How to Plant an Annuals Garden


One of the greatest things about growing an annuals garden is that you can mix things up each year with different flowers of various colors in unique layouts.  

If you're at a loss as to how to go about this, you've come to the right place. This article will walk you through each step of planting an annuals garden, from making wise plant selections to fending off pests and weeds to preparing your garden for next here. Here's more of what you'll find:

  • Growing an Annuals Garden

    Here, you'll find helpful advice on how to go about planning for your annuals garden, including references to helpful charts that appear later in this article for making annual flower selections based on color, soil type, and lighting conditions. Of course, no matter what you decide to plant, you need to create a well-thought-out plan to ensure you select plants that will thrive in your climate and your soil. In this section, we'll walk you through the methods to create that plan so you can begin to grow an annuals garden and begin to beautify your back or front yard.

  • Designing with Annuals

    Thinking about how you want your annual flowers to appear in your garden is one of the most creative and fun tasks of gardening. While one year you may want to create a massed planting of all red flowers, the next year you may want a free-flowing mix of annual flowers of all different colors, sizes, and forms. Learn how to use the design basics of color, texture, scale, and form to create a visually appealing annuals garden. You'll also find tips on mingling annuals with other plants, such as perennials and vegetables, to create the complete design you desire.

  • Selecting Annuals

    Before you are in the greenhouse trying to decide which annual flowers to bring home, make sure you know what pitfalls to avoid when selecting annuals. We'll give you a short reminder of the basics, such as don't choose a plant that has pests climbing in it. We'll also give you more advanced tips, such as choosing shorter-looking plants instead of tall ones. We'll arm you with methods for selecting healthy plants in your garden, including what to look for when purchasing boxed annual flowers at a garden center. This section also offers suggestions on growing your own bedding plants.

  • Planting and Caring for Annuals

    We all know that plants need sunlight, soil, and water, but the amounts of each one of these are variables that can cause an annuals garden to flourish or fail. Learn the basics on how to provide the best care possible for your annuals garden, including how to plant, water, and fertilize properly, as well as how to keep things tidy by pinching back and deadheading old flowers. We'll show you how to make a planting grid, use a spacing rope, ensure you're deep watering and even define what those mean in order to plant and care for your annuals.

  • Preventing Diseases and Pests

    You know the old saying, if you can see one pest, you have to wonder how many of its relatives are lurking in your prized annual flowers. Here, you'll find helpful tips on how to ensure that pesky pests and diseases don't take over your annuals garden. We'll teach you the difference between a single problem and an infestation -- and what to do about either situation. Once we help you to identify the disease or pest, we'll also teach you how to control it. Helpful charts at the article's end will help you identify the problem and offer solutions.

  • Increasing Annuals

    You have that one flower in your garden that you're absolutely smitten with because of its ease of care and great beauty. We'll show you how to take this plant's seeds and start other plants just like it. This process is called increasing annuals. You can increase annuals by collecting seeds, using stem cuttings, or buying self-sowing annuals. We'll give you some great tips to remember, such as how to find seedpots that vary in design, what annual plants you shouldn't use, and the right time of year for taking stem cuttings. You'll also learn more about self-sown annuals.

  • Preparing Annuals for Next Year

    Every year as the weather starts to change from great summer days to those blustery nights, you do a number of things to get your house and your family ready for winter. You need to also remember to prepare your annual flowers for the following gardening year so they can make it through the winter. Get tips on preparing your plants for the winter, such as determining which plants can handle the cold and which should be taken inside. Also featured in this section are helpful guidelines on other winter preparation chores, including a reference to a handy month-by-month checklist.

  • Other Uses for Annuals

    A great positive of having a garden is the number of flowers that your hard work has created. You can cut the flowers to enjoy inside. You can even plant cutting gardens, which can be a bit of a surprise, because with prepackaged cutting gardens, you don't always know what you're planting. Enjoy your annuals all year long, using flowers from the cutting garden for bouquets or drying and pressing flowers for various uses. We'll show you how to select the right flowers for bouquets, as well as press and dry them. Learn plenty of helpful tips in this section.
The remaining sections of the article feature charts that will come in handy throughout the year, including lists of annuals based on color and ease of care, common pests and diseases that attack annuals, and a month-by-month task chart. Let's get started.

Growing an Annuals Garden

Planting annuals can be as simple as selecting one favorite flower and flooding an entire planting area with it. Most people, however, prefer to mix different annual flower varieties in their gardens, even though it requires a bit more work and planning. Available colors, height of plants, shade or sun preference, soil requirements -- all of these factors have to be taken into consideration.

Planning an annuals garden in advance is the only way to make sure that an annuals bed is color balanced and that the plants work well together in terms of sun or shade, height, and soil.

An eye-catching garden can be achieved by combining annuals of different colors and sizes.

If you list your favorite plants on paper first, noting their available colors and cultural requirements, you're off to a good start. As you narrow down those that work well together, you can actually see a workable garden emerge in front of you. By taking this extra bit of time, you can save yourself from being disappointed later.

Designing with Annuals

There are several factors to consider when designing your annuals garden, such as the color, texture, and scale of the flowers you want to plant. Use the following guidelines to help you with the design process.

Color

Designing with annuals puts a lot of emphasis on flower color. Annuals offer flower color for a longer period of time than other plant types, for they are constantly in bloom. They are often used in complex plans.

annuals
The basics of designing an annuals garden focus on the color and texture of your annual flowers. Learn about beginning annuals design at HowStuffWorks.

Flowers are not the only source of color in annual gardens. Many plants, such as the dramatic purple orach and more muted silver-gray dusty miller, are treasured for their foliage alone. Others (such as cockscombs) have both colorful foliage and flowers. And still others -- ornamental peppers, eggplants, and dolichos, for instance -- provide garden color with their attractive fruits. Here are some color tips:

Re-create a favorite pattern from a family crest, piece of fabric, or needlepoint with annuals in your flower garden. You've seen similar patterns at amusement parks and public gardens. Why not do the same with a pattern that is meaningful to you?

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Selecting Annuals

Once you've determined which annuals you'd like to plant, you'll want to find the best quality plants and seeds possible. Fortunately, seeds and boxed bedding plants available in the United States are generally of high quality. The tips outlined below will also help.

Store-Bought Plants

Boxed bedding plants are ready for your garden.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Healthy flats of colorful annuals are available at
most nurseries and garden centers.

Whether you make your purchases through a local greenhouse or nursery, a chain store, or a roadside stand, you'll usually find fresh, high-
quality seeds and vigorous, insect- and disease-
free plants. What's more, with very rare exceptions, these offerings can be relied upon to be correctly labeled.

Because of this consistently good quality, it's possible to buy plants wherever you find the best price on the variety you want. However, before buying, be sure that it really is the lowest price. That is, one retailer may sell a "box" for $3.99
and another sell a "box" of the same variety for only $3.50. But if the first box contains eight plants and the second contains six, the higher-priced box is the better buy.

When possible, purchase boxed plants early in the season, especially if the store you buy them from is not a nursery or garden shop. Too often, the plants arrive at the store in vigorous condition but then are tended by personnel who know nothing about plants. As a result, watering is frequently haphazard and inadequate.

Plants to Start Indoors
These plants typically do well when started indoors:

  • Globe Amaranth
  • Asparagus fern
  • Aster
  • Fibrous begonia
  • Tuberous begonia
  • Candytuft
  • Cleome
  • Coleus
  • Dahlia
  • African daisy
  • Dahlberg daisy
  • Dracaena
  • Dusty miller
  • Floss flower
  • Geranium
  • Impatiens
  • Lisianthus
  • Lobelia
  • Nicotiana
  • Ornamental pepper
  • Pansy
  • Petunia
  • Polka-dot plant
  • Salpiglossis
  • Salvia
  • Sapphire flower
  • Snapdragon
  • Stock
  • Verbena
  • Vinca
  • Persian violet

(Note: Some plants will be found on both this list and the list of plants to sow directly in the garden. Either option will work; you may want to start those with short growing seasons indoors in order to enjoy the longest possible period of bloom.)

Added to the problem is the fact that boxed plants are usually displayed in a hot and brightly sunlit outdoor location where the sun and wind dry them out. Unfortunately, each time the plants wilt down some of their strength is lost. Bedding plants that suffer from these conditions will be slow to recover when they're put in the garden. Here are some things to look for:

  • Leaf color: The foliage of naturally green-leafed plants should be bright green, not faded yellow or scorched bronze or brown.

  • Plant shape: The sturdiest seedlings will be compact, with short stretches of stem between sets of leaves. A lanky, skinny seedling is weaker and less desirable than a short, stocky one.

  • Pests: If you shake the plant, no insects should come fluttering off. Inspect the stem tips and flower buds for aphids, small pear-shape sap suckers. Look for hidden pests by turning the plant upside down and looking under the leaves and along the stem.

  • Roots: An annual with ideal roots will have filled out its potting soil without growing cramped. When roots are overcrowded, the plant is root-bound -- the roots have consumed all soil space and grown tangled. The best way to judge root quality is to pop a plant out of its container (or ask a salesperson to do this) and check to see how matted the roots have become.

Container-grown plant
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
The left side of this container-grown plant shows the good signs to look for -- clear labeling,
small weeds of green, and small roots peeping through. The bad signs, on the right, include wilted leaves, pests,
dense weed growth, dry soil, a split container, and a thick root growing through the base.

If the last frost date isn't yet passed, or your planting bed isn't fully prepared, it still makes sense to buy plants when they first arrive at the retailer's. Bring them home where you can care for them properly until you can plant them out.

When purchasing packets of seeds, there are two things to check on. First, be sure the seeds are fresh. Somewhere on the label it should read "Packed for sale in 20--." Make sure it's the current year.

Second, when deciding between several sources for the same kind of seed, look at the number of seeds each company offers in its packet. As with the boxed plants, the lower-priced packet is not always the best buy.

All of the large seed houses supply reliable, fresh, high-quality seeds. In addition, you'll find there are many small specialty seed companies sending out catalogs. Little is known about these suppliers; they may or may not be reputable. When dealing with a seed company you haven't ordered from before, it's a good idea to buy only two or three packets the first season. How well those seeds perform will determine whether or not you want to order more from that company in the future.

Starting Your Own Bedding Plants

For those who want to have an almost instant show of annual bloom, boxed bedding plants are the answer. The main drawback to purchasing boxed bedding plants is the limited selection. There are many annuals that are unavailable from any commercial sources. A gardener who wants them will have to start them at home. Also, if large numbers of plants are needed, the cost of boxed plants can be prohibitive.

In these instances, or just for the pleasure of it, you may want to start your own bedding plants. It's quite possible for any gardener to succeed with only a small initial investment in equipment and supplies. Here's what you'll need:

  • Light: The most essential ingredient for successful seed starting is adequate light. It's possible to start seeds on the sill of a sun-filled window, but plants often stretch out toward the light source and become leggy. A three-sided white or silver reflector shield set up behind the plant trays will reflect light back onto the plants to help combat this problem.

    Where there is not enough light available naturally, an easy alternative is to raise seedlings under fluorescent grow lamps. To provide maximum light from all sides, surround the area under the lights with a white or silver-painted reflector. Plants grown under lights grow straight and sturdy, unlike those grown on a windowsill.
  • Heat: Along with light, another need is adequate heat. The bottom heat that warms the soil in which the seedlings are grown is very important. If the air temperature in the chosen growing area is colder than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, bottom heat can be supplied by a heating cable installed under the growing medium.

    Equipment for starting plants indoors.
    © 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    Some of the supplies you'll need to start plants indoors include a fluorescent grow light,
    an automatic timer, reflectors, a heating cable, and a drip tray.

  • Water: Water is a third requirement for plant growth. A rimmed watering tray will allow the seed trays and young plants to be watered from the bottom. Top watering can batter plants down, as well as increase the possibility of fungus problems.

    The primary concern with bottom watering is overwatering. Water shouldn't continuously stand in the watering tray. Pour lukewarm water to a 1/4-inch depth into the tray. Leave it for five to ten minutes. At the end of that time, observe how much water is left in the tray. Also, roll a small pinch of the planting soil between thumb and finger to test for moisture. What you want is soil that feels wet with very little or no water remaining in the tray.Test the soil moisture once each day by rolling a small amount between your fingers. Water again when the soil feels more dry than wet. It's impossible to predict how many days will be needed between waterings. You'll be able to make a fairly accurate "guesstimate" of your own circumstances after a few weeks.
  • Soil: Planting soil for starting and growing young seedlings should be free of weeds and disease. Buy prepackaged seed-starting mixes or create your own. If you mix your own soil, you must sterilize it. This can be accomplished by sterilizing the planting mix.

    First, spread it in a thin layer on cookie sheets and bake at a low temperature (150 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit) until it is completely dried out. Next, cool the soil and mix the water back into it until it's moist. Finally, pour the soil into sterile containers, allowing it to settle for a day before planting the seeds. A simpler approach is to purchase a specially formulated plant starter mix made up of inert materials. Fill the sterile containers with this mix, firm or tamp it lightly with your fingers, then sow the seeds.
  • Containers: Seeds can be started in a variety of containers: milk or egg cartons with holes punched in their bottoms or low on their sides, plastic or wooden boxes, clay or plastic pots, peat pots, or special seed starter cubes and trays are all equally acceptable. Virtually anything that will hold soil and allow easy passage of water through drainage holes in the bottom will work.

    Containers designed to hold a single plant are the best choice for large plants, which tend to crowd each other out in six-packs; for plants that don't like to have their roots disturbed by transplanting; and for climbing vines. Most annuals do well in any container.
  • Seed Sowing: Seeds can be sown individually in single pots. Plant two seeds in each, removing the weaker of the two seedlings when they grow their first real leaves (the very first leaves to unfold from a new seedling are called the seed leaves; the second set of leaves is its
    first true leaves).

    When sowing a packet of seeds in a box or larger pot, they can either be broadcast over the surface in a scatter pattern or be planted in rows. If only a few plants of each kind are wanted, rows make more sense; when larger numbers of plants are desired, broadcasting is faster. If the seeds are very small, don't cover them with additional planting mix after sowing; medium to large seeds should have a layer of planting mix sprinkled on top. Lightly press the surface of the planting mix after sowing.
  • Label: Be sure to label each planting in some way. The system doesn't matter as long as you have one.
Once the seeds are sown, water the seed trays from the bottom until the mix feels moist. Allow excess water to drip out of the container bottom before placing the container in your growing setup.

If the seed packet indicates that the seeds germinate best in darkness, lay two sheets of newspaper over each seed tray for the first few days. Many annuals require light for germination. Inspect each seed tray closely every day. As soon as you see seedlings pushing through, remove the newspaper layer.

Germination time varies widely. Ideally, you should start the slower growers earlier than those that germinate rapidly in order to have them all at the same stage when planting time arrives. Study the descriptions of each plant to know when to get each of them started. Following are some additional tips to help your seedlings grow properly.

Damping off causes newly sprouted seedlings to fall over and die.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Damping off causes newly sprouted seedlings
to fall over and die.

  • Damping Off: Probably the worst enemy of successful seed starting is a problem known as "damping off." It strikes within two weeks of germination when seedlings are very young. When it hits, the plants simply lay down and die, usually in less than a day's time.

    Damping off is a fungus infection that can best be avoided by making certain that both the soil and containers in which seeds are planted are sterile. The seeds themselves can be lightly dusted with fungicide powder prior to planting as an additional precaution. Young seedlings should be looked at morning and evening to check for any sign of a problem. Even if only two or three plants have lain down, take the precaution of immediately spraying the plants with a fungicide or, if none is available, try a mild vinegar solution.
  • Food: Prepared starter mixes usually have plant nutrients in them that feed the seedlings. If you make your own homemade starter from milled sphagnum, vermiculite, or sterilized sand, you'll need to fertilize in some way. The easiest method is to add a soluble fertilizer at a very weak rate to the regular waterings.

  • Pricking: Other than those that were planted individually, all seedlings should be transplanted from the seed trays when the first true leaves appear. This first transplanting is usually referred to as "pricking." At this stage, seedlings should be planted into small individual peat pots, planting cubes, or partitioned growing boxes. They will remain in these containers until planting time.

    Fill the boxes with a good potting soil or commercial growing mix. To make your own soil, mix equal amounts of garden soil or sterilized potting soil, moistened peat moss, and perlite or coarse builder's sand. Gently lift out and separate the young plants, holding them by their seed leaves. Place the seedling in the new container so the soil line will be at the same level on the stem as it was in the seed tray. Gently firm the soil around the plant roots, bringing it to within 1/4 inch of the container rim. Water from the top with a weak fertilizer solution. Place these pricked-off plants back by the window or under grow lamps to continue their growth.

    Transplant seedlings from starter trays when they grow their first set of true leaves.
    © 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    Transplant seedlings from starter trays when they grow their first set of true leaves.

  • Hardening Off: By this time, plants should be stocky and strong, but they will need some toughening up. This process is referred to as "hardening off." It'll keep the plants from suffering shock, or trauma, when they are planted outside.

    Carry the plants outdoors each day for a few hours, bringing them back inside overnight. Shade them with an old window screen to protect them from strong light and wind. Start with two or three hours, then increase the length of time they're outside by an additional hour each day. After a week, they can be outdoors all day, and only need to be brought in at night.
  • Planting Out: At this point, the plants are ready to plant out into the garden bed. Those in individual peat pots can be dropped into planting holes, the soil firmed around the pot, an earth dam formed around the stem to form a water-holding area, and a weak fertilizer solution poured in.

    Plants in multi-plant containers will need to be turned out of the container and separated before planting. Water the plants well before removing them. If the soil is moist, they'll slide out easily, subjecting the plants to less shock. Some roots are bound to be broken off in this process; pinching out the top growth on the plant will help keep the top and root areas in balance. This pinching will also encourage side shoots to push out, helping to form a fuller flowering plant.
  • Shading: If possible, do your transplanting on an overcast and still day to cut down on wilting. If you must plant on a sunny and/or windy day, cover the transplants with a protective shield for a day or two. There are commercial blankets made of a non-woven material that will do this and can also be used at night to protect against light frosts. A do-it-yourself way to provide shading is to form newspaper sheets into cones and place one over each plant, anchoring the edges with soil.

Although starting your own boxed plants takes a bit of time and effort, it can be a very enjoyable activity. Best of all, you can have as many plants as you want of exactly the species and varieties you prefer.

Sowing Seeds Outdoors

Plants to Start Outdoors
These plants will do well if you plant them as seeds in the garden bed:
  • Sweet alyssum*
  • Baby's breath
  • Blanket flower
  • Castor bean*
  • Coleus*
  • Cosmos*
  • Cup and saucer vine
  • Dahlia*
  • Forget-me-not
  • Four o'clock
  • Gazania
  • Love-in-a-mist
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Marigold*
  • Morning glory
  • Nasturtium
  • Nierembergia*
  • Ornamental corn, kale
  • Petunia Phlox*
  • California poppy
  • Horned poppy
  • Portulaca
  • Scabiosa
  • Sunflower
  • Zinnia*
*Those plants that might be started ahead indoors or bought as boxed bedding plants.

(Note: Some plants on this list also appear on the list of those that can be started ahead as boxed plants. Either option is acceptable.)

Sowing seeds directly into the garden is the simplest method
of growing annuals. For those who have neither the extra money nor the inclination to buy boxed plants, sowing directly into the garden in springtime is the answer. Once the ground is warm and the planting bed properly prepared, it's amazing how
quickly most annuals sprout and grow to the flowering stage.

There are some plants that grow better when planted directly in the garden rather than started ahead as boxed plants. For example, both Shirley poppies and zinnias experience difficulty surviving transplanting. You'll also find that trailing and vining plants can't be started very much ahead of planting out time or they become hopelessly entangled. As a result, most vines
don't gain enough of a head start to make the extra effort worthwhile.

There are several ways to approach direct seeding. For a somewhat structured but still informal cottage garden look, use a stick to mark out flowing sweeps on the prepared bed. Plant each sweep with a different kind of seed. If the garden is large enough to allow it, repeat the same variety in several sections. Place taller varieties toward the rear of the bed and the lower ones at the front. There is really no reason to precisely plan in advance where each kind will go.

Broadcast the seeds in each section and rake lightly, then briefly sprinkle a fine spray of water over the bed to settle the
oil a bit. When the young seedlings sprout, they'll need to be thinned to prevent overcrowding. When thinning, adjust the
pace you leave between the plants according to their growth characteristics: Tall upright-growing plants such as plumed cockscomb, bachelor's buttons, and larkspur can be left much loser together than wide-spreading plants such as sweet alyssum, petunias, cosmos, and baby's breath. Surplus seedlings can be discarded, passed on to friends, or moved to grow in planters or other garden areas.

For a more formal garden design, make a precise plan on paper beforehand. Then carefully copy the layout onto the prepared seedbed. With this approach, each preselected variety is planted a rows or clumps in the appointed order -- two or three seeds to cluster, spaced 4 to 12 inches apart depending on
their growth habits. When the plants are 1 to 2 inches tall, thin out all but the strongest one from each cluster. The resulting beds will have a neat, organized, well-planned look that will enhance any normally laid-out garden design.

Another approach to flower bed layout is simply to mark off mows the length of the bed and plant each one with a different annual favorite. By planting the tallest kind in the back row and increasingly shorter ones in each row in front of it, it's possible to effectively display all varieties. Take into account the width to which each type grows when spacing the rows. Maintenance of this garden is easy because you always work along straight rows.

To decide which design style to use, consider what is best suited to your own tastes and talents, as well as to the style of your house and the already existing garden.

Broadcasting Seeds
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With a stick or rake handle, mark out abstract sweeps on the prepared bed.
Then broadcast a different variety of plant in each section.

With your garden bed design in hand and your plants purchased or grown, you're ready to start planting. See helpful tips on planting and caring for annuals in the next section.

Planting and Caring for Annuals

Whether you started your plants inside as seeds or went to your local garden center for flats of your favorite annuals, you'll need to properly plant annuals and care for annuals in order to achieve the garden you've spent so much time planning for. Use the suggestions that follow to do just that.

Planting

Get your plants off on the right foot by taking care when planting annuals in your garden bed.

  • Gently break up the root-ball of annuals grown in cell packs or pots before planting them. Often, the roots have overgrown the potting area and become matted. You'll have to pull off the tangles so the roots will be able to grow freely into the soil.

    If roots are wound around the bottom of the root-ball, use your finger to gently work the roots free of each other. If they are matted over the entire root-ball, you'll need to tear or cut the mats off, leaving the roots below intact.
  • Use a spacing aid to plant annual displays and cutting gardens in even rows. Even the most beautifully grown annuals can be distracting if they are spaced erratically. Fortunately, spacing is one element you can easily control. Here are some options:
  • Make a planting grid by stapling a large piece of wire mesh over a wooden frame. If the mesh openings are 2 inches square and you want to plant ageratums 6 inches apart, you can put one seedling in every third hole.
  • Make a spacing rope. Tie knots in the rope to mark specific measurements, for instance, noting every 4 or 6 inches. You can stretch the rope between two stakes to make even measurements along a straight line.
  • Take a yardstick with you when you go to plant. Measure the distance between each plant in a row and between rows rather than simply eyeballing it.

Zinnias benefit from proper growth care.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Zinnias benefit from proper growth care.

Watering

Along with soil and light, water is an essential ingredient for plant growth. It's not easy, especially at first, to gauge exactly when plants require water -- so much depends upon current weather and soil conditions.

The Benefits of
Deep Watering
When plants are watered infrequently but heavily, they'll develop large and deep root networks. Frequent light waterings cause plants to develop shallow root systems just below the soil surface. This causes plants to be poorly anchored and therefore subject to toppling in heavy wind or rain, as well as liable to wilting unless they're watered daily. Therefore, slow, deep-soak watering produces stronger and hardier plants. Whenever possible, water in the evening or overnight rather than in the morning or the heat of the day.

For example, if good soaking rains fall frequently, it's obvious additional watering is unnecessary. However, when there's a light rainfall every few days, it's possible that only the soil surface has been dampened without much water actually reaching plant roots, necessitating the addition of water.

Plants subjected to bright sun and wind also lose a lot of
water that needs to be replenished. Similarly, because trees continually pull large quantities of moisture from the surrounding soil, annuals planted near or under them need more frequent watering than those in the open.

All of these factors affect the rate at which soil dries out.
Some plants require soil that is constantly moist, while other species tolerate -- or even require -- some drying between waterings.

So how do you judge when to water and how much water to give? The one sure way to test is by poking your finger 2 to 3 inches into the soil and feeling how moist or dry it is. Taking a pinch from the surface isn't good enough; you need to know what it's like down in the root zone.

Inexperienced gardeners should check soil moisture any day that there is little or no rainfall. Over time, you'll develop a feel for the overall conditions and check only when you suspect the soil may be turning dry. Remember, it's always better to check too often rather than not often enough. Don't wait until drooping plants indicate that the soil is parched.

When you do water, water deeply. Many people briefly spray a thirsty flower bed with a handheld hose. When they tire of holding it, become bored, or think they have watered enough because the water has stopped soaking into the soil as rapidly as it did at first, the watering session is ended. Always pause to check how deeply the water has penetrated. Guessing usually results in reaching only the top 1/2 inch leaving the soil beneath it still dry.

A better approach is to use an automatic sprinkler, letting it gently "rain" for an extended period of time. Check at half-hour intervals to see how deeply the water has penetrated. Turn the water off when the soil is moistened to a 4-inch depth. Don't water again until your testing indicates the need.

One problem with sprinkler water is that the foliage becomes very wet, creating an ideal environment for the spread of fungus diseases. In addition, flower clusters heavy with water are more likely to bend and break or to become mildewed.

The best way to water is with a soaker hose. The water slowly oozes from the hose's many tiny holes for several hours -- even overnight. All of the water soaks directly on the soil and down to the plant roots without any waste or damage.

Lay a soaker hose in place when plants are small and leave it there for the season.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Lay a soaker hose in place when plants are small and leave it there for the season.

Drip irrigation is another excellent slow-soaking system, but it's more expensive than a soaker hose. Thus it's probably a sensible alternative for those who have large plant beds or who garden in climates where irrigation is constantly needed in order for cultivated plants to survive. Once the system is laid out, it can remain in place year after year; in areas that freeze, however, it must be drained for the winter.

There are two additional factors that will help conserve moisture and thus reduce the frequency of need for watering. One is the incorporation of compost into the planting area; this causes the soil to be able to soak up and hold water longer. (This is true when organic matter is added to light and sandy soils; conversely, when it's added to heavy soils, it helps to lighten and aerate them.)

The second technique that helps retain moisture is the use of mulch. Laid on the soil surface between the plants, mulch protects the soil from sun and wind drying.

By using these two ideas, you can cut down on the time needed to care for your garden, and even more importantly, help conserve water, nature's precious resource.

Fertilizing

The best course to follow is to have your garden soil tested before you plant, then follow the recommendations given with your test results. Knowing what nutrients are needed helps cut down on the number of choices, but still leaves the decision of whether to use an organic or inorganic fertilizer up to you.

If you're able to obtain the nutrients you need from organic fertilizers, you reduce the risk of possibly harming the environment. However, if the nutrients you require cannot realistically be obtained from such sources, there's little danger in using inorganic fertilizers as long as you apply only as much as is needed.

Granular and powdered commercial fertilizers release nutrients more quickly than organic fertilizers.
© 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Granular and powdered commercial fertilizers release nutrients more quickly than organic fertilizers.

As you study the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium) formula on each plant food, you'll notice that organic fertilizers contain much lower percentages of nutrients per pound than do inorganic fertilizers. For the most part, this doesn't matter when feeding annuals.

Where this can become a problem is when you're trying to adjust a large garden bed's nutrient content at the beginning of the growing season. You may find that, in order to raise the nutrients to the recommended level, you'll have to add 4 inches of the organic material. This can be done if the area to be covered is small, but for large areas, it could become unwieldy. In these cases it's more practical to make major adjustments with inorganics, then proceed with organics for minor adjustments in future years.

Fertilizers are applied in a dry granular or powder form, or mixed with water for a liquid application. The granular or powder foods should be broadcast over the soil surface and dug in; liquid applications can be made with a hand sprayer or a special mixing attachment for your garden hose.

Composting
Making your own compost from plant wastes, soil, and nutrients takes several months. Many gardeners find it easier to purchase bagged compost instead. Either way, compost is a good additive for soils low in organic materials.

To supply food for immediate use by bedding annuals that are newly planted out, a weak solution of water soluble fertilizer -- either fish emulsion or an inorganic type -- can be poured from a watering can directly around each plant. Thereafter, a couple of side dressings of granular plant food sprinkled around each plant at two-week intervals should carry them through the rest of the summer.

For best absorption, fertilize when the soil is moist. Take care to apply it on the soil rather than on the plant leaves. The plants, your hands, and the fertilizer should be dry when you fertilize. Caution: Always wash your hands after handling fertilizer.

A final word regarding two homemade soil amenders: compost and liquid manure. Compost is made by combining plant wastes with soil and fertilizer, allowing them to decompose for several months, then mixing them back into the garden. Liquid manure is made by combining animal wastes and water, allowing them to decompose, then watering the garden with the resultant liquid. Both are good organic nutrient sources even though their level of nutrients is low. However, neither is especially practical for the average, small home garden.

Keeping Things Tidy

Annuals will flourish when provided with the best possible growing conditions. However, there are a few simple care techniques that will help increase and control their growth.

  • Pinching Back: To encourage plants to fill out, remove the growth bud at the end of the main stem when the plant is in its rapid growth stage that precedes first flower bud formation. For bedding plants, the best time to do this is when you're planting them out in the garden. They're at a good stage of growth and, in addition, the removal of some of their foliage will help balance any root damage they may suffer in the transplanting process. Plants grown from seeds sown directly in the garden should be pinched back when they're 3 to 4 inches tall.

    Simply pinch out or snap off the last inch or so of the main growing tip. This will redirect the plant's energy from this single shoot to numerous latent side buds -- there is a latent growth bud located at the node (the point on the stem where each leaf is attached). Several days after pinching, you'll see several small shoots pushing from the remaining stem. These will grow into a cluster of stems to replace the original single stem. The plant will be shorter, stockier, and fuller than if no pinching had been done. It will also be neater-looking, more compact, and have many more branches on which to produce flowers. A second pinching can be done two weeks after the first one if an even fuller plant is desired.

    Keep geraniums tidy and producing by removing the old flowers.
    © 2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    Keep geraniums tidy and producing
    by removing the old flowers.

  • Deadheading: Once annuals begin to bloom, it's important to remove spent flowers promptly for several reasons. First, once the flower dies, it detracts from the good looks of the garden. Second, even though we say it's dead, it's actually very much alive and continues with its growth toward seed production. This process pulls plant energy that would otherwise be available for new foliage and flower production into the seed head. Third, removal of spent flowers helps to quickly redirect plant energy to side shoots for smooth and speedy transfer to new growth.

    To make this rerouting most efficient, always cut back to just above the first side bud that is already beginning to grow. If there is no active side bud below the bloom, cut back either to a side branch or immediately above a leaf node where a latent bud will be likely to push out new growth. Make a clean cut with a sharp-bladed knife, since ragged cuts take much longer to heal and are likely sites for entry of rot and disease. These rules for cutting apply to the removal of cutting flowers as well.Occasionally it becomes necessary to cut back growth in order to keep a plant from becoming leggy or from drowning out neighboring plants. Cutting back should be approached in the same way as removing dead flower heads. Always cut back to a side growth shoot or branch that is headed in the direction you want future growth to go. This way you can steer and control growth as you see fit.

Fragrant Annuals
Why not plant some perfumed flowers under an open window or beside the patio? Here are some good choices:
  • Pinks
  • Heliotropes
  • Petunias
  • Moonflowers
  • Lemon and Orange Gem marigolds
  • Fragrant white flowering tobacco
  • Stocks
  • Sweet peas

After all the hard work you've put into planning, planting, and caring for your garden, you don't want some pesky pest or disease coming in and ruining everything, do you? For tips on preventing plants diseases and pest, see the next page.

Preventing Annual Flower Diseases and Pests

Plant diseases and pests can take over a beautiful, well-maintained garden in a heartbeat. Don't let this happen to you -- learn as much as you can about how to prevent harmful pests and diseases from attacking your plants and what to do if you suspect a problem.

If you feel uncertain about what is causing damage to your plants, take a specimen to your local garden shop or your county Cooperative Extension office. You can also use the Insects and Animals and Diseases charts at the end of this article to help you identify the most common garden pests and diseases for annuals or perennials.

Add foliage to this healthy all-white garden to make it especially attractive.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Add foliage to this healthy all-white garden to make it especially attractive.

Once you know what your problem is, you'll need to decide how to control it. When an infestation is slight, it's often possible to simply remove the sick plants or individual insects. For a heavy infestation, you'll probably need to turn to chemical insecticides or fungicides.

Follow manufacturer's instructions precisely and read and follow any cautions on the package label. Apply these chemicals as directed and only when they're absolutely necessary.

One final note: New biological and chemical controls are continually being developed. Those listed on the chart at the end of the article are current at the time of this writing, but more effective, new ones may well be discovered in the future.

Learn about increasing annuals on the next page, including how to collect seeds and take stem cuttings.

Increasing Annuals

The beauty of your annuals garden doesn't necessarily have to end when the growing season is over. You can look forward to new growth by collecting seeds and taking stem cuttings. Here's how:

Collecting Seeds

How legitimate is the impulse to collect your own seeds? Will these seeds germinate? If they do, will the resulting plants look exactly like or differ greatly from the parent plant? How much and what kind of care do collected seeds require?

Picking and planting seeds you collect from sunflowers can result in this beautiful flower.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Picking and planting seeds you collect
from sunflowers can result in
this beautiful flower.

The results from collecting your own seeds will vary widely. Seeds from pure species, or nonhybrid plants, produce
plants very similar to the parent plant. Flower color may vary more if there was cross-pollination between the parent plant and other nearby plants of the same kind but of different colors.

For example, if you pick a seedpod from a deep purple foxglove but there are white foxgloves nearby, some of the resulting seedlings will have white flowers and some will have purple ones.

Least successful are seeds collected from hybrid plants. These are varieties developed by people who deliberately cross-pollinate specific parents. Seedlings from these plants will revert back; they'll look like their respective "grandparents" rather than the hybrid parent plant.

Annuals generally produce seeds abundantly -- one or two seed heads are likely to provide enough plants for the average home garden. And the germination rate is usually very high if the seeds are planted within a year. So there is a good chance of success with collecting your own seeds.

Here's what you need to know before you start: Seedpods vary in design. Some are challenging to collect because they fling or spill the seeds out when they're ripe. Other pod types hold the seeds or sprinkle or spill them out a few at a time. Some retain their seeds tenaciously. These seed heads can be allowed to mature undisturbed, then harvested when ready.

Watch the pods as they develop. They will often turn from green to tan as the seeds become ripe. Seeds are not viable unless they are fully formed. If the seedpods tend to open or even explode when ripe, slip a net of cheesecloth or a bit of old panty hose over them to trap the seeds. Never use plastic bags for this purpose, as destructive molds will develop. Store them in labeled envelopes for planting the next year.

After harvesting, separate the seeds from the pods and spread them out in a dry place away from the sun. Allow them to dry out for a couple of weeks. Then store in airtight containers in a cool, dry place until planting time. Seeds stored in the refrigerator may retain a high germination rate even when planted several years later.

Collecting and growing your own seeds can be fun, especially if you like an informal mixed garden. But when you want a particular plant of a certain color in a specific location, the only sure way to get it is by buying seeds or bedding plants of the proper variety from a reputable dealer.

Self-Sown Annuals

In informal gardens, plant nonhybrid annuals that may return from self-sown seeds allowed to mature and fall to the ground. Suitable annuals include the heirlooms love-lies-bleeding, love-in-a-mist, kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate, and cornflowers; wildflowers such as California poppies and verbenas; and open-pollinated annuals such as snapdragons, portulaca, cockscomb, and spider flowers.

Some seedpods spray seeds when they're ripe. To catch these seeds, attach a small paper bag over the seed head.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Some seedpods spray seeds when they're ripe. To catch these seeds,
attach a small paper bag over the seed head.

Stem Cuttings

Take stem cuttings of tender flowers in late summer before temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can root them indoors and enjoy their greenery and perhaps a few flowers during winter. Then you can take more cuttings of these plants to set out next spring. Cuttings are more compact and versatile than old garden plants dug up and squeezed into a pot. They can thrive with less effort and space.

Fresh-cut annual stems may root if you put them in a vase of clean water. But stems can root more reliably in a sterile, peat-based mix.

Have flowers blooming in sunny windows during fall and winter by starting new seedlings outdoors in pots in mid- to late summer. Bring them indoors several weeks before the first autumn frost. They will begin to bloom as frost arrives, perfect for brightening the autumn transition period. This works well with French marigolds, pansies, petunias, nasturtiums, violas, impatiens, compact cockscomb, and annual asters. Simply discard the plants later when they get ratty looking.

Check out the next section for helpful suggestions on preparing your annuals for next year.

Preparing Annuals for Next Year

Most gardeners find they begin preparing for another growing season while still in the midst of the present one. Certainly, this is the best time to study your yard and to plan for next spring. It's also the best time to note down your conclusions.

In addition to making future plans, there are also some basic gardening preparations you'll want to consider. Here are some tips:

Preparing Garden Plants for Winter

Many people bring in geraniums, impatiens, and fibrous begonias as potted plants to use as the source of rooted cuttings for the following summer. Bringing full grown garden plants inside for the winter should be done several weeks before frost.

Dig up the plant with a large ball of soil so as few roots as possible are lost. Set the plant in the ground so it is at the same level in the pot as it was in the garden. Fill in around the plant roots with a good soil mix, and press down on the soil with your fingers to eliminate air pockets. Cut back the plant tops by 40 to 50 percent to reduce wilting. Water with a mild liquid fertilizer solution. Keep in a cool location out of direct sunlight for at least a day before moving indoors.

Careful preparation rewards a gardener with colorful blooms.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Careful preparation rewards a gardener with colorful blooms.

Raising Cuttings over Winter

An even better approach for carrying such plants over winter is to take cuttings from them and then rooting and potting them up to grow through the winter. By late winter, they'll be mature plants from which to take cuttings for next summer's garden. Cuttings should be made in midsummer while plants are still in an active stage of growth, since plant growth slows down when night temperatures cool.

Starting Annuals from Seed

A third alternative for raising annuals in the winter is to start them from seed. Coleus and annual herbs such as parsley and basil do well treated this way, as do flowering annuals that bloom with short day lengths.

Other Winter Preparations

Dahlias, tuberous begonias, cannas, callas, caladiums, and gladiolas are treated as annuals in colder climates. Many people simply discard them each fall and buy new ones each spring. However, it's possible to dig and store them for replanting the following season after the first frost when the tops die back. Remove the dead tops along with any loose soil and feeder roots from the swollen tubers (or corms) and store them loosely in brown paper sacks or open-weave bags in a dark, cool area. Packing material around them will help keep them from drying out.

Later in the fall, there are other chores to do. Soaker hoses should be rolled up and stored, drip irrigation systems should be drained, and the dead plants should be removed and disposed of. Where an organic mulch has been used, an additional layer should be laid over the existing mulch. The new layer added in the fall will replenish any soil that has been lost, cover bare areas, protect the soil from wind or water erosion over winter, and help discourage weed growth during late fall and early spring.

Prepare for winter by rolling up and storing hoses.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
Prepare for winter by rolling up and storing hoses.

Inorganic mulch sheeting should be rolled up and stored for the winter. In mild climates, replant with winter ornamentals such as colorful kale or pansies. If you choose to let the beds lie empty, either spread an organic mulch or seed in annual ryegrass or buckwheat to provide a winter cover crop that will need to be turned under in early spring as a source of organic nutrients (referred to as a "green manure").

Annuals Suited to Overwintering
The following plants can survive without injury during winter dormancy:
  • Asparagus fern
  • Fibrous begonia*
  • Tuberous begonia
  • Coleus*
  • Dracaena
  • Flowering maple
  • Fuchsia*
  • Geranium*
  • Impatients*
  • Oranamental pepper
  • Polka-dot plant
  • Vinca
  • Persian violet
*Those that can be propagated from stem cuttings.

Autumn is a good time to take soil samples and have them tested. If slow-working nutrients such as lime are needed,
they can be spread over the area during the fall or winter. The faster-releasing fertilizers should be applied when the beds
are readied for planting the following spring.

Some annual enthusiasts like to sow seeds in containers
each autumn for winter display indoors. Select those annuals that require only a short day length for blooming. Otherwise, grow those that have attractive foliage and enjoy them as houseplants all winter. You can even add a few annual herbs
to spice up your winter cooking!

A helpful end-of-season task is to jot down thoughts for use in future years: which plants did well and which poorly, where to add plants to brighten dull spots, how many plants it took to
fill a particular area, and names of plants you've admired in other people's gardens. Also make a note of where you've planted bulbs this fall so you don't dig into them next spring.

You should also take advantage of the Maintaining Annuals Month by Month chart located at the end of this article. It will help you stay on top of the various plant care chores that should be taken care of throughout the year.

Growing annuals in a garden isn't the only way to enjoy their beauty. See the next section for tips on cuttings and drying and pressing flowers.

Other Uses for Annuals

Don't limit the beauty of annuals to just your garden bed. Cuttings and dried and pressed flowers are an excellent way to enjoy flowers all year long, inside and out. Use the tips that follow to help you.

Cutting Garden

If you'd like to have containers full of flowers brightening your home, a perfect source is a cutting garden filled with annuals. Most gardeners are unwilling to cut many blooms from their regular flower beds because they want as full and colorful a display as possible. Therefore, a garden specially set aside to supply flowers for cutting is a good solution. This can be a separate flower bed, or you can devote a row or two of your vegetable patch to a flower crop.

Most seed companies offer packets of "Cutting Flower Mix" that contain a variety of flowering annuals. The mixture varies, but it will always include seeds that are easy to grow and produce nice, bouquet-type flowers.

Mixes usually include some, but not all, of the following plants: marigolds, zinnias, plumed cockscomb, baby's breath, bachelor's buttons, pot marigolds, cosmos, asters, blanket flowers, and seedling dahlias.

A cutting garden full of daisies, chrysanthemums, and marguerite can bring annual color into a home.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
A cutting garden full of daisies, chrysanthemums, and marguerite
can bring annual color into a home.

The major disadvantage to buying such a mix is that you don't know in advance what colors the flowers will be. If you want to key the flower colors to the colors in your home or if you only want specific kinds of cut flowers, then you'll need to purchase those varieties separately.

When cutting for indoor use, select flowers that are in bud or in early stages of bloom. Those in later stages of bloom should be cut from the plant and discarded. If they're left, plant strength will be wasted on the formation of seeds.

Annuals for the
Cutting Garden
Fill your cutting garden with these varieties:
  • Canna
  • Pansy
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Poppy (sear stems)
  • Coleus
  • Salpiglossis
  • African daisy
  • Blue salvia
  • Transvaal daisy
  • Scabiosa
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Snapdragon
  • Larkspur
  • Stock
  • Pot marigold
  • Sweet pea
  • Nasturtium
  • Vinca
  • Nicotiana
  • Zinnia

To obtain the longest period of enjoyment possible from cut flowers, pick them in the early morning. Use a sharp knife and make a slanted cut. Cut just above the point where another flower bud or a side shoot is beginning to grow. This way,
plant energy will quickly shift to production of additional blooms.

As you cut, place the flowers in a container of water and bring them indoors promptly. Remove the leaves from the lower portion of each stem, immediately putting the flowers back
into a tall container of fresh water. You can either arrange bouquets right away or keep cut flowers in a cool location to arrange later.

Each time you recut a stem, always use a sharp knife and
cut on a slant. This keeps all available stem cells open to the transfer of water up into the cut flower. Scissors and shears can pinch some of these water channels closed.

Also, remember to remove all leaves that will be under water once the flower is in a container. If left on, they'll rot, which not only causes a terrible odor but also shortens flower life by clogging stem cells needed for water transfer.


Elements of Attractive Bouquets

Flowers to Air Dry
These flowers look great when air-dried:
  • Globe amaranth
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Baby's breath*
  • Love-in-a-mist pods
  • Bells of Ireland
  • Pansy*
  • Cockscomb
  • Single pink*
  • Dusty miller foliage*
  • Strawflower
  • Forget-me-not*
  • Zinnia
*Press
Annuals are lovely in both elaborate formal arrangements and in simple, informal bouquets. It's easy to quickly make attractive bouquets if you keep these hints in mind as you pick and arrange flowers:
  • Select flowers in bud as well as in early bloom.

  • Select colors that blend well.

  • Separate clashing colors with gray foliage or white flowers.

  • Cut flowers at different lengths. Leave longer stems on smaller flowers; shorter stems on larger ones.

  • Mix flowers of varying sizes and forms.

  • Choose flowers in different stages of bloom to provide more variety of form.

  • Use containers that are narrower at the top than at the bottom for an easy, informal bouquet. If a different effect is desired, use cylindrical vases or containers with flared mouths.

  • Match container size to bouquet size to keep a good balance between flowers and container.

     

Drying and Pressing Annuals

There are several different drying techniques for annuals. The easiest is hang drying. After picking, all leaves should be removed, and flowers should be grouped in bunches of six to eight stems. Wind an elastic band tightly around the stems.

Hang bundles upside-down out of the light in a well-ventilated, dry area. Leave enough space between bundles to allow for good air circulation and protect the bundles by enclosing
them in large paper bags. The flowers will dry in two to three weeks. They can then be laid in covered boxes or left hanging.

Some flowers are too thick and others too delicate to successfully hang dry. Instead they can be dried with a desiccant -- a material that will draw moisture into itself.
Floral desiccant is sold commercially. Or you can make it yourself by mixing equal parts of fine, dry sand and borax powder.

To use, pour an inch or more of desiccant in the bottom of a box, then lay the flowers on top. Very carefully spoon more desiccant up and around each flower head. Once all of the flowers are mounded over, an additional inch or two of desiccant should be gently poured on top.

Use a large, shallow box for long spikes of bloom such as larkspur. For single, dense blooms, like roses and marigolds, remove the flower stem first and replace it with a stiff wire stem. Lay the flowers flat on the surface of the desiccant, then mound more dessicant around and over them.

Drying will take several weeks, depending on the density of the flowers. When they're dry, carefully unbury them, gently brush away any adhering desiccant with a soft artist's brush, and store them in covered boxes in a dry place until ready to use.

A bouquet of dried annuals is a year-round treat.
©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
A bouquet of dried annuals is a year-round treat.

A third drying method is to press flowers and leaves between layers of absorbent blotting paper or paper towels. The drawback to this method is that everything comes out flat. But for use in pictures, notepaper, or as a frame around a motto or wedding announcement, flowers dried this way can be very effective.

This technique works best with small flowers that are not very thick, such as pansies, petunias, and baby's breath. It is also suited for parts of flowers, such as single petals of sweet peas, poppies, and cosmos.

To dry, start with a piece of heavy cardboard at the base; then lay a sheet of drying paper on top. Carefully arrange flowers and leaves, making sure that there is space between them. Lay one or two more layers of drying paper on top. Arrange another layer of leaves and flowers.

Keep alternating until there are a half dozen layers of plant materials. Top these with more drying paper and a final piece of cardboard. Finally, place a heavy weight on top of the stack. Moisture will be squeezed out of the flowers into the paper.

Check after a week to see how drying is progressing. If any mold has formed, remove and replace the drying paper. After several weeks, the plant materials will be ready to use or store.

Flowers to Dry in Desiccant
Use desiccant to dry the following flowers: Dahlia*, Nasturtium, Gladiolus, Petunia, Hollyhock, Double pink, Lantana, Snapdragon, Larkspur, Verbena, Marigold*, Zinnia*
*Use wire stem

The remaining pages in this article contain helpful charts that were referred to in the previous sections. Print out these charts for a quick reference to make planting and maintaining your annuals garden easy and trouble-free.

Annual Grasses and Foliage

Use this chart t­o help you select plants for your annuals garden that have colorful foliage, fruits, or seedpods. These grasses, bushes, and foliage bearers can add to you annuals garden.

Annual Dry
Soil
Average
Soil
Moist
Soil
Full
Sun
Part
Shade
Full
Shade
<12
Inches
12-24
Inches
>24
Inches
Alternanthera x
x

x


x


Amaranth, Globe
x
x

x




x
Asparagus Fern

x

x
x


x

Basil x


x



x

Begonia, Tuberous

x
x

x
x

x

Burning Bush
x
x

x



x

Caladium**

x

x
x

x

Castor Bean

x
x
x




x
Cloud Grass
x
x

x


x


Coleus
x
x

x
x

x

Dracaena
x

x
x


x

Dusty Miller
x
x

x


x
x

Geranium, Ivy-Leaf

x

x
x



x
Geranium, Other


x
x



x

Geranium, Zonal


x
x



x

Golden Top
x
x

x


x


Impatiens,
New Guinea

x
x
x



x

Job's Tears
x
x

x




x
Gourds
x

x





Love-in-a-Mist
x
x
x



x
x
Moses-in-a-Boat

x

x
x

x


Ornamental Cabbage,
Kale

x

x



x

Ornamental Corn

x
x
x




x
Ornamental Peppers

x

x


x
x

Perilla x
x

x




x
Polka Dot Plant

x


x


x
x
Quaking Grass
x
x

x


x


Snow-in-Summer x
x
x
x



x

Wheat Grass
x
x

x




x
Wild Oats

x

x



x


*Foliage or fruits/pods this color

**Bulb

These cultural recommendations are intended to suggest the average conditions over a wide geographic area. It is important to be aware of local requirements.

Plant white flowers and green flowers in the annuals garden alongside ornamental grasses and foliage. Learn more about which white annuals are right for your garden bed in the next section.

White to Green Annuals

The following chart will help you select annuals for your garden that fall in the white to green color range. White flowers and green flowers can bring a relaxing look to your annuals garden.

Annual Dry
Soil
Average
Soil
Moist
Soil
Full
Sun
Part
Shade
Full
Shade
<12
Inches
12-24
Inches
>24
Inches
Alyssum, Sweet
x
x

x


x


Angel's Trumpet

x
x
x




x
Aster
x

x


x
x
x
Baby's Breath

x

x



x

Bachelor's Button

x
x
x



x
x
Beard Tongue

x

x
x


x

Bells of Ireland

x
x
x
x



x
Caladium* **


x

x
x

x

Calla**

x
x
x


x
x
Canterbury Bells

x

x
x




Sweet False
Chamomile

x

x




x
China Pink
x
x

x


x


Cleome
x

x




x
Cup and Saucer Vine


x
x





Daisy, English

x
x
x
x

x


Floss Flower

x

x
x

x


Forget-Me-Not
x
x
x
x

x


Forget-Me-Not,
Chinese

x

x
x

x


Forget-Me-Not,
Summer

x

x
x

x


Hibiscus, Chinese


x
x




x
Larkspur
x

x



x
x
Lisianthus
x
x
x



x
x
Lobelia
x
x
x
x

x


Love-in-a-Mist
x
x
x



x

Flowering Maple


x
x
x


x

Marigold, American


x
x



x
x
Marigold, Pot

x

x


x
x

Mignonette
x
x
x
x


x

Morning Glory Vine
x
x

x





Ornamental Cabbage,
Kale*

x

x



x

Poppy, Iceland

x

x



x

Rose Mallow
x
x

x




x
Salvia
x

x
x

x
x
x
Sapphire Flower

x

x
x


x

Scabiosa
x

x



x
x
Snow-in-Summer* x
x
x
x



x

Stock
x
x
x



x
x
Torenia
x
x

x
x
x


Tuberose
x

x



x

Venidium x


x



x

Vinca
x
x
x


x
x

Violet, Persian


x

x


x

Wallflower, English
x
x

x


x
x


*Foliage or fruits/pods this color

**Bulb

These cultural recommendations are intended to suggest the average conditions over a wide geographic area. It is important to be aware of local requirements.

With today's busy lifestyles, it's important to know what you're getting yourself into when you plant a garden. Learn about ease of care for annuals in the next section.

Ease of Care of Annuals

Use the following chart to assist you in choosing annuals for your garden based on the level of care required. Easy to grow flowers, labeled with an 'E', are great for any garden skill level. Some flowers, labeled 'MD' require more care to grow.

Annual Ease Comments
Abelmoschus moschatus  E Needs abundant water
Alternanthera species  E Frost-tender
Alyssum, Sweet  E Survives light frosts
Amaranth, Globe  E  
Angel's Trumpet; Trumpet Flower; Horn of Plenty  E Frost-tender
Asparagus Fern  E Gross feeder
Aster; China Aster  MD Prone to disease carried by insects
Baby Blue Eyes  E Reseeds vigorously
Baby's Breath  E Lime-loving
Bachelor's Button; Cornflower  E  
Basil  E Poor soil makes leaves more pungent
Beard Tongue
 E Needs acid soil
Begonia, Fibrous, Wax, Everblooming
 E  
Begonia, Tuberous
 MD Prone to mildew, brittleness
Bells of Ireland; Shell Flower; Molucca Balm
 E Reseeds vigorously
Black-Eyed Susan; Gloriosa Daisy
 E  
Blanket Flower
 E May need fungicide
Blood Leaf
 E Frost-tender
Blue Bells, California
 E Heat-sensitive
Blue Lace Flower
 E Heat-sensitive
Blue Marguerite
 E Heat-sensitive
Burning Bush; Summer Cypress; Belvedere
 E Reseeds vigorously
Caladium hortulanum
 E  
Calla; Calla Lily
 E  
Calliopsis; Tickseed
 E Reseeds vigorously
Candytuft  E Lime-loving
Canna  E  
Canterbury Bells
 E Shade makes stems weak
Castor Bean
 E  
Sweet False Chamomile
 E
Reseeds vigorously
Chilean Bell Flower
 E  
China Pink
 E Needs alkaline soil
Chrysanthemum  E  
Cleome; Spider Flower
 E Reseeds vigorously
Cockscomb, Plumed
 E  
Coleus  E  
Corn Cockle
 E Reseeds vigorously
Cosmos  E Reseeds vigorously
Cup and Saucer Vine; Cathedral Bells
 E Frost-tender
Dahlia  E Needs air circulation
Daisy, African (Arctotis)
 E  
Daisy, African (Golden Ageratum)
 E  
Daisy, Dahlberg; Golden Fleece
 E Reseeds vigorously
Daisy, English
 E  
Daisy, Livingstone
 E Resistant to salt spray
Daisy, Swan River
 E  
Daisy, Transvaal; Barberton Daisy
 E  
Dusty Miller
 E  
Echium  E Avoid too much fertility
Everlasting; Strawflower
 E  
Firecracker Plant
 E Frost-tender
Floss Flower
 E  
Foliage Plants
 E  
Forget-Me-Not  E Reseeds vigorously
Forget-Me-Not, Chinese; Hound's Tongue
 E  
Forget-Me-Not, Summer; Cape Forget-Me-Not
 E Do not fertilize
Four O'Clock; Marvel of Peru
 E Reseeds vigorously
Foxglove  E Reseeds vigorously
Fuchsia; Lady's Ear Drops
 E Gross feeder
Gazania; Treasure Flower
 E Heat-sensitive
Geranium, Ivy Leaf
 E Heat-sensitive
Geranium, Regal
 E  
Geranium, Zonal
 E Frost-tender
Gladiolus; Glad
 E  
Godetia; Farewell to Spring; Clarkia
 E  
Gourds, Ornamental
 E Frost-tender
Grasses, Ornamental
 E  
Heliotrope; Cherry Pie
 E Tolerates high humidity
Hibiscus, Chinese; Hawaiian Hibiscus; Rose of China
 E  
Hollyhock  MD Prone to rust
Impatiens; Busy Lizzie; Patience
 E  
Impatiens, New Guinea
 E  
Variegated Ground Ivy
 E  
Joseph's Coat; Love Lies Bleeding; Prince's Feather
 E Avoid root rot
Lantana  E Frost-sensitive
Larkspur; Annual Delphinium
 
Lisianthus; Prairie Gentian
 E  
Lobelia  E May need fungicide
Lotus Vine; Parrot's Beak
 E  
Love-in-a-Mist; Devil in a Bush
 E  
Lupine  E  
Magic Carpet Plant
 E  
Mallow; Cheese
 E  
Flowering Maple
 E  
Marigold, Cape; African Daisy; Star-of-the-Veldt
 E Heat-sensitive
Marigold, American; Marigold, French
 E  
Marigold, Pot; Field Marigold
 E  
Meadow Foam; Fried Eggs
 E Reseeds vigorously
Melampodium  E  
Mignonette  E Reseeds vigorously
Monkey Flower
 E Tolerates wet soil
Morning Glory Vine
 E  
Nasturtium  E Reseeds vigorously
Nemesia  E  
Nicotiana; Flowering Tobacco
 E  
Nierembergia; Cup Flower
 E  
None So Pretty
 E  
Ornamental Corn
 E Frost-tender
Ornamental Cabbage; Ornamental Kale
 E  
Ornamental Peppers
 E Drought-tolerant
Pansy  E  
Perilla; Beefsteak Plant
 E Frost-tender
Petunia  E  
Phlox, Annual; Texas Pride
 MD Prone to mildew
Pocketbook Plant
 E  
Poppy, California
 E Hard to transplant
Poppy, Horned; Sea Poppy
 E  
Poppy, Iceland
 E  
Poppy, Mexican Tulip
 E Drought-tolerant
Portulaca; Moss Rose
 E Reseeds vigorously
Primrose  E  
Rock Purslane
 E  
Rose Mallow
 E  
Rose-of-Heaven  E  
Salpiglossis; Painted Tongue
 E Frost-tender
Salvia; Scarlet Sage
 E  
Sanvitalia; Creeping Zinnia
 E  
Sapphire Flower
 E  
Scabiosa; Pincushion Flower; Mourning Bride
 E Sensitive to water
Scarlet Flax
 E  
Scarlet Pimpernel; Poor Man's Weather Glass
 E  
Scarlet Runner Bean
 E  
Schizanthus; Butterfly Flower; Poor Man's Orchid
 E Blooms best with root restriction
Scotch Thistle
 E Reseeds vigorously
Snapdragon  E  
Snow-In-Summer; Ghost Weed
 E Reseeds vigorously
Southern Star; Star of the Argentine
 E  
Stock  E Survives light frost
Sundrop  E  
Sunflower  E  
Sweet Pea
 E  
Thunbergia; Black-Eyed Susan Vine; Clock Vine
 E  
Tidy Tips
 E Drought-resistant
Tithonia; Mexican Sunflower
E
 
Toadflax
E
 
Torenia; Wishbone Flower
E
Tolerates high humidity
Tuberose
E
Frost-tender
Venidium; Monarch of the Veldt; Cape Daisy
E
Heat-sensitive
Verbena
 MD Prone to mildew
Vinca; Madagascar Periwinkle
E
Needs air circulation
Violet, Persian
E
 
Wallflower, English
E
 
Zinnia
MD  Prone to mildew
E = Easy
MD = Moderately Difficult

Some annuals are prone to insects and animals. The next section describes the pests that may try to attack your garden.

Annual Flowers' Insects and Animals

Insects and animals will try to infest your garden. The following chart will help you identify and cure common garden pests for annuals.

 Symptom  Cause  Cure  Annuals
Cluster of small, soft-bodied insects on buds and growth tips; sticky secretions may be evident
Aphids Spray with rotenone or malathion* in evening.
Pot Marigold, Nasturtium, Primrose, Sweet Pea
Leaves chewed away; hard-shelled beetles on plant and burrowed into flowers
Beetles of various kinds
Spray with rotenone or Sevin* **; pick by hand and destroy.
Gourds, Hollyhock, American/French Marigold, Zinnia
Growth tips wilted; small hole in plant stem at point where wilting begins
Borers Snap off at level of hole; spray with endosulfan*, pyrethrum, or rotenone.
Gourds, American/French Marigold, Ornamental Corn, Zinnia
Leaves and flowers chewed away; caterpillars on plant
Caterpillars of various kinds and sizes
Pick off by hand and destroy; spray with pyrethrum, malathion*, or Bacillus thuringiensis.
Nicotiana, Ornamental or Flowering Cabbage, Petunia
Entire young plants wilted; partially or entirely chewed through at ground level
Cutworms Dig in soil around plant base; find rolled up caterpillars and destroy; circle plant with cardboard collar on edge (1 inch below ground and 1 inch above ground).
China Pink, Nicotiana, Ornamental or Flowering Cabbage, Petunia
Leaves peppered with small round holes; small triangular-shaped bugs seen when disturbed
Leaf Hoppers
Spray with malathion* or methoxychlor*; dust with diatomaceous earth.
Aster, Dahlia, Pot Marigold
Leaves "painted" with whitish, curling trails
Leaf Miners
Spray with malathion*; remove badly infested leaves.
China Pink, Hollyhock
White or pinkish fuzzy clumps on stems and at base of leaves; sticky to the touch
Mealybugs Spray with malathion* or pyrethrum; hand kill by painting each bug with alcohol.
Asparagus Fern, Moses-in-a-Boat, Transvaal Daisy
Slime trails on plants; soft sticky slugs on plants after dark; holes eaten in leaves
Slugs and Snails
Set out shallow containers of beer; set out metaldehyde slug bait*; pick by hand.
Hollyhock, Nicotiana, Petunia, Primrose
Leaves yellowing with speckled look; fine spider webs on plant; tiny bugs on backs of leaves
Spider Mites
Spray with a miticide* on backs of leaves; wash or spray with soapy water.
Flowering Maple, Impatiens, Primrose
Small glob of white bubbles on plant stem or leaves; small insect hidden inside
Spittlebugs Ignore unless very pervasive; spray with malathion*; wash off repeatedly with hose.
Bachelor's Button, Four O'Clock
Brown or white flecks on plant leaves
Thrips Spray with malathion* or dust with sulphur.
Gladiolus
Cloud of tiny white flies fluttering around plant
White Flies
Spray with malathion* or diazinon*; use yellow sticky traps.
Heliotrope, Lantana, Morning Glory Vine
*Inorganic treatment
**Copyrighted brand name

Plant diseases are also a threat to an annual garden. Click to the next section to find out if your annual plants are suffering from disease.

Annual Flower Diseases

The following chart will help you identify garden diseases and cure common garden diseases for annuals.

 Symptom  Cause  Cure  Annuals
Leaves become mottled, curl, and shrivel; plants become deformed
Blights and Viruses
Remove and destroy plants; buy blight-resistant strains; do not smoke; wash hands before handling plants.
Aster, Snapdragon 
Newly sprouted seedlings fall over and die
Damping Off
Start seeds in sterile soil mix. Dust seeds with Captan* ** before planting.
All plants 
Round, dusty brown or black spots on leaves; leaves drop from plant
Leaf Spot
Remove badly diseased leaves; spray with benomyl* or zineb*.
Aster, Chysanthemum, Foxglove, Phlox
Lower leaves and stems turn grayish and look slightly wilted
Powdery Mildew
Increase air circulation; spray with benomyl* or sulfur.
Bachelor's Button, Floss Flower, Phlox, Sweet Pea, Zinnia
Orange or reddish-brown raised dots form on backs of leaves; leaves look wilted
Rust Increase air circulation; keep foliage dry; buy rust-resistant varieties; spray with ferbam* or zineb*; spray flowers with sulfur or benomyl*.
Cleome, Hollyhock, Snapdragon
Leaves wilt and turn yellow; entire plant shuts down and dies
Wilt Remove infected plants and destroy; buy wilt-resistant varieties.
Aster, Dahlia, Snapdragon
*Inorganic treatment
**Copyrighted brand name

Now that you know what to look for in order to grow an annual garden, the last section will show you how to maintain an annual garden.

Maintaining Annuals Month by Month

The following chart lists the various gardening tasks to be done each year.

When they should be done depends on the climate in your area. This month-by-month chart indicates when each task should be performed based on the different average annual minimum temperatures in North America. Because conditions can differ, and dates of first and last freezes of the season vary each year, these are only approximate guides, but they will provide you with a general outline for your garden year.
 
Tasks to Be Done by Average Annual Minimum Temperature
-50°F to -30°F -30°F to -10°F
-10°F to 10°F
10°F to 40°F
1. Plan garden for coming season*
 NOV/DEC/JAN  DEC/JAN  JAN  JAN/AUG
2. Order seeds*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN/AUG
3. Buy seed starting supplies*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN
4. Take cuttings*
 MAR  MAR  FEB  JAN
5. Start slower-growing seeds indoors*
 APR  MAR  MAR  
6. Prick off seedlings
 APR  APR  MAR  
7. Start faster-growing seeds indoors*
 MAY  APR  APR  
8. Prick off later seedlings*
 MAY  APR  APR  
9. Lay out new beds
 APR  APR  APR  FEB
10. Take soil samples if not done in the fall
 APR/MAY  MAR/APR  MAR JAN 
11. Adjust pH if not done during the winter
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
12. Add conditioners to soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
13. Add fertilizers to soil as recommended by testing lab
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
14. Till soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB/SEPT
15. Purchase and plant nontender bedding plants
 MAY  APR/MAY  APR  FEB
16. Harden off home-grown bedding plants*
 MAY  MAY APR   
17. Lay mulch on beds for bedding plants. (See step 24 for direct seed sowing.)
 MAY  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT
18. Sow seeds directly in outdoor beds. Feed as needed until seeds sprout. (Do not allow them to become dry.)*
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT/OCT
19. Purchase tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR MAR 
20. Pinch and plant tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR
21. Plant out tender bulbs
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
22. Sprinkle pre-emergent weed killer on soil between bedding plants. (Caution: Do not use with direct-sown seeds or young plants.)
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
23. Thin seedlings from direct-sown seeds*
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
24. Lay mulch when seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches.
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
25. Put in plant supports
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
26. Deep water as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
27. Fertilize with general plant food (sidedress or water on)
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
28. Weed as needed
 JULY JULY/AUG   JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
29. Remove dead flowers, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
30. Control pests and diseases, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
31. Plant biennial seeds for next year*
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
32. Take cuttings
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
33. Pick flowers for drying
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
34. Harvest mature seeds
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
35. Pot plants to bring indoors for the winter
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
36. Protect beds from early frosts
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
37. Dig and store tender bulbs
 SEPT  SEPT  OCT  JAN
38. Pull out dead plants; destroy or compost
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
39. Make notes for next year's garden
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
40. Apply mulch to depleted and bare spots for winter
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
41. Take soil samples
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
42. Clean and sharpen tools; store for winter
 OCT  NOV  DEC  DEC
43. Adjust pH according to soil test recommendations
 OCT  NOV  DEC  
*Applies only to those plants that are started from seed. Does not apply to purchased bedding plants.

You now know what you need to do at any time of the year, from selecting annuals, planting annuals, and maintaining annuals in order to enjoy your annual flower garden.

©Publications International, Ltd.

Maintaining Annuals Month by Month

The following chart lists the various gardening tasks to be done each year.

When they should be done depends on the climate in your area. This month-by-month chart indicates when each task should be performed based on the different average annual minimum temperatures in North America. Because conditions can differ, and dates of first and last freezes of the season vary each year, these are only approximate guides, but they will provide you with a general outline for your garden year.
 
Tasks to Be Done by Average Annual Minimum Temperature
-50°F to -30°F -30°F to -10°F
-10°F to 10°F
10°F to 40°F
1. Plan garden for coming season*
 NOV/DEC/JAN  DEC/JAN  JAN  JAN/AUG
2. Order seeds*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN/AUG
3. Buy seed starting supplies*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN
4. Take cuttings*
 MAR  MAR  FEB  JAN
5. Start slower-growing seeds indoors*
 APR  MAR  MAR  
6. Prick off seedlings
 APR  APR  MAR  
7. Start faster-growing seeds indoors*
 MAY  APR  APR  
8. Prick off later seedlings*
 MAY  APR  APR  
9. Lay out new beds
 APR  APR  APR  FEB
10. Take soil samples if not done in the fall
 APR/MAY  MAR/APR  MAR JAN 
11. Adjust pH if not done during the winter
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
12. Add conditioners to soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
13. Add fertilizers to soil as recommended by testing lab
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
14. Till soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB/SEPT
15. Purchase and plant nontender bedding plants
 MAY  APR/MAY  APR  FEB
16. Harden off home-grown bedding plants*
 MAY  MAY APR   
17. Lay mulch on beds for bedding plants. (See step 24 for direct seed sowing.)
 MAY  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT
18. Sow seeds directly in outdoor beds. Feed as needed until seeds sprout. (Do not allow them to become dry.)*
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT/OCT
19. Purchase tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR MAR 
20. Pinch and plant tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR
21. Plant out tender bulbs
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
22. Sprinkle pre-emergent weed killer on soil between bedding plants. (Caution: Do not use with direct-sown seeds or young plants.)
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
23. Thin seedlings from direct-sown seeds*
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
24. Lay mulch when seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches.
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
25. Put in plant supports
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
26. Deep water as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
27. Fertilize with general plant food (sidedress or water on)
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
28. Weed as needed
 JULY JULY/AUG   JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
29. Remove dead flowers, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
30. Control pests and diseases, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
31. Plant biennial seeds for next year*
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
32. Take cuttings
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
33. Pick flowers for drying
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
34. Harvest mature seeds
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
35. Pot plants to bring indoors for the winter
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
36. Protect beds from early frosts
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
37. Dig and store tender bulbs
 SEPT  SEPT  OCT  JAN
38. Pull out dead plants; destroy or compost
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
39. Make notes for next year's garden
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
40. Apply mulch to depleted and bare spots for winter
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
41. Take soil samples
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
42. Clean and sharpen tools; store for winter
 OCT  NOV  DEC  DEC
43. Adjust pH according to soil test recommendations
 OCT  NOV  DEC  
*Applies only to those plants that are started from seed. Does not apply to purchased bedding plants.

You now know what you need to do at any time of the year, from selecting annuals, planting annuals, and maintaining annuals in order to enjoy your annual flower garden.

©Publications International, Ltd.

Maintaining Annuals Month by Month

The following chart lists the various gardening tasks to be done each year.

When they should be done depends on the climate in your area. This month-by-month chart indicates when each task should be performed based on the different average annual minimum temperatures in North America. Because conditions can differ, and dates of first and last freezes of the season vary each year, these are only approximate guides, but they will provide you with a general outline for your garden year.
 
Tasks to Be Done by Average Annual Minimum Temperature
-50°F to -30°F -30°F to -10°F
-10°F to 10°F
10°F to 40°F
1. Plan garden for coming season*
 NOV/DEC/JAN  DEC/JAN  JAN  JAN/AUG
2. Order seeds*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN/AUG
3. Buy seed starting supplies*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN
4. Take cuttings*
 MAR  MAR  FEB  JAN
5. Start slower-growing seeds indoors*
 APR  MAR  MAR  
6. Prick off seedlings
 APR  APR  MAR  
7. Start faster-growing seeds indoors*
 MAY  APR  APR  
8. Prick off later seedlings*
 MAY  APR  APR  
9. Lay out new beds
 APR  APR  APR  FEB
10. Take soil samples if not done in the fall
 APR/MAY  MAR/APR  MAR JAN 
11. Adjust pH if not done during the winter
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
12. Add conditioners to soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
13. Add fertilizers to soil as recommended by testing lab
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
14. Till soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB/SEPT
15. Purchase and plant nontender bedding plants
 MAY  APR/MAY  APR  FEB
16. Harden off home-grown bedding plants*
 MAY  MAY APR   
17. Lay mulch on beds for bedding plants. (See step 24 for direct seed sowing.)
 MAY  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT
18. Sow seeds directly in outdoor beds. Feed as needed until seeds sprout. (Do not allow them to become dry.)*
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT/OCT
19. Purchase tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR MAR 
20. Pinch and plant tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR
21. Plant out tender bulbs
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
22. Sprinkle pre-emergent weed killer on soil between bedding plants. (Caution: Do not use with direct-sown seeds or young plants.)
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
23. Thin seedlings from direct-sown seeds*
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
24. Lay mulch when seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches.
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
25. Put in plant supports
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
26. Deep water as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
27. Fertilize with general plant food (sidedress or water on)
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
28. Weed as needed
 JULY JULY/AUG   JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
29. Remove dead flowers, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
30. Control pests and diseases, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
31. Plant biennial seeds for next year*
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
32. Take cuttings
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
33. Pick flowers for drying
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
34. Harvest mature seeds
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
35. Pot plants to bring indoors for the winter
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
36. Protect beds from early frosts
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
37. Dig and store tender bulbs
 SEPT  SEPT  OCT  JAN
38. Pull out dead plants; destroy or compost
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
39. Make notes for next year's garden
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
40. Apply mulch to depleted and bare spots for winter
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
41. Take soil samples
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
42. Clean and sharpen tools; store for winter
 OCT  NOV  DEC  DEC
43. Adjust pH according to soil test recommendations
 OCT  NOV  DEC  
*Applies only to those plants that are started from seed. Does not apply to purchased bedding plants.

You now know what you need to do at any time of the year, from selecting annuals, planting annuals, and maintaining annuals in order to enjoy your annual flower garden.

©Publications International, Ltd.

Maintaining Annuals Month by Month

The following chart lists the various gardening tasks to be done each year.

When they should be done depends on the climate in your area. This month-by-month chart indicates when each task should be performed based on the different average annual minimum temperatures in North America. Because conditions can differ, and dates of first and last freezes of the season vary each year, these are only approximate guides, but they will provide you with a general outline for your garden year.
 
Tasks to Be Done by Average Annual Minimum Temperature
-50°F to -30°F -30°F to -10°F
-10°F to 10°F
10°F to 40°F
1. Plan garden for coming season*
 NOV/DEC/JAN  DEC/JAN  JAN  JAN/AUG
2. Order seeds*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN/AUG
3. Buy seed starting supplies*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN
4. Take cuttings*
 MAR  MAR  FEB  JAN
5. Start slower-growing seeds indoors*
 APR  MAR  MAR  
6. Prick off seedlings
 APR  APR  MAR  
7. Start faster-growing seeds indoors*
 MAY  APR  APR  
8. Prick off later seedlings*
 MAY  APR  APR  
9. Lay out new beds
 APR  APR  APR  FEB
10. Take soil samples if not done in the fall
 APR/MAY  MAR/APR  MAR JAN 
11. Adjust pH if not done during the winter
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
12. Add conditioners to soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
13. Add fertilizers to soil as recommended by testing lab
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
14. Till soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB/SEPT
15. Purchase and plant nontender bedding plants
 MAY  APR/MAY  APR  FEB
16. Harden off home-grown bedding plants*
 MAY  MAY APR   
17. Lay mulch on beds for bedding plants. (See step 24 for direct seed sowing.)
 MAY  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT
18. Sow seeds directly in outdoor beds. Feed as needed until seeds sprout. (Do not allow them to become dry.)*
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT/OCT
19. Purchase tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR MAR 
20. Pinch and plant tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR
21. Plant out tender bulbs
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
22. Sprinkle pre-emergent weed killer on soil between bedding plants. (Caution: Do not use with direct-sown seeds or young plants.)
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
23. Thin seedlings from direct-sown seeds*
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
24. Lay mulch when seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches.
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
25. Put in plant supports
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
26. Deep water as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
27. Fertilize with general plant food (sidedress or water on)
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
28. Weed as needed
 JULY JULY/AUG   JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
29. Remove dead flowers, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
30. Control pests and diseases, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
31. Plant biennial seeds for next year*
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
32. Take cuttings
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
33. Pick flowers for drying
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
34. Harvest mature seeds
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
35. Pot plants to bring indoors for the winter
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
36. Protect beds from early frosts
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
37. Dig and store tender bulbs
 SEPT  SEPT  OCT  JAN
38. Pull out dead plants; destroy or compost
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
39. Make notes for next year's garden
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
40. Apply mulch to depleted and bare spots for winter
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
41. Take soil samples
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
42. Clean and sharpen tools; store for winter
 OCT  NOV  DEC  DEC
43. Adjust pH according to soil test recommendations
 OCT  NOV  DEC  
*Applies only to those plants that are started from seed. Does not apply to purchased bedding plants.

You now know what you need to do at any time of the year, from selecting annuals, planting annuals, and maintaining annuals in order to enjoy your annual flower garden.

©Publications International, Ltd.

Maintaining Annuals Month by Month

The following chart lists the various gardening tasks to be done each year.

When they should be done depends on the climate in your area. This month-by-month chart indicates when each task should be performed based on the different average annual minimum temperatures in North America. Because conditions can differ, and dates of first and last freezes of the season vary each year, these are only approximate guides, but they will provide you with a general outline for your garden year.
 
Tasks to Be Done by Average Annual Minimum Temperature
-50°F to -30°F -30°F to -10°F
-10°F to 10°F
10°F to 40°F
1. Plan garden for coming season*
 NOV/DEC/JAN  DEC/JAN  JAN  JAN/AUG
2. Order seeds*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN/AUG
3. Buy seed starting supplies*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN
4. Take cuttings*
 MAR  MAR  FEB  JAN
5. Start slower-growing seeds indoors*
 APR  MAR  MAR  
6. Prick off seedlings
 APR  APR  MAR  
7. Start faster-growing seeds indoors*
 MAY  APR  APR  
8. Prick off later seedlings*
 MAY  APR  APR  
9. Lay out new beds
 APR  APR  APR  FEB
10. Take soil samples if not done in the fall
 APR/MAY  MAR/APR  MAR JAN 
11. Adjust pH if not done during the winter
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
12. Add conditioners to soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
13. Add fertilizers to soil as recommended by testing lab
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
14. Till soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB/SEPT
15. Purchase and plant nontender bedding plants
 MAY  APR/MAY  APR  FEB
16. Harden off home-grown bedding plants*
 MAY  MAY APR   
17. Lay mulch on beds for bedding plants. (See step 24 for direct seed sowing.)
 MAY  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT
18. Sow seeds directly in outdoor beds. Feed as needed until seeds sprout. (Do not allow them to become dry.)*
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT/OCT
19. Purchase tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR MAR 
20. Pinch and plant tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR
21. Plant out tender bulbs
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
22. Sprinkle pre-emergent weed killer on soil between bedding plants. (Caution: Do not use with direct-sown seeds or young plants.)
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
23. Thin seedlings from direct-sown seeds*
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
24. Lay mulch when seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches.
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
25. Put in plant supports
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
26. Deep water as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
27. Fertilize with general plant food (sidedress or water on)
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
28. Weed as needed
 JULY JULY/AUG   JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
29. Remove dead flowers, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
30. Control pests and diseases, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
31. Plant biennial seeds for next year*
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
32. Take cuttings
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
33. Pick flowers for drying
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
34. Harvest mature seeds
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
35. Pot plants to bring indoors for the winter
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
36. Protect beds from early frosts
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
37. Dig and store tender bulbs
 SEPT  SEPT  OCT  JAN
38. Pull out dead plants; destroy or compost
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
39. Make notes for next year's garden
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
40. Apply mulch to depleted and bare spots for winter
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
41. Take soil samples
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
42. Clean and sharpen tools; store for winter
 OCT  NOV  DEC  DEC
43. Adjust pH according to soil test recommendations
 OCT  NOV  DEC  
*Applies only to those plants that are started from seed. Does not apply to purchased bedding plants.

You now know what you need to do at any time of the year, from selecting annuals, planting annuals, and maintaining annuals in order to enjoy your annual flower garden.

©Publications International, Ltd.

Maintaining Annuals Month by Month

The following chart lists the various gardening tasks to be done each year.

When they should be done depends on the climate in your area. This month-by-month chart indicates when each task should be performed based on the different average annual minimum temperatures in North America. Because conditions can differ, and dates of first and last freezes of the season vary each year, these are only approximate guides, but they will provide you with a general outline for your garden year.
 
Tasks to Be Done by Average Annual Minimum Temperature
-50°F to -30°F -30°F to -10°F
-10°F to 10°F
10°F to 40°F
1. Plan garden for coming season*
 NOV/DEC/JAN  DEC/JAN  JAN  JAN/AUG
2. Order seeds*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN/AUG
3. Buy seed starting supplies*
 FEB  FEB  JAN  JAN
4. Take cuttings*
 MAR  MAR  FEB  JAN
5. Start slower-growing seeds indoors*
 APR  MAR  MAR  
6. Prick off seedlings
 APR  APR  MAR  
7. Start faster-growing seeds indoors*
 MAY  APR  APR  
8. Prick off later seedlings*
 MAY  APR  APR  
9. Lay out new beds
 APR  APR  APR  FEB
10. Take soil samples if not done in the fall
 APR/MAY  MAR/APR  MAR JAN 
11. Adjust pH if not done during the winter
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
12. Add conditioners to soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
13. Add fertilizers to soil as recommended by testing lab
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB
14. Till soil
 MAY  APR  APR  FEB/SEPT
15. Purchase and plant nontender bedding plants
 MAY  APR/MAY  APR  FEB
16. Harden off home-grown bedding plants*
 MAY  MAY APR   
17. Lay mulch on beds for bedding plants. (See step 24 for direct seed sowing.)
 MAY  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT
18. Sow seeds directly in outdoor beds. Feed as needed until seeds sprout. (Do not allow them to become dry.)*
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR/SEPT/OCT
19. Purchase tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR MAR 
20. Pinch and plant tender bedding plants
 JUNE  MAY  APR  MAR
21. Plant out tender bulbs
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
22. Sprinkle pre-emergent weed killer on soil between bedding plants. (Caution: Do not use with direct-sown seeds or young plants.)
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR
23. Thin seedlings from direct-sown seeds*
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
24. Lay mulch when seedlings reach 4 to 6 inches.
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
25. Put in plant supports
 JUNE  JUNE  MAY  APR/OCT
26. Deep water as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
27. Fertilize with general plant food (sidedress or water on)
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
28. Weed as needed
 JULY JULY/AUG   JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
29. Remove dead flowers, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
30. Control pests and diseases, as needed
 JULY  JULY/AUG  JUNE/JULY/AUG  MAY/JUNE/JULY/OCT/NOV/DEC
31. Plant biennial seeds for next year*
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
32. Take cuttings
 JULY  AUG  AUG  JULY
33. Pick flowers for drying
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
34. Harvest mature seeds
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  JULY
35. Pot plants to bring indoors for the winter
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
36. Protect beds from early frosts
 AUG  SEPT  SEPT  
37. Dig and store tender bulbs
 SEPT  SEPT  OCT  JAN
38. Pull out dead plants; destroy or compost
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
39. Make notes for next year's garden
 SEPT  OCT  OCT  
40. Apply mulch to depleted and bare spots for winter
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
41. Take soil samples
 SEPT  OCT  NOV  
42. Clean and sharpen tools; store for winter
 OCT  NOV  DEC  DEC
43. Adjust pH according to soil test recommendations
 OCT  NOV  DEC  
*Applies only to those plants that are started from seed. Does not apply to purchased bedding plants.

You now know what you need to do at any time of the year, from selecting annuals, planting annuals, and maintaining annuals in order to enjoy your annual flower garden.

©Publications International, Ltd.