University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Annuals Add Color with Minimum Care

January 27, 2000

Colorful annual flowers can be a common sight in the 2000 gardening catalogs. In a few months, they will also be appearing at your local garden enter. Annuals are welcome additions to many landscape situations as they provide plenty of color with usually little effort.

Annuals, as the name implies, live just one growing season. The knock on them is the fact they need to be replanted each year, as compared to perennials that return each season. But annuals provide benefits of long periods of color and allowing the gardener flexibility by changing color schemes in the planting area each season.

When selecting annuals, whether seeds from the catalogs or bedding plants locally this spring, be sure to match the plant to the conditions present on the site. The amount of light is the biggest concern; many annuals need full sun but others are adapted to shade. Among the annuals for shade locations are begonia, browallia, coleus, torenia, and impatiens. Certainly the list for sun areas is much longer.

Also consider the size of the plants, to assure they will fit into the area and the overall landscape plan. Consider whether the plants will be used as edging, mass plantings, backgrounds, containers, or windowboxes. Some suggested annuals for edging include ageratum, alyssum, begonia, lobelia, french marigold, petunia, portulaca, and verbena. Annuals that make good choices for backgrounds in plantings include tall celosia, cleome, cosmos, American marigold, sunflower, and tall zinnias.

While maintenance needs are fairly low, having a well-prepared soil is very important. Soils need to have good drainage. Before planting this spring, work the soil to a depth of six to eight inches, adding organic matter such as compost, peat moss, or composted manure. Also work in some balanced garden fertilizer, such as 5-10-5, 10-10-10, or 12-12-12. A rate of one to two pounds of fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area is suggested.

Regular care during the season is also very important. Water as needed to assure good growth. Stake taller species. Fertilize the planting once or twice during the season with a balanced fertilizer. Pinching back developing plants will help keep them more compact. Removing faded flowers on a regular basis keeps plants productive.


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