All About Annuals
By Sharon Morris
“The earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The St. Louis area has just recovered from the longest stretch of sub-freezing temperatures in more than 30 years, so most people are not yet thinking about the annual flowers they want to plant this spring. But in the landscaping world, we’re already actively planning for the planting season to make sure our clients have beautiful flowers this spring and summer.
Planning for annual flowers actually begins more than 12 months in advance. Seeds for annual flowers are harvested from live plants, and these stock plants must be grown a year ahead of time. For example, begonia seeds that will be planted this summer (2018) were produced in the summer of 2017. Seed production is finite, so it’s important that we place annual flower orders early. Once a particular variety sells out, it’s gone until the following year.
Before placing orders for flowers, we analyze each property’s plant performance from the prior year and use this information, as well as feedback from property managers and clients, to adjust and refine the current year’s order. Factors such as rain, temperatures, drought, and soil composition can all affect how well flowers grow and can vary from one year to the next. Understanding these conditions allows us to help our clients choose the ideal variety for each situation.
Our growers are continually improving seeds and creating new varieties of existing flowers. They may cross-breed for new colors, or work to improve plant health and hardiness. Seeds can also fail, so it’s possible that one variety or color may be unavailable for an entire season. Flexibility is key when substitutions must be made – we encourage our clients to be open to exploring new varieties of their favorite plants.
Finally, timing is critical when it comes to planting annuals. Just because the local garden center has flowers on display doesn’t mean it’s the right time to plant them. Here in the St. Louis region, there is still a 50% chance of frost through mid-April, according to frost charts for this zone. Our optimal planting time for annual flowers is between April 27 and Memorial Day.
With a little planning and care, annual flowers can be a beautiful part of any landscape.
PHOTO CREDIT: Tomasovic Greenhouses – Kirkwood, MO