Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 3/30/2007 11:50:18 PM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
As May approaches, we move from the warm days and cool nights of spring and early summer to the hot days and warm nights that will be with us until sometime around September. With the increasing heat, you also will notice the inevitable decline of your cool-season bedding plants.
Do not allow plantings of cool-season bedding plants to go too far down the road to oblivion before you decide to pull them out and replace them. Beds of colorful flowers are meant to be noticed and appreciated, and they generally are located in prominent spots in the landscape. A few lingering flowers in an otherwise disheveled bed will not contribute anything positive to your landscape’s appearance.
As you make those changes – or if you don’t have that problem because you didn’t plant cool-season bedding plants – now is an excellent time to plant warm-season bedding plants that will brighten your landscape all summer long.
Whether replacing cool-season bedding plants with warm-season bedding plants or planting them in an empty or new bed, there are a few decisions you should make before you head out to the nursery.
Note the light the bed receives. This is critical in selecting the right bedding plants for the area. The terms full sun (eight hours or more of direct sun), part sun (about six hours of direct sun), part shade (about four hours of direct sun in the morning), shade (about two hours of direct sun) and full shade (little or no direct sun) are used to distinguish various light conditions. Even bedding plants for shade generally will not do well in full shade, but areas of full shade fortunately are not terribly common in most landscapes.
Look at the size of the area to be planted and try to estimate how many plants will need to be purchased. On average, bedding plants are spaced about 8 inches apart. Keep a record of how many plants are used in a bed from one season to the next to make this process simpler. Also, consider desired heights of the plants you will use.
Decide on a color scheme. It’s flabbergasting that gardeners who take the time to choose which colors to combine in their living room will grab anything in bloom at the nursery and plant it together in a flower bed. No one can tell you what colors you should use in your flower beds – you know what you like. The point is to think about it and consider which colors you think will look good together. Generally, avoid purchasing bedding plants in cell packs of mixed colors so you have control over which colors you will combine.
Prepare your beds carefully before putting in the summer bedding plants. A common mistake is to remove the faded plants, half-heartedly turn the soil and then plant the new plants. We must give back to the soil if we expect each new planting of bedding plants to do its best.
First, remove any weeds or other unwanted plants from the bed. Use a herbicide, such as glyphosate, or dig the weeds and plants out by hand. Turn the soil to a depth of about 8 inches.
Spread a 2-inch to 4-inch layer of compost, rotted leaves, aged manure, finely ground pine bark or peat moss over the bed and then evenly sprinkle a light application of a granular all-purpose fertilizer. Or you can use your favorite organic fertilizers. Thoroughly blend the organic matter and fertilizer into the bed, rake smooth and you’re ready to plant.
Make sure you plant the transplants into the bed no deeper than they were growing in their original containers.
Bedding plants are commonly purchased in cell packs and 4-inch pots, but these days you can even find them offered in gallon containers (for those who have the budget to indulge in instant gratification).
Transplants in cell packs are the most economical, and planted this early in the season they have plenty of time to grow and produce spectacular results. For larger transplants, choose 4-inch pots, but expect to pay several times more per plant. Sometimes it’s worth it, especially for tender perennials grown as annuals, such as pentas, blue daze and lantana, which generally are only offered in 4-inch or larger pots.
Tender perennials grown as annuals are especially good for the summer flower garden. They have the stamina to reliably last from now until October or November – when you will replace them with cool-season bedding plants.
Here are some suggestions:
Warm-season Bedding Plants for Sun to Part Sun – Abelmoschus, Ageratum, Amaranthus, Balsam, Celosia, Cleome, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dahlberg Daisy, Gaillardia, Gomphrena, Lisianthus, Marigold, Melampodium, Narrow-leaf Zinnia, Portulaca, Rudbeckia, Sunflower, Tithonia, Torenia, Verbena (hardy perennial types) and Zinnia (especially Profusion zinnias).
Tender Perennials That Can Be Used As Warm-season Bedding Plants for Sun to Part Sun – Angelonia, Blue Daze, Coleus (sun-tolerant types), Dusty Miller, Lantana, Ornamental Pepper, Ornamental sweet potato, Periwinkle, Pentas, Purslane, Salvia and Scaevola.
Warm-season Bedding Plants for Part-Shade to Shade – Balsam, Browallia, Caladium (perennial tuber), Cleome and Torenia.
Tender Perennials That Can Be Used as Warm-season Bedding Plants for Part Shade to Shade – Begonia, Coleus, Impatiens, Pentas, Salvia.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.