Plant annuals to add splash of color

Flowering annuals have been part of landscapes for centuries because of their ability to produce an abundance of color for a sustained period of time. Vibrant pinks of petunias, shimmering reds of zinnias and glowing yellows of marigolds match up to the most colorful tulips. They provide more color than just about any other flower. Annual flowers are what people will remember about your landscape long after their visit.

You can plant annuals anywhere. Traditionally, they are planted under trees, along sidewalks, around shrubs or off by themselves. For new homeowners with an immature landscape, annuals make excellent temporary fillers. For those who rent and want something pretty and inexpensive in the landscape, flowers fill the bill.

These plants lend themselves to container gardening, as well. Imagine hanging baskets of petunias spilling over containers on patios, decks and windowsills.

As their name implies, these jewels live only one season, but that enables you to change to other showy plants through the season.

Note the flowers you can plant: ageratum, amaranthus, asters, calliopsis, celosia, cockscomb, cosmos, four-o’clock, gaillardia, gomphrena, marigold, morning glory, ornamental pepper, periwinkle (Vinca), petunia, portulaca (moss rose), strawflower, sunflower, verbena and zinnia.

For the morning side of your house, plant geraniums, impatiens and salvia, and for those with full shade, plant columbine, nasturtium, oxalis and wax begonias. Not all of these flowers will be available as transplants.

Do some planning before you go to the nursery. This will avoid overspending and ensure getting the right mixes of colors. Know the desired spacing of varieties you plan to plant. The tag will tell how far apart to space the plants. You want the leaves to spread out to create food so you’ll get the many blooms you’re dreaming about. As you plan, avoid long, straight lines to make the scene look more natural.

Colors you select will influence how people feel when visiting your home. Warm colors, such as yellow, orange and pink, grab your attention. Their bright, cheerful exuberance will tempt any adventurous spirit.

Cool colors, such as blues, greens and purples, suggest relaxation and a sense of spaciousness, making a small yard appear larger. White, gray, silver and cream flowers have a sparkle of richness.

No matter how great a gardener you are, a few flowers are bound to die. Even Disneyland experts lose some flowers. Whenever you see a dead one, rogue it out and replant. Psychologically, it helps you feel like a success.

Here’s how to plant your flowers: Part the soil with a trowel; remove the plant from the container and set the root ball in a hole at the same depth as it was in the container to prevent fungus; firm the soil around the root ball for good soil-to-root contact; and follow with a deep irrigation and mist if the weather turns hot.

From here on, it becomes a partnership between you and the plants. Keep an eye on them and they will tell you how to make them prettier. Note these signs: Small, yellow leaves mean a need for more nitrogen; yellow leaves with green veins signal a need for iron; and excessive weeding signals a need to cut back irrigations.

Linn Mills writes a gardening column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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