It is bedding plant season.
Greenhouses, garden centres and big box stores are full of flowering plants that all have the promise to transform the yard.
Selecting the perfect plants can be overwhelming so here are a few things to remember:
Take the time to walk through the entire sales area.
Are the plants healthy?
Are there plants that are wilting?
Expect to occasionally to see a wilted plant as it is easy to miss one or two when watering but there shouldn’t be many.
Is there a section of dead or soon to be dead plants? The overall look of the plants speaks volumes about the care individual plants have received.
Top growth should be healthy: deep green, no areas lacking growth, no clipped tops.
Leaves should start close to the soil and go upwards.
Lack of leaves by the soil can indicate, crowding or lack of moisture. Flowers are not essential. In fact, plants will recover better from transplant shock if the flowers are removed.
The size and condition of the rootball is just as important as the top growth.
Roots should be reaching the edges of the container but they shouldn’t be developed to the extent that they encircle the container and show up as white.
Rootballs that are solid white when removed from the container need to be cut apart before planting or they will not venture into the surrounding soil. The best method it to take a sharp knife and cut an X through the bottom layer of the rootball.
Have a plan before heading out to purchase any plant. Where are they going to be planted? Is the area in full sun, partial sun or complete shade? What size is the area? Is there a desired colour? Remember, plants do best when placed in optimum growing conditions.
In the greenhouses, bedding plants are watered and fertilized on a schedule that optimizes their growth. It is unlikely that a gardener will adhere to the same schedule but making sure that annuals have easy access to nutrients is essential.
This can be through compost, slow release fertilizer or adding fertilizer to the water. Find a method and fertilizer that works for you and follow the instructions on the package.
Chemical fertilizer will add salts to the soil if used on a continuous basis.
Flushing the soil, watering until the water runs out the bottom of the pot will help clean the soil.
Flushing the soil is not as easy in a garden where it is better to fertilize less and amend the soil.
Adding humus to the flowerbed to insures that there is a ready supply of nutrients before planting. With this done, water and fertilize until the plants become established.
It will take the plants time for their roots to grow into surrounding soil and reach the natural nutrients.
Bedding plants are an instant garden but not the only way to add annuals to the garden. The alternative it to plant flower seeds.
They will not provide an instant garden, but in six weeks of good weather most are up and beginning to flower.
Bachelor buttons grow to a height of two feet (60 cm) and produce a large number of small round flowers in shades of blues, pinks, and white. Once planted, they tend to selfseed adding colour for years.
There are a number of different varieties of nasturtiums available: climbing and bunching. There flowers are yellow, orange and red.
Pansies and violas grow quickly from seed. For a continued supply purchase the ones that will selfseed.
Sweet peas grow quickly from seed. Soak the seed for 24 hours before planting. Usually these seeds are planted in the early spring as they like the cool soil. They can be planted in the fall for next year’s crop. When this is the case, don’t soak the seeds.
Poppies, love in the mist, painted tongue, asters, candytuft, stocks, clarkia, snapdragons, calendula, godetia and sunflowers are a few that put on a great show.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.