By Robert R. Westerfield
University of Georgia
But before you invest in plants, look at the most important contributors to success: site selection, soil preparation and plant selection.
Other factors such as watering, fertilizing and controlling pests are certainly important. But most failures with annuals in the landscape or containers are due to poor choices of site, soil or plants.
Where to startLook first at your site. Is it shady all day, shady during the heat of the day, full sun only in the morning, full sun only in the afternoon or full sun all day? This is important to know. You'll need to base your plant selection on it.
Go out at different times of the day to assess the amount of sunlight an area gets. Some plants can grow in varying amounts of sunlight. Others will quickly decline in the wrong exposure.
Soil preparation is critical, too. When you look at a sickly container plant, there's a 90-percent chance the problem is due to something happening at the root level. Usually it is due to a poor soil mix or overwatering the plant.
Buy a quality container potting mix for plants, free from disease or weed seed. Be sure to use a container large enough that the roots can expand through the potting soil.
DrainageAnother critical factor is good drainage. Be careful of those containers that have catch basins for excess water. They're nice in theory but create root-rot problems. If you use these, it's a good idea to tilt the container after a few minutes after watering and drain out the excess water.
You'll really be excited about plant performance when you have a good, healthy root system.
Finally, be sure you select the right plant. You know your site, so this job should be relatively easy.
Impatiens love shade. Annual Vinca loves full sun. Salvia loves about a half day of full sun. Petunias like sun but perform best in the spring and fall, not during the hot summer. The list goes on and on.
The variety tag in bedding plant trays is a good place to start looking for different flowers' light requirements.
Your county University of Georgia Extension Service office is another good place to look. Ask for a copy of "Flowering Annuals for Georgia Gardens" and "Container Gardening."
(Bob Westerfield is an Extension Service consumer horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)