Annual Bedding Plants

Annual bedding plants come in so many different colors and varieties that it is no wonder most gardeners choose to use them in their creative flowerbed designs. For me, Annuals provide quick color in the flowerbed garden design. My neighbor in Printers Row first comments for the gardening season used to be…when’s the color coming? He was great at the hardscapes, but had no flower gardening patience.

So, while the flowerbeds wait for the perennials to burst into bloom, the annual bedding plants ‘kick in’ to help out. Or when certain perennials have faded, the annuals provide the flowerbed with continuous blooming.

I hear from some fellow seasoned gardeners that they seldom choose annual annuals-growing-in-chicagoflowers. However, as time passes more gardeners are coming around to appreciate the burst of color that annual flowers provide especially when many perennials are waiting to bloom or have long since bloomed out.

I too have come to understand that annuals and perennials can be friends. My flowerbed gardens are now intertwined with the color of annual flowers such as the Ageratum Blue Hawaii all the while patiently waiting for the Roses and the Becky Daisies to bloom.

Some say annual flowers are too expensive in Chicago to plant year after year.

Lois Hole (1933-2005) a Canadian garden expert in her own right (I’m a huge admirer), wrote in one of her books a response to a comment suggesting that planting annuals was too expensive.

She often compared the amount of money spent on dinner at a good restaurant to the cost of planting a garden with annuals. Both are pleasurable experience however, the meal only last one evening while the garden is enjoyed for several months. Good point.

What is an Annual Bedding Plant?

By definition an annual bedding plant is a plant that completes its life cycle in one year. That is: from seed to bloom and back to seed again. Ergo, why so many experts remind gardeners to ‘deadhead’ the spent blooms in order to keep the plants blooming and not let them go to seed.

So there you have it…don’t just plant perennials… mix up your flowerbed garden, plant annual bedding plants, if you so choose. Have fun. Why not plant those Victoria Blue Salvia’s with the Morden Red Fire Glow rose bush. It makes a very striking contrast.

My Great Tips before You Plant

When shopping for annual bedding plants, don’t be tempted to buy the ones with all the blooms opened. You are better off buying the plants that are bushy and have lots of buds. Brush your hand against the top of the annual plants. If any little bugs fly off, don’t buy them no matter how good they look.
Remember that soil preparation should be completed for annual flowers. The notion that annuals can grow in any type of soil just isn’t true. Annual plants need a soil that is well fed…meaning organic matter added, well-rotted manure, and compost…even shredded leaves. Then add bone meal to the soil, just a little bit and some MYKE growth supplement. The difference is quite remarkable.

Ever wonder why your annual plants don’t look the same after 3 to 4 weeks in your flowerbed garden or in your containers? Well…I am told by a reliable source that greenhouses fertilize the annual bedding plants heavily (just to make them look so pretty for you), so it is important to flush out the plants when you get them home. I guess you could say the plants are ‘high on fertilizer’. Water them thoroughly and let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. You plant and then fertilize right away with a 10-52-10. This gives the plants an even footing for survival.

Remember to harden off your plants. Meaning get them acclimatized to the temperature change from inside to outside. After all, they have been in a warm and humid environment for the past few weeks growing just for you. Leaving them in your garage before planting works or introducing them from indoors (your home) to outside for a few hours each day.

More Tips for Success

Did you know that annual bedding plants won’t grow or eat up the nutrients you feed them until the soil reaches a temperature of approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit or 10 Celsius? So, don’t be too excited (like me) and plant too early. Wait for the ground to warm.

You Need to Plan

Take a good look at your flowerbed and plan the layout. If your flowerbeds are like mine and you have perennials…plan..plan..plan. Give enough room for the perennials to grow. Don’t plant the annuals too close. I know this is difficult as the perennials take time to grow while the annual bedding plants are already a decent size. The flowerbed may look ‘odd’ in the beginning but within a 2 week period all plants will fill in. Depending on the design of the flowerbed, plant from the back to the front or the center and then outwards. This way the edging plants won’t get stepped on. Dig the hole big enough. Don’t make the roots feel cramped. Roots need room to spread and grow. Make sure that the top of the root ball is at just below ground level.

Prepare the Roots

Remember to gently break the root ball prior to planting. As Mark Cullen (another great Gardening guru) says to scarify the roots. I just love that phrase
Once the removed soil is returned, and the root ball is covered, press down firmly, water gently and fertilize. But remember the above comments on soil warmth. That’s why fertilizing should happen the end of May or beginning of June (depending on where you live) GREAT Watering Tips for Annual Bedding Plants
Because annual flowers are shallow rooted, they require more watering than established perennials. Add organic matter and peat moss to help hold in the water, but not keep the soil soggy. Water when soil is dry to a depth of 2 inches.


Hand watering with a water can is great for container gardening and smaller flowerbeds, but what about larger areas? Two methods that I use: sprinklers and a drip hose method.
When using an over-head sprinkler, water in the early evening or first thing in the morning prior to the heat of the day. I place a plastic container (about the size of an 8oz. tuna can) within the flowerbed. When the container is just about full, the watering is complete. It is better to water like this once a week, then sprinkle small amounts of water on a daily basis.
The drip hose method is great for a flowerbed that is in a all-day hot sun location and frequently dries out. The water is released continuously through a perforated hose laid close to the plants
Mulching (with shredded bark) around both annuals and perennials helps to keep the soil moist, however mulch can mold so shuffle it around a bit.

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