October 21, 2021

Flowering annuals: Blooming beautiful

Surely the easiest and most satisfying way to brighten up your garden, fill beds and pots with flowering annuals for a real burst of colour.

Bidens Namid Early Yellow

Gardeners once used to create colourful and changing displays in their gardens beds with myriad vibrant flowering annuals.

In recent years, however, display pots and other containers have become popular for planting out annuals throughout the seasons – and for good reason, as they are easier to maintain and can provide relatively instant colour.

Impatiens Beacon Violet
Petunia Dreams Blue

So, what is a flowering annual?

These are fast-growing plants that complete their lifecycle within a year, but flower for months on end. The most commonly known ones would be pansies in winter and petunias in spring and summer, but there are many more varieties available.

You can choose to grow either from seed or seedlings. Seedlings are the preferred option if you don’t want to wait and some can be purchased in advanced packs, which are already beginning to flower, saving even more time.

For instant colour for special events or simply to colour-up a garden quickly, “potted colour” are the best choice. These are sold in small pots already in flower, so it is easier to choose the colours or shades that will suit your garden. To select a healthy plant, look for those that have plenty of buds coming on so that they will open soon after they are planted in your garden.

Flowering annuals can complement the existing plantings in your garden and add colour to your entrance or another area to become a stunning feature. They can be planted out in the garden or containers, such as pots and urns and they are great for hanging baskets.

Bidens Bee Alive
Petunia Frosty Pink

Preparation and maintenance

Whether in a garden bed or a container, flowering annuals need a good source of food.

In the soil of the garden bed, add some manure and complete fertiliser to give the plants a great start. In a container, a quality potting mix with soil wetter and slow-release fertiliser is recommended. Where possible, add a mulch over the soil or potting mix surface to keep moisture in.

Once established you will want them to keep flowering so remember to:

Give fortnightly applications of liquid fertiliser to ensure that the plant has the energy to keep on blooming

Ensure the plants’ roots are kept moist – water every few days or more often when it gets hotter. Remember a good soaking is important, not a light spray over the blooms and foliage.

Dead-head (cut off) the old flowers every few weeks to prolong flowering for as long as possible.

Some varieties which are suitable for planting now include amaranthus, aster, bedding begonia, carnation, portulaca, salvia, sunflower, celosia, dahlia, dianthus, gerbera, gypsophila, marigold, petunia, phlox, zinnia, verbena and calibrachoa.

Salvia Grandstand Red Pink Lipstick
Impatiens Beacon Select Mix

The above all need full sun, but there are some varieties that are fine in shade or part-shade such as ageratum, alyssum, bedding begonia, calendula, cineraria, violas, foxgloves, impatiens and lobelia.

Impatiens are making a resurgence with a new disease-resistant variety now released in Australia called Beacon, available in several lovely colours. Others to consider are some wonderful new petunias in advanced packs called Evening Scentsation with a lovely fragrance, which is unusual for a petunia, Frosty Blue and Pink Dream.

If you have a large area to plant out and are looking for good value, consider buying supertrays, which provide up to 50 seedlings usually for around $20 at Garden Centre SA outlets.


This story first appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of SALIFE Gardens & Outdoor Living magazine.

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