While we have had a mild winter so far, the several hard freezes hit many of the annuals we plant in the fall. Now we need to encourage growth on these plants to maximize the amount of spring blooms. Here is what I typically do to encourage more growth and blooms. Remember the typical last frost date in the metro area is around April 15.
Pansies – These are the most popular annual we plant in fall, bloom some in the winter, and put on a great spring show. Now is the time to groom your pansies by pinching off the flower stalks of the flowers that bloomed over the winter, remove damaged flowers by clipping them off, and start a fertilization program. Right now I am using liquid annual fertilizer at half the recommended strength. Once we get to late March I use the regular strength every other week. Keep spent bloom stems pinched off for maximum flower production.
Snapdragons – There are two types that are generally planted in the fall: the bush type that fills itself with many small bloom stalks, and the single stalk type (the liberty series is the most common). In either case, I like to remove all the flower stalks that are held over from the winter, once the new foliage starts to develop. This encourages branching and can multiply the bloom stalks many times over. I use the same fertilization method as I do on pansies, or I sprinkle a granular fertilizer like 10-5-5 or bloom boost, and work in lightly into the soil around the plant. I repeat the process in late March and late April, and the results are amazing. Be sure and water after each application.
Iceland poppies – While not the most popular of the annuals planted in fall, they are a unique plant with papery flowers on tall stalks that are beginning to unfurl and will start blooming any time. Remove any yellowish foliage now and start a fertilizer program that is slower than many of the other winter planted annuals. I like to put a granular slow release fertilizer like Osmocote around the plants now, and do not liquid feed until early April when they are in full bloom. Once the weather gets very warm, they will poop out.
English daisies – These are old fashioned annuals which you do not see as much, but can make a great show. They are in many small garden centers around Birmingham. If you push them too hard with fertilizer, they will get root rot and die. One application of slow release fertilizer will be all you need for the season. As the flowers finish, snip or pinch off the flower stems after they bloom to encourage lots of flowers.
To make the best spring show possible, remember it takes a little work on our part, too.