While some gardeners have a preference when it comes to annuals vs. perennials, the truth is, a gorgeous garden is often a balance of the two! Annuals sometimes get some flack because of their high-maintenance reputation, but keeping your annuals looking great all season doesn't have to be difficult. Keep those one-of-a-kind blooms bright and bushy with proper planning and minimal maintenance!
Annuals tend to be speedy growers, so the soil they live in has to be rich enough to sustain their vigor. Soils high in organic matter are full of beneficial microorganisms that help recycle nutrients in the soil, supplying your plants' roots with all the food it needs to grow strong and healthy. Organic matter enriches the ground, making it more fertile so you don't have to apply as much (or any!) fast-acting synthetic fertilizers.
Another crucial part of good soil for annuals is adequate drainage. On one hand, you don't want water flowing freely through the soil as it does with sandy textures, or it will leave those plant roots thirsty. Alternately, dense, clay soils hold onto moisture far too long, which can lead to the ever-dreaded root rot. Fortunately, adding organic matter improves soil drainage and nutrient retention.
Some annuals are finicky about soil pH. Pick up a testing kit to figure out the pH of your soil so you can make changes to accommodate your new plants if needed. Most annuals prefer slightly acidic conditions, so aiming for a pH range of 6.0-7.0 is pretty safe. If you're outside this range, amend the soil with different compounds to alter the pH. Limestone is a common material used to reduce acidity, while sphagnum peat moss and sulfate-containing products are used to reduce alkalinity.
Like everything else, sunlight requirements vary between annuals. Some like to soak up all the rays they can to sustain their vibrant, colorful blooms, while others prefer to chill out in the shade. Make sure you check the label on your plant or ask one of our garden experts about sun exposure for your new annual. If you're looking to add some life to a specific spot in your yard, take a look at these suggestions:
Annual flowers for sun include petunias, marigolds, geraniums, verbenas and, of course, sunflowers! These are among many flowering annuals that soak up UV rays into their petals to help them shine even brighter. Place these plants in an area of your garden that gets sun for most of the day.
Annual shade plants include alyssum, impatiens, pansies, begonias, and fuchsias. While some of these plants can tolerate sunny areas, they're prized for their ability to brighten the shady areas of your yard.
To make the most of their limited lifespan, annual flowers tend to pour more energy into repeated blooming, rather than establishing an extensive root system that's doomed to die off by winter. For this reason, annuals tend to have shallow roots that easily dry out in the summer sun. Most flowers should be watered daily during the peak of summer- unless it rains, of course.
Most annuals need consistent water to keep their roots quenched, but there are other factors to consider before establishing your watering schedule. Drought-tolerant annuals are scarce, but they do exist. Marigolds, cleome, and zinnia are all tough plants that don't mind drier soils, and only need to be watered about once a week.
How your annuals are planted and what they're planted with matters too. If they're planted with loamy soil, the roots should have no problem holding onto moisture. If they're planted in lower-quality soils, like sand or clay, you'll need to adjust your watering schedule accordingly. Annuals planted in closed systems like containers will need to be watered more often than those planted in the garden since the soil dries out much quicker.
We said it already, but we'll say it again - annuals are vigorous growers and prolific bloomers. It's possible to amend the soil with enough organic matter to sustain your annual plants' basic needs for the entire season. But while this is true, you'll likely get bigger, brighter, and more abundant blooms with an additional dose of nutrients. Potted annuals especially benefit from additional fertilizers, since nutrients are washed out through the container's drainage holes whenever you water them!
Granular fertilizers are good options for annuals planted directly into your garden beds. These fertilizers are made of dry materials and are applied directly to the soil. Water the soil after application to help it settle in. With granular fertilizers, you have the option of choosing either quick-release or slow-release fertilizers.
Liquid fertilizers are fast-acting, quickly absorbed by your plant's roots. This makes them perfect for potted annual plants, leading to satisfied container gardens and hanging baskets. Liquid fertilizers are usually combined with water so you can alter the concentration and nutrient dosage to your annual's specific needs.
Basic annual care is important for encouraging healthy plants that naturally want to show off what they've got! But the single most important maintenance tip for continuous flowering is deadheading. It might seem useless to prune plants that aren't going to returning next year, but it's essential for keeping annuals blooming.
When a flower begins to wither and fade, pinch the dead flowerhead off the plant. This prevents the plant from putting any extra energy into developing those fading flowers into seeds or fruits! Before you know it, your annual will begin to form new buds to start the blooming process all over again!
The key to keeping your annuals looking great for the entire season is caring for them like they're going to last forever. They may not be here for long, but they pack a lot of brilliant beauty into their short lives. Drop into Plant Perfect today and browse our huge selection of gorgeous annuals, perfectly suited for your garden!