Flower gardening is certainly the most popular form of gardening and is also one of the easiest ways to break into gardening as a novice. Flowers can easily be started from seed. Also, established flower plants abound in local gardening centers and Internet shops that are easily incorporated into any gardening project.
An annual is a plant that lives only one season. It completes its life cycle starting with germination from seed to death within one year. Similarly, there are also biennial plants that take two years to complete its life cycle. Annual plants can also be categorized as summer annuals and winter annuals.
- Summer annuals come up in spring or early summer, flower for one season and reach maturity by fall of the same year and set seed. Summer annuals do not survive winter and die after the first autumn frost.
- Winter annuals germinate in late summer or early autumn when the temperature begins to drop and live through the winter. They die after flowering and setting seed. Winter annuals do not fare well in warmer climates.
Some annuals can be brought inside to overwinter and will thrive for several years if protected from frost and freezing temperatures. These annuals are referred to as tender perennials and will indeed survive in the garden all year long in climates that do not experience winter freezes. Many annuals, however, simply do not live after they have set seed.
Some annuals set seed so prolifically that they may appear to be perennials. Vincas, Petunias and Snapdragons, for example, set seed so profusely and return so reliably that it may seem as though the original plants are coming back every year.
Planting and Caring For Annuals
Annuals need warm soil and temperatures. When planting annuals from seed, you may want to start your seeds indoors in a sunny window or under a grow light approximately six weeks before you plan to transplant them into your garden. This will give your plants and your garden a head start of a season of full, lush growth.
You should try to plant potted annual plants in the garden after all danger of frost is past. Plant them at the same depth they were grown in the container.
Each particular variety of annual will have specific needs. for example, Vincas want full sun, Coleus prefer the shade. So be sure to check the planting guides for each variety that you intend to plant. Also make sure that you are not crowding your plants. The young plants that you transfer to your garden in early spring will triple and sometimes quadruple in size during the course of the year. Give them plenty of room to grow and spread. They will reward you with more blooms and foliage.
Dead-head your annuals after their blossoms are spent and before they dry out to encourage new growth and new blooms.
Annuals are very easy to care for. If you have prepared and amended your soil properly, they will not require any additional fertilizer during the season. If you do notice that your annuals have stopped growing or putting on blooms, you can apply a water-based fertilizer six to 8 weeks after planting. Apply the fertilizer sparingly, using about one-half the recommended amount according to the directions.
Annuals prefer infrequent, deep watering. Apply three-quarters of an inch to one inch of water at each watering, checking to make sure that the soil has dried out adequately in between watering sessions. Soaker hoses are also an excellent method for watering your annuals. Bury your soaker hoses under a layer of mulch to hide them. Mulching around your annuals will help the soil retain moisture and will discourage weeds and pests.
Using annuals in your garden is a great way to fill in bare spots between perennials that have not reached their full growth. Annuals also make wonderful borders and give you the opportunity to change the look of your border each year. One year you may want a cheerful border of bright yellow Marigolds and the next year you may choose a bright white border of dainty Sweet Alyssum to dress up your garden. Planting different annuals each year allows you to give your garden a different look without requiring a major overhaul of the entire garden.
Annuals come in many sizes and shapes. You can plant an annual hedge garden of Tree Mallow, Sunflower and Prickly Poppy. You can plant shade loving annuals like Wax Begonias and Primroses or full-sun loving annuals like Zinnias and Cosmos. Some annuals will even tolerate both sun and shade.
There are varieties of annuals that grow best in hot and dry conditions like Calliopsis and Cockscomb. There are annuals that grow best in cool and moist conditions like Sweet Peas and Verbenas. There are annuals that are just perfect for hanging baskets like Petunias and Fuchsias. You can even plant a full cutting garden of annuals and have fresh flowers in your home all season long.
You can find an annual to fill virtually every spot in your garden and satisfy your every gardening whim and desire. And if you are not totally satisfied with the results this year, or if you just want something different next time, you can start all over next year without tearing up your garden.
Popular Varieties of Annuals
- African Daisy
- Flowering Kale
- Prickly Poppy
- Sweet Alyssum
- Sweet Pea
- Tree Mallow
- Wax Begonia
Perennials are plants that live for more than two years. The term “perennials” is often used to differentiate them from annuals and biennials. When speaking of perennials, we generally mean herbaceous perennials, which are plants that do not form woody stems and roots such as shrubs and trees.
Most herbaceous perennials are also deciduous, meaning the foliage dies off during the winter season and re-grows the next spring. In warmer climates, some perennials may retain their foliage all year long. These are called evergreen perennials.
Perennials offer great advantages for gardeners. As they are long-lived plants, coming back each spring, new plantings are not necessary each year. And because perennials do come back year after year, they develop bigger and hardier root systems and can access water and nutrients at deeper levels in the soil than annual plants. This will reduce the amount of water and fertilizer that you will need to apply to your perennial garden in the long run.
Perennials do not reach full maturity for at least two years and often for three or four years. Hence, it will be necessary to take into account the predicted mature size of your selected perennials when laying out your garden plan so as to prevent overcrowding. Overcrowding can result in stunted root systems and consequently smaller plants that produce fewer and smaller blooms.
Planting annuals in between perennials that are not fully matured can help fill in the bare spots in your garden until your perennial plants reach their full growth.
Planting and Caring For Perennials
When first planting perennials, follow the instructions for the particular variety you are planting which can be found on seed packages or on stickers and inserts in potted plants. Most perennials are planted in spring or after the median frost-free date. Some perennials can be planted in summer and even in early fall.
Perennials ordered from catalogues and Internet shops are often shipped in bare-root form. Bare root means that plants do not have any dirt around the roots and are in a dormant state. Bare-root plants should be planted immediately. If you are unable to plant them immediately, hold them in a cool spot and keep the roots moist by placing a wet paper towel inside the plastic wrapping. Most bare-root plants can be held for several weeks in this state before planting. Soak your bare-root perennials in water for one hour right before planting.
Plant your potted or bare-root perennial plants in the garden after all danger of frost is past. Plant potted plants at the same depth they were in the pots. There are some perennials that need shallow planting such as Peonies and Bleeding Hearts. The stickers or inserts on the plants will provide instructions on any unusual planting needs.
Plant bare-root plants with the junction of the root and stem of the plant placed just above ground level. Planting this junction too low may result in crown rot, and planting this junction too high may cause the roots to dry out. It is best for beginning gardeners to err on the high mark but not by too much. Additional soil can always be added to the area around the plant if it becomes apparent that the plant’s roots are drying out. Drying roots will be evidenced by quickly yellowing and browning leaves and poor growth. Keep a close watch on your bare-root plants for the first week to make sure they have been planted at the correct depth.
If you have prepared and amended your soil adequately, you will not need to fertilize your perennials when you plant them. In fact, over fertilizing can result in soft, excessive growth and fewer blooms. Expect your perennials to begin putting on new growth four to six weeks after planting. If you do not see your plants beginning to put on new growth in six weeks, use a water-based fertilizer at the recommended strength according to the instructions on the package once a week for four weeks and then once a month for the remainder of the season. If your perennials do put on new growth as expected, you may want to fertilize with a water-based fertilizer after you have dead-headed the first blooms.
Perennials also prefer infrequent, deep watering. Apply three-quarters of an inch to one inch of water at each watering; checking to make sure that the soil has dried out adequately in between waterings. Using soaker hoses is also an excellent method for watering your annuals. Bury your soaker hoses under a layer of mulch to hide them from sight. Mulching around your plants will help the soil retain moisture and discourage weeds and pests. It is also advisable to leave mulch on your perennial garden during the winter months to give the root systems extra protection from freezing and to help retain moisture through the winter. Cold temperatures can dry soil and plants just as severely as hot temperatures.
Always dead-head spent blooms after they have withered and before they have dried out to encourage new growth and re-blooming.
There are perennials to fit into any gardening scheme. Full-sun loving perennials like Black Eyed Susan and Yarrow will produce plants two to four feet tall that will beautifully accentuate the front of your house. Larger plants like Cone Flower and False Spirea or smaller perennials like Coreopsis and Sedum make great background planting for annuals.
Shade loving perennials like Foxglove and Lily of the Valley can brighten up the shady areas of your yard. Russian Sage and Butterfly Weed love hot and dry locations. Delphinium and Hibiscus prefer wet conditions. If you have sloped areas, hills or banks in your yard, groundcover perennials such as Lamb’s Ear and Sea Thrift can take the place of grass in these hard to mow areas.
You can plant a perennial garden that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to your yard. Butterflies love Petunias and Mexican Sunflowers. Hummingbirds are attracted to Lupines and Red Hot Pokers.
Each garden should incorporate a goodly portion of perennials to provide a solid and beautiful background year after year.
Popular Varieties of Perennials
- Asiatic Lily
- Bee Delphinium
- Black Eyed Susan
- Bleeding Heart
- Butterfly Weed
- Cone Flower
- Cora Bells
- False Spirea
- Lamb’s Ear
- Lily Of The Valley
- Mexican Sunflowers
- Moss Phlox
- Perennial Sage
- Pinapple Sage
- Pincushion Flower
- Purple Coneflower
- Redhot Poker
- Russian Sage
- Sea Thrift
- Siberian Iris
- Tall Garden Phlax
- Threadleaf Coreopsis
- Toad Lily
Bulbs, Rhizomes, Corms and Tubers
Bulbs, rhizomes, corms and tubers are essentially earth plants. They all have a swollen, underground storage part which helps them survive excessively cold and hot periods. These storage organs also nourish them during the flowering and growing season. Many people collectively refer to bulbs, rhizomes, corms and tubers as bulbs but there are major differences.
These are also referred to as ornamental bulbous plants. Bulbs are round-shaped plants that have a short stem with fleshy leaves that are made of layers. At the bottom of the bulb, there is a basal plate or compressed stem where the roots grow from. As the plant continues to grow, bulblets emerge from the base of the old bulb. Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths are examples of bulbs.
Rhizomes, also called creeping rootstalks, are horizontally growing plants with the stalk lying on or just below the ground surface. Rhizomes multiply by forming growth buds from the nodes along the root structure of the original rhizome to produce the next year’s leaves and flowers. The original rhizome will not flower again and will need to be removed when the time comes. Canna Lilies, Calla Lilies, Irises are examples of rhizomes.
Corms are similar to bulbs or rhizomes in respect to functionality but are flatter and do not have layers like a bulb. Corms also have a basal plate where the roots spill out from the underside of the corm into the ground. Towards the end of the growing season, baby corms sprout out from the base of the parent plant that can be detached to grow new plants. Crocus, Freesia, Gladiolus are examples of corms.
Tubers are typically thick short stems or roots that grow just below the surface of the ground. Tubers can be categorized as stem tubers and root tubers. The stem tuber is essentially a swollen stem where the tuber is formed at the end of the stem and can produce new shoots on its surface. The root tuber is a root swollen by storing water and nutrients. The tuber is formed on the root and does not produce an offset but grows in size every year and is used only for storage. A typical example of a stem tuber and root tuber is a potato and Dahlia, respectively.
Planting and Caring
Bulbs and rhizomes are also perennials as the plants that grow from them live and return for more than two years.
Spring flowering bulbs and rhizomes are planted in fall before the first hard frost instead of in spring. In order to produce their first flower spike, spring bulbs must have at least two months at temperatures below 40° F.
The very earliest spring blooms come from spring blooming bulbs. Crocus will often bloom before the last snow has melted followed by Tulips, Daffodils and Dutch Iris.
The soil preparation for bulbs and rhizomes is the same as for annuals and perennials. If planting several bulbs in one spot you can dig one large hole or trench and place all the bulbs in it, or you can dig individual holes for each bulb.
Each variety of bulb, rhizome, corm and tuber has different planting requirements. You should carefully read and follow the planting instructions that come with your bulbs, rhizomes, corms and tubers. If they are planted too deep they may never come up. If they are planted too shallow they may not sprout. However, bulbs planted in extremely cold climates may be planted one to two inches deeper than recommended in order to give them greater protection from the winter temperatures.
If you would like to have a mixture of spring blooming bulbs in one spot, plant them in layers. Dig a hole to the depth needed for the largest bulbs and plant them first. Add enough soil to reach the depth needed for the second largest bulbs and continue planting all your bulbs. Do take care not to plant one bulb on top of the other. This method will give you a lasting profusion of flowers over a period of several weeks.
After fall planting, it is a good idea to spread a layer of mulch or straw over your bulbs to help protect them from winter temperatures and to help the soil retain moisture.
During the first year, bulbs will not need fertilizer. After the blooms are spent and have been dead-headed, it is important to leave the leaves intact until they also wither and die naturally. The leaves gather energy from the sun that is necessary for the successful production of flowers the next spring. After the first year, fertilize your bulbs once each year with a fertilizer specially formulated for bulbs and follow directions on the label carefully.
Water guidelines for most bulbs, rhizomes, corms and tubers are the same as for annuals and perennials. Infrequent and deep watering of ¾ of an inch to one inch at a time are preferred.
Whether you want to plant bulbs, rhizomes, corms or tubers, all these plants are sure to produce a spectacularly colorful show in the spring and summer months.
“Gardening Made Easy: Your Guide To A Beautiful Garden”
- Gardening Basics For Beginners
- 4 Steps To Successful Gardening: Planning, Preparation, Planting & Maintenance
- Organic Gardening For Natural Living
- Vegetable Gardening: How To Grow Healthy and Fresh Veggies At Home
- Flower Gardening – Annuals, Perennials and Bulbs
“Gardening Made Easy: Your Guide To A Beautiful Garden” will continue with another exciting chapter next time. Stay tuned!