdrop or border plant, as its full height is 18 inches. They prefer some afternoon shade during the hot summer months. Space these red, blue, coral and white plants 8 to12 inches apart.
Vinca (Periwinkle): Vincas thrive in almost any soil, need good drainage and to dry between waterings. Periwinkles have glossy leaves, half-inch flowers and will grow up to 18 inches in height.
Zinnias: Zinnias are heat-loving and do well in ground or containers whether grown directly from seeds or transplanted and come in red, yellow, orange, pink, and white-as well as tall and short varieties.
By Kari Petterson