This is the traditional time to plant annuals. Where, when and how many you plant depends on your tastes, time, ambition and, this year, the weather.
Though short lived, annuals are among the most versatile plants. Your garden store has them in all shapes, sizes and colors. Most are small and sold in packages of six (commonly called six packs). Some of the larger annuals like geraniums are sold in individual pots.
Planting options for annuals are endless. You can plant them in traditional flower beds, raised beds, window boxes and even decorative patio containers.
Regardless of whether beds are at ground level or raised, you plant the same way you would a tree, shrub or perennial. Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root ball but only as deep. I usually squeeze the root ball to loosen the roots. Set it in the hole and backfill. Use your hands rather than your feet to tamp down the soil, especially for small annuals from six packs. When you finish planting all of them, water them well.
To plant in window boxes or containers, fill the container with a good quality potting mix. Then dig holes about the size of the plant’s root ball but no deeper, place the plant in the hole, backfill and press down the backfill with your fingers. Repeat for each plant. When finished, water them well. Holes twice as wide as the root ball aren’t necessary for window box or container plants because the soil isn’t compacted as it is when planting in-ground.
Larger annuals like geraniums can be slipped right into a decorative container while in their nursery pots.
Annuals planted in the ground have to be watered only if Mother Nature doesn’t supply them with at least an inch of rain a week. You should also weed your planting beds on a regular basis.
Containers and window boxes require a bit more watering. Water that isn’t absorbed by the plant roots filters right through the potting mix and out the drain hole. So, it has to be replaced more often than it does for plants in the ground.
Deadheading extends the life of annuals. Their reason for existing is to produce seeds. That’s why they flower so profusely. If the dead or limp flowers are not removed, annuals will flower, drop their seeds and die quickly. If, however, you remove the spent flowers before they go to seed, the plant will produce more flowers. They will try a second or third time to reproduce. Purists refer to deadheading as pinching and believe that using your fingers to pinch off the dead flowers is the only way. I use a pair of small pruning shears and it works just fine.