Enjoy cool-season flowers through spring

Richard Bogren, Young, John, Gill, Daniel J., Owings, Allen D.  |  1/4/2011 1:07:59 AM

Sustainable Landscape News Distributed 01/01/10

By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Allen Owings and John Young

Cool-season bedding plants continue to be popular in Louisiana. Most home gardeners do more warm-weather flower gardening than cool-weather flower gardening, but we all need to realize we have many, great, cool-season flowers that will do well in our climate from midfall through late spring.

Most cool-season bedding plants are planted October through November, but we can continue planting into December, January and even February. Most plants will last until May or even June in some years if they’re cared for properly.

Pansies dominate the cool-season flower market and are available in a wide choice of colors, including blue, rose, pink, yellow, white, purple, red and scarlet. Flower sizes come large, medium and small. Some varieties have solid-color – “clear” – flower petals, and others have blotched flower faces. Normally, clear-faced flowers are the most popular for landscape use, but some folks like the colors of the blotched flowers in mixed plantings.

Petunias are all the rage as a good cool-season bedding plant in south Louisiana. Other cool-season annuals include alyssum, dianthus, ornamental kale, ornamental cabbage, stock and snapdragons. You also can try biennial and perennial flowers such as foxglove, columbine and hollyhock.

Use some of the following “best management practices” to ensure the desired performance from your cool-season flowers through the spring:

– Prior to planting, properly prepare the landscape bed to allow for good internal drainage and aeration.

– Incorporate fresh, nutrient-rich, finished compost or landscape bed-builder soil into beds to provide nutrients.

– Apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting. For extending the season, fertilize again at half the recommended rate in late February to early March.

– Manage irrigation properly. Many times cool-season flowers need less irrigation than we think. Warmer days of spring will increase irrigation demand. Monitor rainfall because overwatering leads to many problems with cool-season bedding plants.

– Remove old flowers from plants to extend the bloom season.

Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is located 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.louisianahouse.org and www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.

Rick Bogren

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