Annuals by definition are plants whose life cycle lasts only one year, from seed to blooms to seed. Removing the flowers as they fade prolongs the blooming cycle, but if left to produce seeds, many annuals will readily reseed themselves. Annuals are usually available in little starter ‘six packs’ or in 4 inch ‘color spots’. They are an excellent way to create a great splash of summer color in the garden, or for long blooming annual baskets.

The bulk of annuals prefer sunny locations but the following list will help you choose plants for all areas of your garden:

Sun Semi-Shade Shade
Ageratum Ageratum Begonias – fibrous and tuberous
Alyssum Alyssum Begonia, gryphon and dragon wing
Asters Begonias Browalia
Carnation Browalia Coleus
Celosia Coleus Euphorbia
Coleus Dusty Miller Fuchsia
Dahlia Geraniums Heliotrope
Dusty Miller Impatiens* Impatiens*
Geraniums Lobelia Lobelia
Marigolds Marigolds New Guinea Impatiens
Morning Glory Morning Glory Nicotania
Petunias Nicotiana Sunpatiens
Portulaca Pansy Torenia
Salvia Petunias
Snapdragons Salvia
Sunshine Impatiens Snapdragons
Verbena Vinca
Zinnia

*Note that due to the growing presence of downy mildew disease in past seasons, Impatiens wallerina and Double Impatiens are no longer being grown by many reputable garden centres. As listed above, there are many excellent annual alternatives to the impatiens for a semi-shade or shade location.

Your flowering hanging baskets and patio containers can bloom and thrive for many months – with a little help from you. Follow these easy guidelines to keep your plants healthy and beautiful throughout the season.

Clean Up Your Plants

With proper watering and fertilizing, your container plants will flower so much that you may need to remove dead flowers and seed pods. This helps keep the plant looking its best–and is a nice way to relax after a long day, which is what gardening is all about.

Is the Light Right?

Most flowering hanging baskets and patio containers will tolerate a wide range of light conditions, though some will balk at the heat and drying of all-day sunlight or the dimness of all-day shade. Match your plant with its light location for best results. A few examples below:

  • Ivy and zonal geraniums tolerate the brightest conditions and an occasional drying out.
  • Petunias appreciate a sunny location.
  • Impatiens and begonias keep the shadiest spots bright.
  • Fuchsias do best in a spot with morning sun only and require shade mid-day when the sun is at its hottest.

Water Before Wilting

Do not wait for wilting as your cue to water! Flowering plants do best if you never allow them to wilt. Take extra care with watering, since hanging baskets and patio containers tend to dry out faster than garden plants due to more wind exposure and warmer temperatures.

Under average conditions, flowering plants in full sun should be watered daily. For shade containers, check soil moisture daily to avoid overwatering. Watering in the morning allows the plants to drink during the day and not go to bed too wet at night.

Be sure to water thoroughly. If the basket dries out, the soil may shrink and allow water to quickly run out the drain holes, fooling you into thinking it is thoroughly watered when, in fact, the water is bypassing the roots. You may need to re-water the container again in 15 minutes. Ensure that the outer edges of the pot are also well watered. Wall bags are best to lie down horizontally to water.

Fertilize When Needed

Even if you have never allowed them to wilt, your plants may develop yellow leaves and poor flowering, which can indicate a need for fertilizer. Use a water soluble fertilizer for flowering plants every two weeks. Do not apply fertilizer to dry soil.

You can also use coated, slow-release fertilizer beads, available from some greenhouses and garden centers.

Keep in mind that if a little fertilizer is good, a lot is NOT better. Too much fertilizer can burn roots and damage plants. Ask someone at Van Luyk’s for help and invest in a little fertilizer to keep your plants flowering. Follow manufacturer’s directions for fertilizer application.

Plan for Vacation Survival

Do not forget your hanging baskets and containers when you go on vacation. If you can’t get a “plant-sitter” to water them while you are gone, take them down from their hangers and set them on the ground in the shade. With a thorough watering before you leave, most plants will last a week on the ground in a well-shaded location. Flowering may be reduced when you first re-hang you plants, but they will soon return to their summer glory.

If your plants get large and overgrown, right before you go on vacation is a good time to trim them back and remove some of the extra growth.

Maintaining Quality Depends on You

Follow these guidelines to keep your hanging plants beautiful and healthy, and to get the most from your investment. It’s worth taking the time to learn proper care so you may enjoy your plants throughout the season.