Every summer you’d think a paint store exploded over everyone’s porch and patio areas. We can’t help but spend a hefty amount of cash on those colorful plants that thrive in the summer because they give us what we really want at this time of year – immediate color satisfaction.
May and June are the optimal time to plant summer annuals, with consistent care they will last well into September, and even October, depending on our early fall weather. It is so tempting to buy and plant annuals too early in the spring. For our region, professionals recommend waiting until at least April 15 to do so and then keep a close eye on the local weather forecasts for any frost alerts so that you can protect your annuals should a cold front move in.
When shopping for annuals, look for plants that are healthy and vigorous with thick branching stems, dark green foliage (in most cases), and flower buds just starting to show a bit of color. Avoid plants that are either spindly or have yellowing/browning leaves that can be a sign of stress, disease, or pests. Pop them out of their packs and check the root systems make sure they are not dried out, rotting, or too crowded. As with all plants, it is important that they be placed in the right place for them to thrive. That means if they are labeled for full sun and good drainage, site them accordingly and place them with plants of similar needs if grouping in containers to minimize your maintenance efforts. This can mean focusing more on foliage color versus blooms in a shade setting, and letting blooms take over in full sun.
When choosing your palette of annuals, it’s helpful to start with a foliage plant you love (for example, Purple Fountain Grass), then choose a second foliage plant with complementary hues and contrasting textures (for example, any variety of Coleus). Finally, add a bloom that pulls it all together. Have containers sitting on your porch or patio? Many professionals recommend looking for the following to create the best looking containers: a “thriller” (tall plants), a “filler” (plants to fill in the middle), and a “spiller” (plants that trail over the edge). This creates a balanced look that allows the planter and annuals to shine.
Lastly, when it comes to maintaining annuals it’s important to plan for a consistent water and fertilizer regimen. Because annuals only thrive for one growing season, they consume a good deal of resources. Whether you plant them in the ground or in containers, add in a slow-release fertilizer (such as Osmocote) and water storing granules (such as Soil Moist). This gives them a good head start and helps them get over the transplant shock quicker. It also helps you have to water a bit less frequently. You may still want to add a liquid fertilizer every week or two to annuals that are in containers as they quickly run through the nutrients in the limited amount of soil they are in.