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Annuals – Varieties to Suit Almost Any Situation

Annuals, in general, are plants that grow from seeds or cuttings, begin to bloom shortly afterwards, and set seed and eventually die, all in a single growing season. Annuals have many advantages for the home gardener. Most annuals are nearly always in bloom throughout the growing season, from late spring until the first frost in fall.

Some are even marginally hardy and can survive later into fall and early winter in our area. In the gardening world annuals are unmatched for the shear variety of forms, colors, textures, and growth habits available. Annuals provide a quick, easy, and a relatively inexpensive method of introducing a great variety of interest in your home landscape.

Behnke Nurseries carries a huge selection of annuals in every imaginable variety, from packets of seed, to small transplants, to full grown hanging baskets and container gardens. For the garden designer, annuals provide ample variety, and make it possible to change your garden every year, or with the turn of the seasons.

Annuals are also some of the most adaptable and easiest to grow of all plants. There are many varieties to suit almost any situation you may have, from dry and sunny to moist and shady, and every condition in between. Most annuals can be used in massed plantings out in the garden, or in mixed plantings in containers and window boxes. Many annuals also make excellent cut flowers, because of their fast growth rate and ability to bloom almost continually. Annuals also make a great addition to the perennial border, providing consistent bloom and quickly filling spaces left by perennials that have gone dormant.

As has been said many times before, well prepared soil is the foundation on which healthy plants grow. In general, annuals will do best in a moist, well drained soil, rich in organic matter, but then again varieties are available to suit almost any situation. A slow-release fertilizer designed for annual plants, such as Osmocote, and a water soluble fertilizer, such as Jack’s Classic added to the weekly watering schedule will increase flower production and plant growth.

Behnke’s selection of annual seed and transplants is growing every day, and our expert staff is always here to help you find the perfect plant for your garden. Tender annuals can be planted outside after the last frost. The last frost in the District is around May 1st and could be as late as May 15th in the outlying suburbs. Our staff can provide particulars on the plants you choose.

Try to plant your annuals later during the day when it is cool, to reduce transplant shock. Prepare your planting bed or container, and level the soil surface. Thoroughly moisten the root ball of your annuals before planting. Carefully remove the plants from the pot, gently loosening any of the roots that have grown too densely in the container.

Place the plant in a prepared hole, setting the root ball of the plant at the same level it was growing in the container. Gently firm the soil around the plant’s roots. Your plants will need to be watered often initially, ensuring that they are kept evenly moist until they are established. Water the plant’s roots, not the foliage (this only encourages foliar diseases). A two inch layer of organic mulch spread on the planting bed will discourage weed growth and preserve soil moisture.

Most annuals require little maintenance other than a consistent schedule of weeding, feeding, and watering. A light pruning every month or so during the growing season will encourage denser growth and increased bloom. Removing spent flowers will also help to increase flower production.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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