Are your annual flowers looking a little tired lately? Petunias not perky? Geraniums with no gusto? Your plants probably need a little TLC right about now.
Annual flowers go through their entire life cycle in one summer – they grow, they flower, they set seed, then die. That condensed life span requires water and nutrition. If you have not, now would be the time to fertilize them with some water-soluble fertilizers to help through the rest of the season. There are a few varieties of water-soluble fertilizers, some are formulated for blooms, for leave growth, or for acid loving plants. For plants that are planted in the ground, the formulas for blooms or leaves will probably be sufficient. For plants that are in containers or pots, a rotation of all three formulas can be quite helpful. One week your plants will get the nutrients to help them bloom, the next week they will get the nutrients to help them grow strong, and the next week they will get a little acidity to combat Indiana’s water. Indiana is known as the Limestone State. Great for buildings, but that limestone also gives us hard water. Each time you water your plants in pots, a little bit of those minerals is deposited, and over time will change the pH level of your soil. Using a water-soluble fertilizer for acid loving plants will bring the pH back to where it should be. Please read the instructions on the package and remember ‘more is not more’ when it comes to fertilizers. An overgenerous amount of fertilizer can kill your plants.
Your plants may also benefit from something called ‘deadheading.’ That is the process of removing spent flowers to encourage more blooming. Annual flowers can be tricked into blooming more and more if you remove the flowers when they start to look old and before they set seed. Some flowers require more deadheading than others. Plants such as geraniums, salvias, zinnias, and marigolds benefit from deadheading. Just snip off the old flowers down to the first set of leaves. There are plants that do not require as much deadheading, such as lantana, impatiens, and begonias. These plants tend to keep growing and blooming all the way to a frost without much intervention.
Petunias benefit from deadheading, but they also benefit from having their tendrils cut back. If your petunias seem a little leggy and have sparse leaves near the base of the plant and few blooms, they may need a haircut. Cutting back the stems a third of the way will signal the plant to send out more bushy growth and leaves. It may seem harsh at first; after all, you have wanted your plants to grow and grow all season- now you are chopping off that growth! In a week or two, that plant will rebound and look much happier.
If you have annuals in containers or pots, you may need to trim back some plants that are crowding out the other plants. Sweet potato vines can be a bully to other flowers in pots. Like petunias, they won’t mind a haircut and having their tendrils trimmed back. This will allow the other flowers to fill in. If your plants are not green or leggy, but instead look a little brown and crunchy, now is the time to trim that dead material off. Trim the plant down to where it is green, water well, and try a little fertilizer.
Remember to keep your flowers watered well for the remainder of the season and consider supplemental fertilizers. And if that does not work, remember that mum season is just around the corner!