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4 steps to beautiful annuals all summer long

Whether you have expansive gardens or a few balcony planters, summer annuals are sure to liven up any space with their colorful blooms. Given their seasonal life cycle, you’ll want to take the proper preparations and care to get the most out of these eye-catching summer plantings.

1. Select annuals based on conditions and preference

From wax begonias and impatiens to geraniums, the floral options are seemingly endless. However, you can quickly narrow down your choices by considering these factors:

  • Location – Empty gardens, perennial beds and portable pots make wonderful seasonal homes. Avoid planting around the base of trees, because this can damage sensitive surface roots.
  • Sun exposure – All plants require sunlight, but the degree of direct sun each variety can withstand in a given day varies. Match plants to location based on full sun, partial sun or full shade conditions.
  • Color – For best results, choose flower colors that complement their surroundings, backdrop and containers. A white begonia won’t pop nearly as much as a red begonia against a light-colored home!
  • Size – Remember that annuals grow! Plan your landscape design based on the estimated plant height and width of fully-grown plants.
  • Fragrance – Be strategic in your placement of aromatic flowers. Petunias smell beautiful but are known to attract bees and wasps so may not be suitable for gathering spaces. On the other hand, marigolds deter rabbits and deer, making them welcome additions to vegetable gardens.

2. Prepare the soil when the time is right

After you’ve selected your annuals, it’s time to groom the soil for planting. While a quality soil mix should do the trick for potted plants, ground beds require a few extra steps:

  • Conduct a moisture test – Take a handful of soil and form a ball. If it sticks together in a wet solid, the soil needs more time to dry. When it is dry enough that the soil ball easily crumbles, you’re ready for cultivation.
  • Cultivate the soil – Loosen the soil with a tiller or shovel to optimize the retention and circulation of air, water and nutrients. Your topsoil should sit about 6 inches above ground level, so add more soil if needed.
  • Add nutrients – Amend the soil with fertilizer and organic matter, like compost or peat, before finally smoothing and leveling the surface.

3. Plant with care

By around mid-May, the ground in the Midwest is typically warm enough to plant, but before digging in be mindful of these nuances:

  • Plant preparation– Carefully remove plug plants with a thin extraction tool or by twisting the tray. Do not withdraw the plant by the stem.
  • Spacing – Combat overcrowding by referring to plant tags for spacing recommendations. Typically 6 to 8 inches is sufficient, but specifications vary depending on the annual.
  • Depth – Bury the plant’s roots deep enough so the plant base is level with the soil and the roots have room to sprawl.
  • Moisture – Always water your new plantings immediately. Keep the soil moist, not wet. Overwatering can cut off the air supply to the roots and cause root rot. The same is true with mulch; bark mulch, in particular, retains too much water.

4. Nurture your annuals

If you want thriving and healthy annuals, you need to show them a little tender, loving care:

  • Water – If the soil is no longer moist to the touch, use a hand watering can or wand to evenly disperse water near the base of the plant. Avoid top-down watering, which can stain leaves and breed mold. Watering in the evening is ideal to minimize evaporation from the hot sun.
  • Plant maintenance – As plants fade out of bloom or become overgrown, “deadheading,” or pinching away dead flowers, and pruning, or cutting away dead or overgrown shoots, makes way for younger, healthier re-growth.

Nothing says summer like the vibrant colors and lush blooms of summer annuals. Kick off your planning now or contact La Rosa Landscape Company to help!