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Gardening: How to Take Care of Annual Flowers and Plants

Flowering annuals have the same basic needs as other garden plants. Providing proper care to your flowering annuals results in prettier, healthier plants that last longer and provide a most impressive display.

Maintaining flowering annuals involves four simple tasks

  • Deadheading: Deadheading keeps plants looking tidy and prolongs the bloom period. Start deadheading as soon as you see the flowers fade and the petals begin to fall. Remove part of the stem as well as the faded flower, so that you’re sure to get the seed pod, too. With some flowers, such as petunias, you can pull off the petal part and think you’ve done the job, but the seed pod remains. Use your fingers to pinch off flowers with fleshy stems. Use pruners for stiffer or more stubborn flowers.

  • Staking: Stake early! By staking early when you set out transplants or after seedlings reach a few inches tall, you can direct the stems to grow upward right from the start and tie them at intervals along the stake as they grow.

    Tie stems to slender bamboo sticks, wooden stakes, or even straight and sturdy woody branches that you saved from your pruning chores. For light plants with sturdy stems, such as cosmos and cornflower, you can use twine or twist ties. For large-flowered plants, such as sunflowers, use plastic garden tape or strips of fabric.

  • Pinching and pruning: Pinch plants when they’re young — before they develop long stems. Remove the tip growth by pinching above a set of leaves. To promote good overall shape, pinch both upright and side stems. When you have a mass of plants in the bed, pinch back the tallest ones so that they don’t shoot up past their neighbors. Good candidates for pinching include petunias, snapdragons, impatiens, chrysanthemums, marguerites, and geraniums.

    Pruning is the process of cutting back plants to keep them within the boundaries that you’ve set and to promote bushier growth. Annuals rarely need the heavy-duty pruning that perennials and shrubs demand. Trim rangy, floppy, or sprawling stems as often as necessary to keep them under control. Make cuts just above a set of leaves or side shoot to promote both bushiness and new buds.

  • Mulching: A mulch is simply a soil cover. Mulching an annual garden cuts down on the amount of water needed and helps control weeds. The soil is cooled and protected by the application of a top layer of some type of material. As long as the material is attractive, you’ll have a neat-looking garden, to boot. A layer of mulch also helps hide drip irrigation tubes. Your mulching schedule really depends on the type of annuals you grow and when you plant them:

Timing is important to help you keep the tasks small and manageable. Here are some key strategies for garden maintenance:

  • Observe a regular maintenance schedule. That way, no chore gets too far out of hand. Start the jobs early, before the situation gets out of hand, and do jobs as you notice that they need to be done.

  • Make regular tours of the garden. Think of these tours as minivacations. Don’t get your hands dirty on these garden strolls, but do make a mental note of what jobs you need to tackle next. When the time comes to do some work in the garden, you already know what tools you need and what chores are most pressing.

  • Have the materials and tools you need to do the job. Store tools in a set location where you can always find them, and keep them clean. Keep track of supplies and restock as amounts get low.

  • Evaluate how much maintenance you’re doing. If you feel that you’re spending too much time and effort on your garden, try to find ways to do your chores more efficiently or consider scaling down the garden to a more manageable size.

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