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Archive date:  April 12, 2001

Planting Annuals

A Few Key Tips

Annuals are wonderful plants. They provide masses of instant color. Best of all, because they are replaced seasonally, they provide versatility and an opportunity for creativity. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when creating an annual bed.

  1. The first step is to plan the bed area. What plants will be included and where will they be planted? Be sure to select plants that will perform well in the selected area. If unsure of the light exposure, observe the area for one cloud-free day to determine the amount of sunlight it receives.
  2. Amend the soil by adding compost or soil conditioner. This step is very important. It will improve the drainage and nutrient content of the soil. When planting 4” plants till the amendments into the topsoil about 6” to 10” to ensure good drainage. Check the cultural requirements for the annuals you plan to install. Most annuals prefer highly organic, well-drained soil. However, one important exception is portulaca (moss rose), which requires a well-drained but poor soil (low organic matter).
  3. Before planting, this is a good time to add a slow release fertilizer into the soil. Lightly till in the fertilizer, it should stay in the top 4” of the soil so it will be in reach of the new plants roots. Rake the bed level and get ready to shop!
  4. Now is the fun part! Shopping for the plants. When purchasing plants, select ones that are compact and have healthy green foliage. While at the nursery, if you find a plant you simply can’t live without, make certain it will thrive in the area you have prepared.
  5. Once you have the plants home they need to be made ready to install. Water them thoroughly before removing them from their containers. This makes them easier to remove and prevents them from going into shock during the transplant. Now, this may sound crazy, but it is a good idea to remove all the blooms from the plants and pinch them back to about a 4” height. Removing the blooms allows the plant to concentrate on root production. Pinching the plant back will promote branching, more branches mean more buds! If the plants are small wait one or two weeks after planting and then pinch them back.
  6. Now it’s time to place the plants in the ground. Most annuals can be spaced 8” to 10” on center, depending on how quickly you want them to fill in. When in doubt, read the plant tag for planting instructions. When removing the plants from their containers press the sides of the container to loosen the plant and then push from the bottom or turn upside down and tap the bottom of the container. Pulling annuals out by their stems can damage the plant.
  7. After plant water the new bed thoroughly. The soil should be wet at least to a 4” depth. If a slow release fertilizer was not incorporated into the soil before planting a liquid fertilizer can be applied after watering.
  8. With a little deadheading (the removal of old blooms), and some occasional weeding, annuals will provide spectacular color throughout their growing season.