Annual are the only plants that can flower from the time they are planted in spring until the freeze in the fall.
Even with the best of care, they can start looking old by the end of August.
In climates where the ground doesn’t freeze, annual beds are redone three of four times a year to ensure they always look fresh.
Replacing all the annuals is not a practical solution in Central Alberta, where every frost free-day after Sept. 1 is a gift.
But refreshing or replacing a container or area of the garden is realistic and will brighten up the landscape until it is carpeted in white.
Garden centres, florists and big box stores have switched into fall mode and once again have new plants for sale.
Expect the fall plants to be full grown and in bud, if not full flower. Size of plant and container makes a difference with fall flowers.
Time is short, meaning the plant needs to look good when bought and continue to do so for about two months.
Plant roots should be reaching the pot but not yet circling the pot on the inside. Roots should not be growing out of the bottom.
Chrysanthemums, also known as mums, pansies and petunias, are available for sale.
Potted chrysanthemums are available in a number of sizes.
Plants in a 12-inch (30-cm) container or larger will do best if left in their growing pot.
Upgrading the pot is as easy as placing the growing pot in a slightly larger decorative container. Smaller plants can be easily transferred into new or existing plantings.
Larger containers of mums are made up of a number of different plants, allowing growers to produce a full pot in less time than growing one large plant. Despite their unified look, they need to be treated as a mixed planting.
Check the soil’s moisture level in a couple of places before watering. Multiple plants mean that water must be distributed evenly within the pot. Plants that do not receive enough moisture or too much will wilt, ruining the look of the entire pot.
Fall pots will not require as much water as pots did in the summer as the temperatures are cooler and the plants are not growing quickly.
Growers use a combination of peatmoss, vermiculite and perlite as a planting medium.
None of this contain any nutrients. Fertilizing regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer that is high in the second number, phosphate, will help the plant keep blooming.
For best results, follow the instructions on the fertilizer package.
In early spring or fall, pansies are sold in five-or-six-inch (12-to-15-cm) pots.
These plants can be easily transplanted into the ground or another container. Pansies will survive frost and snow.
Dig a hole wider and deeper than the root mass. Fill it with water and let it sink into the surrounding ground. Carefully tip the plant upside down to remove the pot and place the rootball into the hole without disturbing the roots. Backfill the hole and press the soil firmly into place.
Petunia foliage will withstand a killer frost, the flowers will not.
When purchasing a new plant, know that it will need to be moved indoors at night when the temperatures drop and taken it back outside when the air warms.
September brings cooler weather but it doesn’t mean the end of flowers. Keeping a few frost-resistant plants blooming makes winter seem further away.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist who lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.