March is time for bedding plants

Richard Bogren, Huffstickler, Kyle, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  3/12/2011 2:16:58 AM

News Release Distributed 03/11/11

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists
Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings

Invite a rainbow into your yard this summer – plant a flower garden.

Warm-season bedding plants grow and flower best during April through October, and we can begin planting them as early as late March in south Louisiana. Gardeners who planted cool-season bedding plants generally will wait for those plants to begin to fade in late April or May, however, before removing and replacing them with warm-season bedding plants.

Tender perennials, such as impatiens, periwinkles, blue daze, pentas and begonias, are used as bedding plants along with true annuals, but these plants have far more stamina and “staying power” in the summer flower garden. They make outstanding bedding plants, often blooming from late spring until cool weather arrives in fall. Sometimes they survive the winter to grow and bloom another year. True annuals, on the other hand, rarely make it all the way through our exceptionally long summer growing season.

Choose annuals well-suited to the growing conditions of the location where they will be planted. While most annuals need full sun (at least eight hours of direct sun) to partial sun (about six hours of direct sun), some thrive in partial shade (about four hours of direct sun) or shade (about two hours of direct sun). Even annuals that like partial shade to shady locations, however, will generally not perform as well in full shade, where they receive no direct sun. Caladiums, planted from tubers or as growing plants, are one of the best choices for color in full shade.

Prepare your beds carefully before putting in summer bedding plants. First, eliminate any weeds or other unwanted plants. Next, turn the soil to a depth of at least 8 inches. Spread a 2-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 or organic all-purpose fertilizer. Thoroughly blend the organic matter and fertilizer into the bed and rake it smooth. Then you’re ready to plant.

Make sure you plant the transplants no deeper than they were growing in the original containers and at the proper spacing. Annual plants are not low-maintenance, and you should keep in mind the care they will need when deciding where, how large and how many beds you will plant. Mulch will reduce problems with weeds, but regular weeding still will be necessary. Regular watering, pest control and grooming (removing dead flowers and unattractive leaves) will keep them looking their best. In containers, hanging baskets and window boxes, annuals need regular watering and fertilization.

Here are some excellent choices for summer flower beds in Louisiana.

Warm-season bedding plants for sun to partial sun (6 to 8 hours of direct sun): abelmoschus, ageratum, amaranthus, angelonia, balsam, blue daze, celosia, cleome, coleus (sun-tolerant types), coreopsis, cosmos, dahlberg daisy, dusty miller, gaillardia, gomphrena, lantana, lisianthus, marigold, melampodium, narrow-leaf zinnia, ornamental pepper, periwinkle, pentas, portulaca, purslane, rudbeckia, salvia, scaevola, sunflower, tithonia, torenia, perennial verbena and zinnia.

Warm-season bedding plants for partial shade to shade (2 to 4 hours of direct sun): balsam, begonia, browallia, caladium, cleome, coleus, impatiens, pentas, salvia and torenia.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.LSUAgCenter.com/lahouse and www.LSUAgCenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren

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