Allen D. Owings | 11/2/2004 8:15:37 PM
Mid October through November is the best time in Louisiana to plant bedding plants, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.
"We have an abundance of cool-season varieties to select from, including petunias, dianthus, pansies, flowering kale and cabbage, snapdragons and violas," Owings says.
Petunias are very popular in south Louisiana. The horticulturist says they cannot tolerate temperatures as cold as the other cool-season bedding plants can, but they are well worth growing in a large portion of the state.
"Seed-propagated spreading petunias such as the Wave and Tidal Wave varieties are very popular right now," Owings says, adding that you also can wait until February for planting petunias. A late-winter planting will last until mid-May in south Louisiana and can last through the summer in north Louisiana.
Dianthus is growing in popularity, according to Owings. It requires a slightly higher soil pH than other bedding plants, from 6.0 to 6.5. Plant in full sun.
Flower color will be good through April and even May most years. In fact, sometimes dianthus look so good in the spring that warm-season bedding plants don't get planted, because gardeners hate to pull the dianthus out. Owings recommends the Ideal and Telstar series. Newer recommendations include the cut flower or taller growing dianthus, such as Melody, Amazon, Dynasty and Purple Bouquet.
The most popular cool-season bedding plant is pansy. Avoid early planting – plants will be slow to become established. The ideal soil pH for pansies is slightly acid, from 5.5 to 6.0. Numerous flower colors and patterns are available in pansies, and numerous varieties are available. Violas, also called Johnny Jump Ups, are a close relative of pansies. These smaller versions of pansies are best in container plantings. A large mass is needed in a landscape bed for violas to give a good color display.
Try snapdragons for additional cool-season color. You can get great cut flowers from snapdragons. Flower performance is best in the late winter and early spring. Plant in full sun, partial sun or very light shade. Tall, medium and short cultivars are available. Owings recommends cultivars such as Tahiti, Liberty, Rocket and Floral Showers.
Ornamental kale and cabbage are best adapted to full sun or partial sun. They can tolerate partial shade. Foliage is the desired characteristic. Kale is usually recognized by the fringed leaves, and cabbage has rounded leaves. Be careful when fertilizing flowering kale and cabbage - overfertilization with nitrogen makes them much more susceptible to cold damage. Owings recommends cultivars such ase Peacock, Chiodori and Osaka.
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.