They embellish flower beds, showcase perennials and protect vegetables from harmful insects: annuals are a must in any garden!
Easy to grow, most annuals will bloom abundantly throughout the spring and summer and often well into the fall. Their wide variety of colours, shapes and sizes offer endless possibilities to enhance your garden. Find out how to choose annuals and properly care for them.
No matter the style or layout of your garden, you can use annuals either alone or in groups for a variety of purposes:
Try to limit the number of colours in flower beds for a striking visual effect and a more harmonious overall look.
It's important to choose good-quality annuals so that they recover quickly after planting out and continue to grow well.
To choose annuals, make sure that:
You can either start your annuals from seed or buy them from a garden centre in flats or multicells. You can also purchase finished products such as planters or patio containers to enhance a balcony, patio or small outdoor space.
Annuals should only be planted out once the risk of frost is past. To reduce the shock of transplantation, it is preferable to plant in overcast conditions or in the late afternoon. Ask for advice on planting when you buy.
Preparing the soil in the flower bed
Annuals usually require a fertile, loose and well-drained soil. Prepare the soil when it is fully thawed and dry enough to be worked.
Planting steps for growing annuals in flower beds
The fertilization needs of annuals vary depending on the species. Some annuals actually prefer poor soil; in an organically rich soil, plants such as fragrant alyssum, nasturtiums, cosmos and treasure flowers will produce luxuriant leaves but very few flowers. Annuals like these should therefore only be fertilized at the time of planting. This is why it is important to know the needs of each type of annual and to check them regularly during the growing season so as to adjust their fertilization if necessary.
One treatment in spring and another one in summer is usually enough for plants that require a fertile soil. These inputs of nutrients allow needy plants to bloom abundantly throughout the season. You can use the same fertilizers as those mentioned in the section above on "Preparing the soil in the flower bed".
Watering and mulching
Annuals may require watering during the growing period. Flowers will also suffer if they are not watered during long dry spells. In general, annual plants need about 3 cm of water per week, be it from rain and/or additional watering.
A natural way to preserve soil moisture after planting annuals is to apply mulch. Mulching flower beds protects sensitive plants from drought while preventing the establishment of weeds. Use of organic mulch provides organic matter while activating life in the soil as it gradually decomposes.
Hoeing consists of loosening the soil at a depth of 3 to 4 cm. This procedure improves air and water circulation in the soil while destroying annual weeds by lifting them to the surface of the soil, where they die.
Pinching consists of removing the new growth at the end of a stem to obtain fuller plants with more blooms. For plants grown for their foliage, e.g. coleus, pinching allows them to branch out and also encourages richer colours and denser leaves.
Pinching should be done when plants:
How to pinch a plant
Take the end of the shoot (above the last pair of leaves) between your thumb and forefinger and pinch it to remove that portion of stem. Repeat every 6 weeks for pansies, snapdragons, marigolds, petunias and cosmos.
Regularly removing wilted flowers encourages the growth of new flowers. Therefore, the plant does not waste energy on producing seeds. Annuals such as petunias, gaillardias, marigolds, geraniums, snapdragons, zinnias, verbenas and dahlias will benefit from deadheading every 2 to 4 weeks.
Around mid-summer, annuals may start to decline. To revive them, simply cut the stems back down to a third of their height. New flowers will start to emerge after two weeks and the plant should continue flowering until the first frosts. The following annuals benefit from being cut back: nasturtium, fragrant alyssum, marigold, ageratum, lobelia and petunia.
Some tall annuals or those with heavy blooms (e.g. cosmos, giant dahlia) need to be staked to resist the wind. Insert the stakes early in the season and tie the plants as they grow.
Stakes are generally made of wood or bamboo and should be 10 to 20 cm shorter than the plant’s height at maturity. Place the stake as close as possible to the stem without hurting the roots. Drive it into the ground behind the plant. Attach the stem to the stake with string, every 30 cm or so.
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