Winter won't be here much longer and neither will some of Florida's favorite flowers. Colorful petunias, pansies, snapdragons and dianthus all need the cooler weather to produce their eye-catching displays.
Beds of color near the road or along the driveway help welcome visitors to your home. Continue these cheery displays at entrances, near patios and along walkways. Another good use for winter flowers is to highlight statuary, fountains and other artistic features of the landscape.
Attractive beds are started by selecting plants for your growing conditions. Gardeners should note whether they have sun, shade or shifting light levels. Many annuals decline if the light level is too low and others simply stop flowering.
Winter seems to offer more annual flowers for planting than any other time of the year. Some to select for their durable reputation include alyssum, dianthus, dusty miller, pansies, petunias, snapdragons and violas. Others you might add to home flower beds include bacopa, calendula, carnation, diascia, geraniums, lobelia, million bells, ornamental cabbage and kale and nasturtiums. Most should last well into the spring months.
Starting a new flower bed or rejuvenating an older one is easy but you should follow these recommended steps for success.
- Clean out the bed: Remove all the declining plants plus the weeds. If noxious weeds such as bermudagrass, sedge or oxalis have infested a bed, you might spend time digging them out. Or if you have a little extra time apply one of the non selective herbicides that allows replanting after the weeds decline.
- Soil improvement: Old beds can harbor pests and new ones are often compacted or retain too little moisture. Adding organic matter can help with each of these problems. Scatter peat moss, compost or potting soil over the surface of the beds. Then till these amendments 4- to 6-inches deep into the ground.
Feed before you plant: Most soils lack nutrients needed for growth and the transplants only come with a week or two supply of fertilizer. Scatter a 14-14-14 or similar slow release fertilizer over the surface of the soil. It's worked into the ground as you plant and should feed the new flowers for several months.
Planting time: Plan your bed ahead of time and position the plants over the soil surface to test an arrangement. As the annuals are set in the ground make sure the top of the root ball is even with or slightly above the existing soil line. Burying the plant too deep usually leads to rot problems causing the plants decline. After planting thoroughly wet the soil.
Important after care: Determining when to water is not always easy. Look for the first signs of wilting then water for 15 to 20 minutes. Repeat the waterings whenever wilting is noticed. Other care that may be needed includes repeat feedings in 45 to 60 days for longer lasting flowers and the removal of faded blooms.