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flowering annuals - Extension Service - Community Services - Seminole County Government - Florida
Flowering Annuals

Al Ferrer
Seminole County Residential Horticulturist


Bedding plants can provide the necessary touch of color that often lacks in the landscape. Bedding plants can be grown in containers to add a splash of color to a porch, deck or patio area. They are also enjoyed as fresh and dry cut flowers. In Florida, many of them bloom during the winter months, bringing color to the landscape and producing flowers for home decorations. Others grow and flower during the warmer months blooming through the heat and heavy summer rains. Climatic conditions are important for growing annuals in Florida. Petunias, pansies and snapdragons that grow well and flower under cool night temperatures should be planted in the fall, winter and early spring. Bedding plants such as marigold, gazania, amaranthus, celosia, crossandra, impatiens, vinca, and coleus that can tolerate high temperatures and humidity should be planted in late spring or early summer. Some plants such as wax begonias and salvias grow relatively well during both hot and cool seasons and can be planted year round in central Florida.
Selection: Buy plants according to their season. Bedding plants are best used as an accent to the landscape. Fewer species of plants may produce better results than too many different plants, attractive flower beds can be created by using one plant species. Combinations of too many flower colors and plant forms can distract from the overall appearance of the display. Buy young, healthy, disease-and insect-free plants with dark green foliage. Bedding plants grown in 4-inch pots are usually more expensive, but they are larger and therefore will produce more flowers sooner than plants grown in smaller pots. As a result, beds established with plants grown in 4-inch pots are attractive sooner and for a longer period of the growing season than beds planted with plants grown in smaller containers. Another advantage of planting plants grown in 4-inch pots is that because they are larger, they will cover the bed sooner and help to control weeds.
Site preparation: Bedding plant sites should be spaded or tilled at least six inches deep several weeks before planting. Florida’s sandy soils have very low nutrient and water holding capacities. Incorporation of 2 to 3 inches of organic matter into planting beds will increase nutrient and water holding capacities of these soils. Organic materials such as compost or peat should be thoroughly mixed into the soil. Flowerbeds should be fertilized prior to planting or at planting time. Apply 6-6-6 or a similar complete fertilizer at the rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet of bed area. Controlled release fertilizers are ideal for Florida’s sandy soils. Plants usually grow much better with a continuous nutrient supply, and labor is reduced since controlled release fertilizer application frequency is less than for rapid release fertilizers.
Plant care: Loosen and untangle the root system without breaking the soil ball completely. Plants will usually recover rapidly and become established quickly. Bedding plants should be watered immediately after planting and daily until they have become established, then water on an “as needed” basis. Wilting will reduce flowering on many bedding plants and should not be allowed to happen. Some bedding plants growing in full sun during the summer may require daily watering. Overhead irrigation can affect flowering plants. Geraniums, celosias, marigolds, gerberas, verbenas, petunias, phlox, portulacas, cannas, snapdragons, strawflowers and pentas are very sensitive to damage by overhead irrigation, while begonias, pansies, coleus, caladiums, impatiens and New Guinea impatiens are tolerant to damage by overhead irrigation. Bedding plants should be watered by hand using a hose with a breaker attached or with a micro-irrigation system where only the soil and the root systems of the plants are wetted and flowers are not disturbed by splashing water. Irrigation should be done early in the morning.
Weed control: Weeds can be controlled either by mulching, applying preemergence herbicides and/or hand weeding. Finer mulch should not be applied any deeper than 2-3 inches.
Pots: Another approach to the culture of annuals in Florida is to grow them in pots. In areas where the soil is very poor or where tree roots limit growth, it is easier to plant small plants into inexpensive plastic pots filled with good soil and place the pots into flower beds. Sink pots into the soil until the top surface of the pots is at soil level. In addition to growing annuals where normally they will not grow, growing annuals in pots eliminates nematode problems, reduces water and fertilizer usage, and allows for easy replacement of plants in the flowerbed.
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