Improving Your Annual Flowers

Annuals can be replaced and improved each year, and with proper care, they can bloom nonstop. Learn how with these tips and techniques.

Annuals are probably one of the most commonly seen flowers colorfully blooming throughout landscapes. These flowers have a short-lived cycle of only one year; however, there are some varieties which are able to self-seed. Annuals can be replaced and improved each year, and with proper care, they can bloom nonstop.

An important factor with regards to improving these flowers is inspection of the plants prior to purchase. Annuals should always be thoroughly inspected to ensure the overall health and growth of these flowers. Since insects and diseases can often affect annuals, it is vital to familiarize oneself with common pests and diseases which may lead to poor health. Pests, such as whiteflies, can be found on the undersides of leaves. Other easily spotted insects that pose significant dangers to annuals are aphids and spider mites. When inspecting annuals, avoid choosing any plants with wilted or discolored leaves. Try to choose smaller plants that have fewer buds or open flowers on them instead. If there are specific problems occurring with annuals, consider replacing them with problem-resistant plants of comparable attributes. Be sure to get a guarantee for these plants which are hardy to your particular growing zone. Annuals that are grown outside the proper zone may fail to thrive.

Understanding the types of annuals is also important. There are both warm and cold-season annuals. Warm-season annuals such as cosmos, zinnias, and marigolds, thrive in heat, while cold-season annuals like sweet alyssum and nasturtiums do well in cooler temperatures. Annuals typically fall into one of three categories: tender perennials, half-hardy annuals, and hardy annuals. Tender perennials (salvia) behave closely to annuals and cannot withstand cold, thus dying out. Half-hardy annuals (periwinkle) may do well in cooler weather but will not tolerate any prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures. Hardy annuals (poppy, pansy) withstand most cold temperatures and the seeds are often unaffected.

Soil is another factor which can improve the life of annuals. Creating and maintaining healthy, fertile soil encourages problem-free flowers. Regularly change or mix soil with compost for better results. Some annuals (asters, marigolds, snapdragons) are more prone to soil-borne diseases; therefore, rotating these plants and working the soil each year will maintain the nutrient balance in the soil and result in healthier plants. Adding a sufficient amount of mulch will help to discourage weeds while keeping the soil moist and the plants clean.

There are other techniques with which can be implemented to improve annual flowers. If starting annuals by seed, harden off the seedlings before transplanting them outdoors. Gradually increase the amount of time they are outside each day to strengthen the young plants. Watering annuals often and applying fertilizer will help to ensure proper growth. Fertilizing may be in the form of composted manure or fertilizer pellets. Adding insects which are beneficial (lady bugs, praying mantis) to annuals will cut down on harmful pests. Some people might prefer to incorporate suitable companion plants to help deter pests and disease. For example, planting chives next to lettuce in a garden will keep aphids away. Improving the bloom time of flowering annuals consists of cutting back heat-stressed plants to stimulate new growth or simply removing spent blooms (deadheading). For a stronger, bushier plant, try pinching out the tips of young annuals or cut back tall stalks to encourage branching and continual blooming.

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