Wow! It’s March 2nd, already! I get questions all the time asking about flowers that can be planted cheaply and that will provide carefree blooms all summer. First, consider the cost. You can buy a flat of Marigolds for $20 or buy a packet of seeds for $1.99. The seeds are easier to plant and will provide yellow, red, and orange blossoms until the first frost and, as a bonus, will save you that $1.99 next Spring by giving you hundreds of viable seed heads. You will never have to buy seeds again or flats. Al you need is a sunny spot, time to sprinkle a few seeds, and perhaps a little dirt on top. Add a few drops of water and within a week, you will have baby marigolds! What could be easier?
The French Marigold is great for small plant areas but read your seed pack carefully as Crackerjack Marigolds can be 3 feet high and are good against your fence or house.
Zinnias are another good seed pack that are guaranteed to germinate and provide months of color. Most are tall plants although dwarfs are available. Cut the dried heads in the Fall and store them for next year’s seeds just like marigolds. If you sow them to close together, you will have to thin them by pinching out the extras. Best way for both marigolds and zinnias is to poke a little hole in the dirt and put a seed in, Poke your holes six inches apart for French Marigolds and a foot apart for tall zinnias. Cut zinnias during the summer and bring inside to brighten your home and more blooms will follow on the remaining plant. What could be easier?
Annual begonia give you two sides. A pretty pink, red, or white flower and a handsome leaf that could be dark green, minty, or even red. It is best to buy a flat of a dozen or two and plant them in a partial shaded area that gets some sun. Keep them moist during hot days and they will reward you with flowers and foliage that will make you smile until frost. Even though they will be for sale in early March, hold off until the final frost before planting. Most of them may survive a mild frost but don’t chance it.
Impatiens is another very easy flower to buy and never buy just one. Flats are inexpensive and in a partial shaded area they will grow with minimal care. Never let the soil dry out during the heat of summer as they love water and will wilt quickly if neglected. They are popular for hanging baskets but will need to be sprinkled every day for best blossoms. Most are shades of lavender or pink but other colors are available. The New Guinea Impatiens is a larger plant that needs some sun and constant water.
Everyone knows the Petunia and it seems that everyone has a hanging basket on their front porch. And why not? They are relatively easy to grow, bloom profusely, and come in a rainbow of colors. If you simply hang a basket and let it take care of itself, it will be disappointing. They need to be watered every couple of days and might need a little plant food in mid-season – not too much or you will have zillions of leaves and few blooms. They may get leggy with long shoots and fewer flowers so don’t be shy – just pinch off the shoot and three or four more will grow and produce blooms all over again. You could plant them in your garden bed but pinching them back becomes a chore for us older ones. Sun produces more blooms but requires better moisture control. If you will be gone camping for a few days or a week, better take them to your neighbor to keep them watered and happy.
Who doesn’t love Pansies in the Spring? Little monkey faces in blue, purple, yellow, and white cheer us after a dreary winter. You can start pansies indoors but why not just buy a flat or two for instant smiles? They are easy to plant and very forgiving and will survive mild frosts if planted too early. It might be best to lightly mulch them as their surface roots will dry out quickly in hot sun. By early summer, most will be gone but then start again as Fall approaches and “happy faces” will keep smiling most of our mild winter days. I have has yellow pansies survive all winter.
Snapdragons are another Spring favorite that can be grown easily from scattered seed and will bloom up until the hot summer sun takes over. Some will grow up to 18 inches tall and they need to stay moist and in mostly sun for best blooms.
Coleus blooms but who cares? I plant them for leaves of color and what color they are! Reds, purples, yellows, greens and every mixture and combo possible! Buy them early in the year and they will grow huge during the summer and fall. When a flower stalk appears – pinch it back and a half dozen more intriguing leaves will emerge within a week. Keep them moist in sun or shade and don’t worry about fertilizer but if you add plant food they will completely cover your planted area which is a good thing if you have the space. Sadly, the first frost will wilt them to nothingness but what a life!
Speaking of leaves, on my terraced hillside last year I planted several colors of Sweet Potato Vine and by summers end, I had a wave of deep purple leaves from the top of the hill to the bottom and a few yards away the brightest green wave you can imagine paralleled Mr. Purple. Believe me, this year I will plant 4 or five Sweet Potato Vines to add a rippled splash of color to my hillside terraces! They require no maintenance and will grow in the direction you point them!
I promised a dozen splashes of color to your home but I can’t go on. I need to head outside and start planning, planting, and dreaming! This will be a colorful summer – start now and you will not be disappointed. What is your favorite annual plant?