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Growing Annual Flowers

by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator

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Annual flowers are a wonderful, colorful accent, enlivening a home's landscape during the summer. The wide range of colors, sizes and species adapted to either sun or shade makes it possible to plant annual flowers almost anywhere. But for many people, growing healthy, attractive annual flowers is a frustrating and difficult task. Your annuals should be in the ground now, and maybe they have even had a few weeks to grow, so here are a few ideas to keep them growing strong and beautiful all summer.

Encourage bushiness. Most plants respond well to pinching at planting time, to remove the existing flower buds. This allows the plant to grow roots, rather than support flowers, during the early days of establishment. Pinching also induces branching which will, eventually, increase the number of flowering stems. If you didn't pinch at planting, and your plants are growing tall and spindly, it would be a good idea to do it now. For best results, pinch out the first and second set of leaves or remove about one-third of the plant's total height.

Watering. Monitor the "dry spots" of your landscape, like areas underneath the house's eaves, to make sure all plants have enough moisture. Annual flowers generally require 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water each week. Be sure the water penetrates to the root zone, especially when planting into ground beds. Soaker hoses or sprinklers are the best way to provide an even application of water. Soaker hoses are most efficient, with very little water lost to runoff or evaporation. Water with sprinklers in the morning if possible, and avoid overhead irrigation in the evening to reduce the potential for foliar diseases.

Fertilization. Annual flowers require regular fertilization throughout summer to grow and bloom their best. Fertilize plants at a rate of 1/2 to 1 pound of 5-10-5 per 100 square feet every 4 to 6 weeks. Sprinkle the fertilizer lightly along the row and scratch it into the soil. Container plants should receive a weekly application of a water soluble fertilizer, like Schult's Plant Food, Miracle Grow, Peter's Fertilizer or any other water soluble fertilizer. Do not fertilize plants when they are wilted; instead water the plants with plain water first, then fertilize the next day after they have recovered.

Deadhead. Pinch off faded blooms weekly, or as often as possible, to stimulate continued blooming throughout the season. Trailing plants, such as petunias, ivy geraniums, trailing begonias and coleus, can be pruned to keep the plants compact and stimulate additional blooming. Removing faded flowers prevents the plants from forming seed. As a result, they will bloom again in an effort to complete the life cycle.

This resource was updated June 2013 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement


University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office

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