Just like butterflies and honeybees, people are drawn to colorful flowers and foliage that entice us to plant and enjoy the wonderful color palette that Mother Nature employs. With various sizes, textures, colors, and growth habits, flowering plants can provide quite the aesthetic appeal to our landscapes.
So, here are a few tips to help stimulate growth and encourage your artistic creativity.
- All plants need light, water, nutrients, and space to grow.
- Most flowering plants will achieve optimal flowering with adequate light. If your site receives more than three hours of unfiltered mid-day sun, treat this area as a “full sun” site. “Partial shade” can be defined as receiving unfiltered morning sun, but shade during the afternoon hours, or moderate shading throughout the entire day. A “heavily shaded” site would receive very little direct mid-day light and less than 60% of the sun’s intensity during the remainder of the day. Few flowering plants do well in deep shade. Choose plants based upon their sun/shade requirements.
- Most plants need good drainage to promote growth. If your planting bed holds excessive amounts of moisture after a rain event, consider containers or a raised planting bed. One method to check for adequate drainage is to dig a hole 10 inches deep and fill it with water. After it drains, refill it with water. If the water drains in 8 to 10 hours the site is adequately drained for most flowers. If you plant in containers, use a well draining potting mix. Do not use soil from the garden. Garden soil in a pot drains poorly, may contain diseases and pest, and often defeats the purpose of planting in a container.
- Space plants in beds or pots so they are not crowded but completely cover the planting area when mature. This will help limit disease development and also reduce weed competition. Tall upright plants such as snapdragons should be spaced about one-fourth as far apart as their mature height. Tall bushy plants should be spaced about one-half as far apart as their mature height. Rounded, bushy annuals should be spaced about as far apart as their mature height. A good rule of thumb is to space plants 6 to 8 inches apart. For more uniform beds, use a staggered spacing instead of setting plants in straight rows.
- All plants need nutrients to grow and they take in the majority of these nutrients through their roots. Taking a soil sample and amending the soil accordingly will help promote optimal growth. If growing plants in containers, many potting mixes will have nutrients added to the mix. For season long growth, you will probably need additional fertilizer during the growing season. Use plant growth and color to guide your decision. If the plant is growing slowing and lacks the deep color it started with, some additional fertilizer may be needed. Both natural and synthetic fertilizers are available and both achieve the same end. Slow release and water soluble fertilizers will provide better options for containers.
- Deadheading is the removal of dead or faded flowers and seedpods. Annuals expend a considerable amount of energy in producing seeds after the flower fades, which often results in a decrease in flower production. To maintain vigorous growth and flowering, remove spent flowers and seedpods. This step is not necessary for all flowers but is recommended for Calendula, Celosia, Coleus, Cosmos, Geraniums, Marigolds, Petunias, Scabiosa, Salvia, Rudbeckia, or Zinnias. Some bedding plants, such as Polka Dot plant, Petunias, and Impatiens, may benefit from pruning back for size control and rejuvenation.
- Lastly, be creative in how you display your plants. A horizontal planting bed can offer many options, but don’t forget to think vertically. Search the Internet, survey your neighborhood, and thumb through the gardening magazines. Pick and choose interesting features and experiment with new ideas. If one idea doesn’t work, think critically about why it did not work. Learn from your experience and improve upon your design. Remember, you can’t bake a cake without breaking a few eggs, and you can’t have a great garden without losing a few plants.
For more information visit the NC State Extension Gardening Portal (http://gardening.ces.ncsu.edu/ or the NC State Extension Annual Flowers note (http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/growing-annual-flowers/). You may also contact Agriculture Agent Daniel Simpson at the Pamlico County Extension office, 252-745-4121 or Daniel_simpson@ncsu.edu.