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Jul 24, 2013

Basics for Annuals

One of the biggest thing that excited me about having my own place was putting out potted annual flowers in the summer. The fun thing about annuals is you can put out as many as you'd like and if you find yourself overwhelmed, you can always cut back the following summer. You can also experiment with many different colors and variety of plants. 

Annual flowers only live for one growing season. Their goal is to bring themselves to a seed and then they eventually die around fall. If you're lucky, some will re-seed themselves in their pots and come back the following year.

Taking care of annual flowers can be very simple but there are some very basics that you need to know. These are basics I learned through trial and error. Upon learning some of these the hard way, I definitely had moments where I smacked my palm on my forehead. A lot of my friends ask me questions about annuals, perennials, bushes and landscaping in general. I have taken a great interest more so than others, but I am still at a very beginning level with lots and lots to learn. I do, however, have some amazing resources for when I need help.

What I like about these basics is they cost absolutely nothing but your time and energy!

1. Water Daily

Annuals need watered absolutely every single day. I cannot stress this enough. I can tell easily after a day of skipping. During the hottest days, it's best to water them twice. Once in the morning and once at night. The best time to water tends to be in the morning but often times, that rarely fits into one's schedule. I try so hard to get my watering done in the morning but it doesn't always happen.

2. Use Fresh Water

Use only fresh, hard water. Most of us have soft water conditioned by salt and chemicals in our house. The salt is dangerous to plants and could kill them off early. This may came across as common sense but I learned this the absolute hard way. All of my annuals have looked awful the last two summers around this time. I consulted Miss Dayla, my flower expert and she said soft water is a huge no no. My outdoor watering s pickets are tied into our water softener. I now run the bypass before watering. Learning this tidbit of information actually inspired this post because I wondered how many others have made this mistake.

3. Drainage

When containerizing annuals, you MUST have a source for water to drain through. Most flower pots and containers made for annuals come with a hole in them. If they come with a plug, make sure it is pulled. If you're re purposing an item like my favorite, an old galvanized bucket, to hold annuals, you must drill a hole in it first. If you do not do this, the soil will hold too much water, drowning your plant and it will eventually die. A good indicator that your container is not draining enough is if the green of your annual starts to turn yellow. At this stage, you can still save the plant. More holes must be drilled and you will need to hold off watering for a couple of days until it looks healthy again.

4. Sun/Shade

Most annuals do not do very well in the shade. You must choose specific types that thrive in the shade for areas under trees and porches. My begonias and potato vine container are doing amazing under my porch. My petunias, not so much. Most greenhouses have their plants very well labeled. You can still grow any annual you'd like in the shade; it just won't reach it's potential color and fullness. Read your plant's labels carefully when selecting plants at the beginning of summer.

5. Dead head

To 'dead head' means to remove the dead flower heads from the plant. By doing this, you will help the plant generate more flowers which means more colorful, longer lasting plants. An annual's goal is to produce seed so by removing the head before it seeds, the plant find a need to produce more. It's a good habit to get into doing this while watering your plant. You may not have time to do it daily, but it takes a lot longer if you wait and do it weekly. I am not very good at keeping up with my dead heading. Sometimes it's a good idea to use a pair of scissors or garden sheers. It's extremely hard to keep up with petunias since their blooms are very plentiful. You'll find that varieties of daisies look terrible if you don't remove the dead heads; especially my favorite, Gerber daisies.

What are some of your favorite annuals you look forward to potting every year?

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