You’ve dreamed about a colorful, bloom-filled garden, and you’ve spent good money on the plants that are supposed to make that dream a reality – of course you want to get the most out of your investment! No matter if you’ve got annuals for one season, perennials or woody plants for many seasons, or container plants on your patio, to keep your blooming beauties performing their best, all you have to do is remember
“P-L-A-N-T!”

Hibiscus

With good planning and care, you can enjoy a gardening season that’s bloomin’ beautiful!

Photo Credit: Mary Ann Patterson

Planting flowers

Planting: After digging and amending your planting hole, place your plant inside it, making certain that the crown is level with the sides of the hole. Backfill around the sides of the root ball and press the soil firmly – but not compactly – against it.

Blooming backyard garden

Lighting: Knowing what kind of sun your planting beds receive is an important step toward a successful flower garden.

Photo Credit: Mark A. Miller

Watering perennials

Agua (water): Watering should be performed early in the day. Damp foliage is susceptible to fungal disease in cool, moist conditions. Watering in the day allows the plants to dry quickly before nightfall. If watering in the evening is your only option, try to at least avoid overhead irrigation on nights in which temperatures are expected to be below 50 degrees F.

Hydrangeas

Nutrients: When given the proper care and nutrients, some flowering beauties can bloom from spring through fall.

Photo Credit: Mary Ann Patterson

Roses in bloom

Trimming: Deadheading (pruning spent flowers) brings on new blooms more quickly and keeps plants looking tidy. It also helps prevent disease.

Photo Credit: Jenny Hooks

Planting
Lighting
Agua (Water)
Nutrients
Trimming

Planting properly is the first step toward enjoying a happy, healthy, blooming garden. To plant, dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s root ball and the same depth as the root ball. You want to make sure that the crown of the plant (where the stem meets the soil) is not planted any deeper than ground level. If you’re planting a larger species, be sure to rough up the edges of the hole to allow the plant to more easily send out its roots into the unaltered ground.

Incorporate compost or composted manure into the hole at planting time – just add the compost and/or manure to the pile of soil dug up from the hole (the “backfill”) and then mix it all together (like tossing a salad). Set the plant in the hole, again making certain that the crown is level with the sides of the planting hole – not deeper! Fill in the hole with your backfill.

Place around 2-3 inches of mulch around your plant, leaving a little space around the stem or trunk. (Some people like to also create a raised ring of soil approximately where the hole’s edge was. This allows water/rain to sit in the ring, watering your plant slowly without running off. If you do this, mulch over the soil ring, too.) Water deeply after planting.

Lighting is very important for healthy plants to grow and bloom. Make sure that you provide your plants with the requisite amount of sunlight as indicated on their plant labels. (If you don’t have a label for a plant, you can check the Learn2Grow Plant Database for lighting requirements of your specific species.) Sun-loving plants, like mandevilla and roses, for example, do best with at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Hydrangeas – especially in southern climates where summer’s sun can be brutal and intense – need some filtered afternoon shade. Even containers should be moved to the best light location for the plants growing in them. (This is why it’s so important to match your light and moisture requirements with each plant when planting a container that has more than one species.)

If you have a plant that doesn’t seem to bloom as it should, check the light levels. You may need to dig up the plant carefully and relocate it to a more appropriate location.

Agua (water) is another very important factor in blooming (and growing) success. Too much water or too little of it can mean certain decline – and possibly death – for plants. Whether growing plants in the ground or in containers, checking soil moisture is easy: Simply insert your finger an inch or two into the soil. If the soil feels dry, water thoroughly. If the soil is moist or wet, you don’t need to water yet. As a good rule of thumb, 1 or 2 inches of water per week should be adequate, unless temperatures are extremely hot and/or windy. Should Mother Nature intervene with rainfall, you may not need to water at all that week. Plants grown in any type of container require more attention and possibly more watering than those grown directly in the garden.

Nutrients meet your plants’ needs and ensure better blooming. A frequent question most home gardeners ask is how often should a plant be fertilized? That really depends on each plant’s requirements and how you’re using the plants in your garden. Some plants are called “heavy feeders” and require more frequent fertilization, especially if you’re using them as blooming annuals. Other plants may only need a slow-release fertilizer applied once a year. Again, always read the plant tag or visit the Learn2Grow Plant Database for recommended care, including fertilization.

Home gardeners also often wonder what type of fertilizer to use. Many fertilizer formulations exist, from organic manures to liquid and granular. A “complete” fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K) is best. The inclusion of micronutrients, such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium or iron, is sometimes necessary if your plant is showing a deficiency (yellowing of the leaves or visible yellow leaf veins, for example). Whatever you decide to use, carefully read and follow the label directions for frequency and rate of application for best results.

Trimming, pruning, pinching and/or deadheading your plants will produce better-looking and often better-blooming plants, as well as extend the flowering season. Some plants may never need any pruning while others benefit from frequent trimming. If your mums were far too leggy and floppy by season’s end last year, pinch them back to a tighter ball shape up until the 4th of July (but not later as that will pinch off the flower buds). For woody plants, you can prune back leggy growers to encourage new growth and flowering. For annuals and certain blooming perennials, deadhead (pinch or cut off) spent flowers to make way for new blooms, to discourage certain disease problems and to make the flowering show last longer.

And there you have it – just remember to P-L-A-N-T and you should have a beautiful, healthy garden that blooms its heart out for you throughout the season!