Spring is here and with summer well on its way, LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill says that now is the time to start cultivating plants that will keep your flower gardens bright and vibrant until fall.
“Warm season bedding plants grow and flower best in the warm to hot months of April to October, and we can begin planting them as early as late March in south Louisiana,” Gill told the Herald-Guide.
“But most gardeners that planted cool season bedding plants will generally wait for them to begin to fade (usually in May), remove them and replace them with warm season bedding plants.”
Gill says that tender perennials, such as impatients, periwinkles, blue daze, pentas and begonias, are used as bedding plants along with true annuals, but these plants have far more stamina and staying power a the summer flower garden.
“They make outstanding bedding plants, often blooming from late spring until cool weather arrives in fall,” says Gill.
“True annuals rarely make it all the way through our exceptionally long summer growing season.
“Choose annuals well suited to the growing conditions provided by the location where they will be planted.”
While most annuals need full sun (at least eight hours of direct sun) to part sun (about six hours of direct sun), Gill says that there are some annuals that thrive in part shade (about four hours of direct sun) or shade (about two hours of direct sun).
And Gill warns that even annuals that like part shade to shady locations will generally not perform as well in full shade where they receive no direct sun and says that Caladiums, planted from tubers or growing plants, are one of the best choices for color in full shade.
Need help preparing your flower gardens for summer bedding plants? Gill says that beds must be readied carefully and the best preparation can come from following these five easy gardening tips:
1. Eliminate any weeds or other unwanted plants from the bed.
2. Turn the soil to a depth of at least eight inches.
3. Spread a two to four inch layer of compost, rotted leaves, aged manure, finely ground pine bark or peat moss over the bed, and then evenly sprinkle a light application of a granular or organic all purpose fertilizer.
4. Thoroughly blend the organic matter and fertilizer into the bed, rake smooth and you’re ready to plant.
5. Make sure you plant the transplants into the bed no deeper than they were growing in their original container and at the proper spacing.
“Annual plantings are not low maintenance, and you should keep in mind the care that they will need when deciding where, how large and how many beds you will plant,” recommends Gill.
“Mulch will reduce problems with weeds, but regular weeding will still be necessary.
“Regular watering, pest control and grooming like removing dead flowers and unattractive leaves will keep them looking their best,” says Gill.
And Gill also points out that all annual plants in containers, hanging baskets and window boxes need regular watering and fertilization.Pick the best color for your flower bed using this planting chart
Warm season bedding plants for sun to part sun: Abelmoschus, Ageratum, Amaranthus, Balsam, Blue Daze, Celosia, Cleome, Coleus (sun-tolerant types), Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlberg Daisy, Dusty Miller, Gaillardia, Gomphrena, Lantana, Lisianthus, Marigold, Melampodium, Narrow-leaf Zinnia, Ornamental Pepper, Periwinkle, Pentas, Portulaca, Purslane, Rudbeckia (short-lived perennial), Salvia, Scaevola, Sunflower, Tithonia, Torenia, Perennial Verbena, Zinnia.
Warm season bedding plants for partial shade to shade: Balsam, Begonia, Browallia, Caladium (perennial tuber), Cleome, Coleus, Impatiens, Pentas, Salvia, Torenia.