Amazing Annuals – Columbia Star


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An annual is a plant completing its life cycle in one year. Annuals grow, flower, set seed, and die in one growing season. Their fast and furious lifespan gives gardeners spectacular results with minimal labor. Typically, annuals grown from seed in spring quickly become mature plants with abundant and colorful flowers.
Hardy annuals like pansy, viola, snapdragon, stock, and calendula can withstand light frost during southern winters. As heat and humidity increases in spring, an alphabet of summer annuals emerge including amaranths, balsam, cosmos, larkspur, marigold, nasturtium, petunia, sunflower, tithonia, verbena, and zinnia.
Since annuals are easy to grow from seed, they are the first plants used to introduce children to gardening. Children direct sow seeds around their playhouses, in window boxes or patio pots, and then water, watch, and measure the sequence of germination, leaf and stem growth, budding, flowering, seed set, and seed collection, etc. Information on seed packages gives children practice in reading to learn, following directions, anticipating outcomes, and asking questions.
Zinnias are great beginning gardener flowers.
Most annuals need six hours of sun daily for best flower display. Although annuals can tolerate a wide variety of soils, all prefer a well-drained, loose, loamy soil with a pH of 6-6.5. In midland’s sandy soil, incorporate two to three inches of organic compost. Annuals need one to one-and-a-half inches of water each week. Allow the soil surface to dry between waterings. To thwart fungal diseases, water early in the morning, and water the soil, not the foliage. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation are ideal since they prevent water from reaching foliage and flowers.
Some annuals respond well to pinching, a form of pruning at the plant’s growth tip using one’s thumb and forefinger. Pinching can shape a plant, increase the number of flowers, and prolong flowering. Professional growers pinch coleus, impatiens, salvia, snapdragons, and petunias early in the season to encourage bushing and spreading.
Butterflies can’t resist tithonia.
Annuals come in a wide array of bright and vivid colors and provide pizazz in the landscape. They are excellent pollinator plants because they bloom continuously through the season. The Xerces Society recommends borage, cosmos, and sunflowers for southeastern gardens.
Annuals encourage the gardener to be innovative in designing beds and borders. Because annuals produce so many flowers, they are ideal for cutting gardens. Cutting only makes annuals more productive. Tucking annuals into perennial beds provides continuous color when there are gaps in perennial flowering. Want to hide a chain link fence? Ask an annual vine to do so— black- eyed Susan vine, balloon vine, cypress vine, hyacinth bean, morning glory, or scarlet runner bean.
If shade dictates your lot in life, invite cheerful annuals to brighten things up: caladium, coleus, impatiens, forget-me-not, flowering tobacco, scarlet sage, and torenia.
For apartment and condo gardeners, the fast growth, easy culture, and low cost make annuals the perfect choice for container patio gardens.
Black-eyed Susan vine will scramble up a chain link fence and make it beautiful.
Visit Riverbanks Botanical Garden and Historic Columbia Gardens in every season with an eye for designing with amazing annuals.
Annual Seed Sources
Caladium are grown in summer shade gardens for the colorful foliage.
Marigolds, native to the New World and sacred flower of the Aztecs, were first featured in Burpee catalogs in 1915.

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