Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Hendry County Horticulture News
Annual Flowers Fit Well in any Landscape
Annual flowering plants have a nearly infinite variety of flower color and form and fit well into almost any landscape. They can provide color to an often drab landscape. Annual may be planted in containers to add a splash of color to a porch or patio. They are also enjoyed as fresh and dry cut flowers and can provide the basis for a very rewarding hobby.
Annuals are plants which are grown from seed, produce flowers and seed, and die in one growing season. By contrast, biennials complete their life span within 2 years and perennials last for 3 years or longer. Annual flowers are especially valuable in Florida. Many bloom during winter months, contributing toward a colorful landscape and producing blooms for home decorations. Others grow and flower during June, July. August, and September, blooming through our summer heat and heavy rain.
Culture of annuals in Florida is different from that in most states because Florida due to our climate. During winter, nights are cool with an occasional frost or freeze. In the early spring and late fall, nights are cool, whereas high night temperatures, heavy rains. and high relative humidity are typical during summer and early fall. Careful attention must be given to these factors if annuals are to be grown successfully in Florida.
Petunias, pansies. and snapdragons that grow well and flower under cool night temperatures 45-65°F should be planted in the fall, winter, and early spring. Annuals such as marigold, gazania, amaranthus, celosia, crossandra, and coleus can tolerate high temperature and humidity should be planted in late spring or early summer. Some annuals such as wax begonias and salvias grow relatively well during both hot and cool seasons and can be planted almost year round..
While we are fortunate to have abundant sunshine and mild winters, gardeners must still contend with infertile sandy soils, insects, and heavy rains which necessitate repeated applications of fungicides for disease control. Annual flower beds in the landscape will increase maintenance compared to turf. The home gardener should be aware of this and allocate more time for maintenance if the decision is made to grow annuals.
It is difficult for the average home gardener to germinate seed and grow seedlings; therefore most people will find it easier to purchase large seedlings or young plants. Before purchasing annuals, the home gardener should decide how the plants will be used in the landscape. Annuals should serve as an accent to the landscape, not a dominant feature in the setting. They should harmonize with the setting, and colors should blend with each other and with the home.
When selecting annuals for beds or borders, it is best to limit the choice to as few kinds as possible. Combinations of too many flower colors and plant forms can take away from the display. Attractive flower beds can be created by using one plant species.
Flower beds should be prepared before plants are purchased. Allowing plants to remain in their original containers for prolonged periods after purchase can have a negative effect on their performance after planting. Purchase plants when you're ready and plant them as soon as possible, preferably within twenty-four hours.
Annual planting sites should be spaded or tilled at least six inches deep several weeks before planting. Florida's sandy soils have very low nutrient and water holding capacities. Incorporation of 2 to 3 inches of organic matter into planting beds will increase nutrient and water holding capacities of these soils. Organic materials should be thoroughly mixed into the soil.
Flower beds should be fertilized prior to planting or at planting time and repeated on a monthly basis. Apply 6-6-6 or a similar complete fertilizer at the rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet of bed area. Controlled release fertilizers are ideal for Florida's sandy soils. Plants grow better with a continuous nutrient supply and labor is reduced with controlled release fertilizers.
Be sure to purchase good quality plants. Look for young, healthy, disease- and insect-free plants with dark green foliage. It is not necessary that plants are in bloom when purchased. If plants reduced in price for sale have been subjected to water stress, are tall and spindly, or have nutrient deficiency symptoms, they are not a bargain and should not be purchased. Plants that have been abused or held too long seldom recover, and will never reach their full potential.
Seasonal adaptation should be considered when purchasing annuals. Cool-season annuals such as snapdragons and pansies that do well during winter are poor selections when purchased in March or April.
Selection of annuals should be greatly influenced by the available light in an area. Some annuals, such as marigold and ageratum, perform best in full sun. Others, such as impatiens and dahlia, grow best in areas receiving several hours of morning or afternoon sun. There are no flowering annuals that will perform well under heavy shade. However, annuals such as crossandra and tuberous begonia grow best in areas receiving no direct sunlight.
A few strategically placed annuals can really enhance a landscape - try some - you are sure to like the results. Good luck and good gardening.
Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service. Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975, e-mail - GMcAvoy@mail.ifas.ufl.edu or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598. You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle. Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.
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