Q:How should I care for flowering annuals and perennials?
A:Start by planting in the right exposure to light – full sun, partial shade or full shade. The nursery labels that come with the plant will usually give you all the information you need, or you can consult a good gardening book. Then amend the soil with plenty of organic matter, such as compost, and work in a high-nitrogen fertilizer according to the labeled rates. Space the plants properly (again the nursery label should help) and plant at the same depth that the plants were at in the containers. When mixing different types of flowers, you’ll get the best show with the taller types in back and the lower growing ones in front.

Watering plants is critical to success. Check the soil by digging into it with your fingers or a trowel. If the top few inches are dry, it’s time to water. When you do water, do it slowly and thoroughly so it wets the entire root zone (12 to 18 inches for most flowers). Drip irrigation is ideal. Young or new plantings require more frequent watering to help their roots get established. Mature plantings with large root systems should be watered deeply but less often. Mulching will help conserve moisture and reduce weeds.

Annual flowers should also be fertilized regularly; at least every six to eight weeks. Potted plants will need more frequent feeding. Many perennials can get by on less fertilizer, but young plants or those growing slowly will also benefit from feeding.

Watch out for insect pests or any signs of disease. Control measures are often more effective before pest populations have exploded.

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Q:What are the best disease-resistant roses?

A:Disease resistance is relative and can vary from one part of the country to another. Few roses, if any, are completely immune to rose diseases, and a variety that is resistant to powdery mildew in the West may be defoliated by black spot in the Southeast. That’s why it’s so important to get local variety recommendations. For example, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service has given the Earth-Kind designation to roses that have superior pest tolerance and outstanding landscape performance. Your state Cooperative Extension Service is a great place to find recommendations as are local chapters of the American Rose Society. Disease resistance is also an increasingly important goal of rose hybridizers. Landscape roses like the knockouts, the Carefree series, Easy Elegance and Flower Carpet also have good disease resistance. Other favorite varieties known for their disease resistance include the red-flowering shrub Home Run, the yellow floribunda Easy Going, the apricot-orange floribunda Livin’ Easy and the pink shrub Belinda’s Dream.

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Q:What is deadheading?

A:Deadheading is removing spent or withered flower blossoms. After a flower fades, the plant channels energy into maturing the seeds formed by that flower, usually at the expense of forming more flowers. So as the seeds mature, you get fewer flowers. By removing the seed heads (called “hips” on roses) and fertilizing, you can encourage the plant to continue blooming.

Deadheading works with most flowers but is especially important with roses and large-flowered plants like zinnias, marigolds and cosmos. You can deadhead by picking or pruning individual flowers or lightly shearing with hedge shears. When deadheading roses, cut back at least to the first leaf with five leaflets. The farther you cut back, the thicker the cane that will regrow. Some shrub roses, such as Knockout, are called self-cleaning because the spent flowers drop by themselves and don’t need to be deadheaded.

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Q:When should I plant flowers?

A:These days, nurseries are full of blooming flowers that can be planted almost any time the ground is workable. However, there are ideal planting times that ensure the longest possible season of color.

Annual flowers are categorized as cool season or warm season. Like the names suggest, cool-season annuals (such as pansies, violas, calendulas and primroses) bloom primarily in the cool months of spring and fall. They can withstand frost and are usually planted in late winter to early spring, about six to eight weeks prior to the average date of the last frost. Cool-season annuals can also be planted in late summer for fall blooms and, in areas with mild winters, will often bloom all winter and into spring. Warm-season annuals like marigolds, zinnias, cosmos and petunias are frost sensitive and grow best in the heat of summer. They are best planted in spring after the danger of frost.

Flowering perennials are usually planted in fall but can also be planted in spring.

Hardy flowering bulbs, such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths, are best planted in fall. Tender bulbs like Gladiolus, begonia and caladium are tender bulbs and should be planted in spring after threat of frost.

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Q:When should I prune my roses?

A:Roses are best pruned in late winter to early spring just before they break dormancy but after the threat of a hard freeze. In mild winter climates, roses may never go fully dormant and may hold onto their leaves all winter. In these areas, pruning is usually done late January to February.

To keep roses blooming, they should be deadheaded during the growing season. See below for more information.

Learn more about pruning roses.

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Q:How can I use flowers to increase the curb appeal of my home?

A:Planting flowers is one of the least expensive ways to make your house look inviting. It’s like putting out a welcome sign that entices visitors and, more important to some, buyers. But don’t just run out and buy a bunch of flowers and stick them in the ground. Planning goes a long way toward improving curb appeal. Select plants with staggered bloom periods for the longest season of color and mix in different plant textures, shapes and sizes.

Contrast dark- and light-colored flowers, such as light yellows with dark blues, for example. And it’s not always about blooming plants. Dramatic foliage, bright berries or fruit and even colorful branches can all contribute dramatic hues.

Here are some other tips:
  • Consider quick-blooming annuals that will last a growing season and are easy to plant from a tray of flowers. Pansies, violas, calendulas and primroses provide spring color, and zinnias, marigolds and vinca bloom all summer long.
  • Try perennials such as campanula, dianthus, geranium and phlox for spring and early summer; yarrow, coreopsis, day lilies and rudbeckia for midsummer; and asters, penstemon and mums for fall.
  • Don’t forget great foliage plants like ornamental grasses, hostas and artemisia.
  • Add pots of flowers to the front porch.
  • Be sure to add mulch to the bed to retain moisture and keep the weeds out. Fresh mulch also looks great.

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Q:How do you prune landscape roses like Knock Out?

A:Landscape roses don’t require tricky pruning, but regular pruning keeps plants compact and within bounds. Pruning is vital for roses tucked in tight planting situations, such as at entries or along sidewalks, and improves flowering in hedges. Many ground-cover roses don’t require pruning at all, unless canes begin to reach into areas surrounding plantings. However, many gardeners prefer to shear roses back to keep them compact and fresh-looking.

Using hedge shears, prune plants to maintain size. You can prune lightly or cut back by a third to half. Prune in winter (just before plants break dormancy in coldest zones). Also trim lightly after a flush of blooms, as flowers fade. This type of post-bloom pruning increases flower number, yielding plants blanketed with blossoms.

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Q:Do I need to chill bulbs like tulips and hyacinths?

A:It depends on where you live. In areas with cold winters, it’s not necessary. Winter temperatures will do the job for you for bulbs planted in fall. However, if you live in a mild-winter area (Zone 8 and higher), hardy bulbs may need to be chilled before planting. Check the package your bulbs came in or any information provided by the supplier – some companies prechill the bulbs for you. If not, place the bulbs in the refrigerator for six to eight weeks prior to planting. Keep them away from fruit like apples, which release ethylene gas as they ripen. The gas can damage or kill the bulbs.

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Q:How can I control weeds in my roses?

A:One of the easiest ways to prevent weeds is to plant through landscape fabric. This clothlike material is water-permeable but smothers weeds. You simply lay the fabric over beds, cut an X-shaped hole for planting, plant through the hole and cover the fabric with several inches of organic mulch, like wood chips. Although a little more difficult, you can also fit the fabric around existing plants. Make necessary cuts, slide the fabric up against the trunk of the roses, and mulch.

For existing weeds around older roses, you can use Bayer Advanced DuraZone Weed & Grass Killer. This is an herbicide that can be used around established ornamental plants (plants that have been in the ground at the same location for two or more years). However, when spraying around the base, you must be very careful to shield them from any spray drift, using cardboard, plastic or other materials. Roses in particular are very sensitive to herbicide sprays.

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Q:How much should I prune an Incrediball hydrangea? Does it flower on new wood or old?

A:Most hydrangeas bloom on old wood, so pruning in winter or cold weather removes blooms. However, newer varieties, like Incrediball, bloom on new wood so they can be pruned anytime and still bloom. Prune in winter to control size. The rest of the year, prune as needed to remove spent blooms.

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Q:When is the best time to apply fungicides?

A:Fungicides work best when applied before disease manifests itself, meaning disease signs and symptoms are evident. Three factors must be present for a disease to manifest itself – host, disease and environmental conditions. The host and disease are always present. Therefore, in an area where disease was present last year, the same disease may be present again this year when the correct environmental conditions exist. For example, powdery mildews occur where air circulation is poor and in damp, shaded areas. Incidence of infection increases as relative humidity rises to 90 percent, but it does not occur when leaf surfaces are continuously wet such as in a rain shower.

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Find Out More

Contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for information specific to your region, or visit the Bayer Advanced.com Learning Center for more about caring for your trees and shrubs.