As you are strolling through the greenhouses and garden centers this spring, you are probably grabbing some annual plants to brighten up your home. As you collect all of these beautiful plants, you may become overwhelmed by those impulsive buys. Have no fear! Annual planting is a fun way to use your creativity, and if you don’t like the arrangements, you can start over next year.
Remember that annual plants are “disposable” because we plant them every year. Annuals are a group of usually tender herbaceous plants that cannot survive our winters here in Wisconsin. Annual plants are grown and chosen for their show-stopping blooms, unique foliage, and vigor. We have a very short growing season in summer and we want to make the most of it. Annuals are a great addition to border plantings, vegetable gardens, and containers. A lot of annual plants are from the tropical origin and can be brought in as houseplants over the winter. Examples of these include Hibiscus, Cordyline, Passion Flowers, Mandevilla, Bougainvilla, Dracaena, succulents, cacti, and more!
When creating annual containers or plantings, here are a couple of rules of thumb to follow. Wait to plant outdoor containers and garden beds until the risk of hard frost has left the area. Memorial Day is usually a great indicator for safe planting. It is ok to start planting earlier, but the weather may be unpredictable, and it may become a hassle to make sure your plants aren’t freezing at night. For containers, you will want to use fresh soil every year to give the plants ample nutrients and water-holding capacity. Use a potting mix with peat, perlite, vermiculite, and coir because it will be light for transporting the pots and it will benefit your plants throughout the summer. For garden beds, make sure the area has been cultivated with hand tools or a tiller because you want nice soil contact with the roots and a weed-free zone. When figuring out the placement of your plants, look at the plant labels, and see how big each variety will get. You want to put larger varieties towards the back and move smaller ones towards the front. You do not want to overcrowd your annuals at the beginning of the season because they will shade out others that may die out. When creating containers, remember to include a thriller filler and a spiller to keep the eye of the viewer moving throughout the container. By creating different heights and depths in your arrangement, it will be more appealing to the viewer. A great way to remember this design concept is to use a “thriller, filler, and a spiller” in each container or planting.
Annual plant care can be a little tedious in the middle of summer because they are water lovers. The tender plant shoots can suck up and expire a lot of water during the day to stay cool. Watering in the morning will give the plants enough water to sustain themselves during the warmest parts of the day. Supplemental watering may be necessary during the evening if the day was especially windy or warm. Annuals are usually very forgiving, and they will tell you when they are thirsty. Herbaceous plants “flag” or start to droop when they need water. Don’t let them flag for too long because they could go beyond their permanent wilting point. At this point, the plant doesn’t bounce back and will become crispy. You can also boost your annuals by fertilizing every 7-14 days with a well-balanced fertilizer. A common annual fertilizer usually ranges from 8-8-8 to 12-12-12 (Nitrogen-Phosphorous-Potassium).
Have fun creating your containers and planting your beds. Try something new this year! There are so many new annual varieties introduced to the market every year. Add annuals to any area that needs a pop of color. Happy shopping!