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Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at 10:08 PM
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All about summer annuals

All about summer annuals
Fresh cut zinnias from the garden brighten indoor spaces and bring summer cheer to bouquet recipients.

If you love fresh cut flowers for arrangements and bouquets for yourself or giving to others, consider planting some cut flower seeds this year.

Early spring is a great time to plant heat-loving summer annuals. Here in Central Texas, we can grow bright and cheery summertime favorites like bachelor buttons, celosia, marigolds, sunflowers, gomphrena, cosmos and zinnias–all from seed.

These flowers will bloom steadily all summer giving you tons of colorful blossoms.

Summer annuals grow, flower and set seed in one season. Annuals don’t come back year after year, at least not from the original plant. They spend all their energy growing and blooming prolifically in order to make seeds.

Once they form seeds, annuals bloom eventually they drop their seed and then die.

Because they only last one growing season, annuals produce lots of flowers to improve their chances of developing seeds. By picking the flowers before they have a chance to set seed, they will continue to make more flowers.

This is called deadheading, where you remove the flowerhead after the flower fades.

Summer annuals are also popular with pollinators so if you are wanting to attract butterflies and bees and other insects to your garden, consider adding some near or in your vegetable garden.

Marigolds are a great annual to include in your vegetable beds since they contain pungent compounds that repel pests and insects.

Zinnias and cosmos are lovely flowers that are great for flower arrangements and provide nectar many insects and hummingbirds. Both zinnias and cosmos are very easy to start from seed as well as transplanted as seedlings.

Cosmos are daisy-like flowers that come in a variety of colors including red, white, pink, maroon, orange and yellow. Their blossoms range from three to five inches wide and sit on top of thin stems and have small delicate leaves. The plants grow to three to four feet tall, but some varieties grow to six feet tall.

Cosmos aren’t picky about where they grow and don’t need any special soil preparation. They prefer soil that isn’t too rich. Excess nitrogen in your soil will produce more foliage with fewer flowers. Cosmos like welldraining soil and grow best in neutral to alkaline soil, like our black clay soil.

Zinnias are another fun and colorful summer annual that does great for us in Central Texas. They are one of the easiest flowers to grow and come in every color except blue and black.

Zinnias are sturdy flowers and have strong stems and can take the heat of our Texas summers. Zinnias need welldraining soil and full sun.

They do not tolerate the shade.

Butterflies love zinnias because they are great nectar plants. When you are watering your zinnias, try to water the base of the plants and not water the blossoms. You don’t want to wash away the nectar that attracts the butterflies.

You can plant zinnia seeds all summer long, but may struggle without regular water.

If you are starting a new bed to grow summer annuals, remove the grass from your bed or patch. Enrich the exposed soil with compost. This will help break up heavy clay soil and improve water absorption. It will give your newly planted seeds nutrients as it breaks down. An annual application of compost is about all you need for most cut flowers. You can add additional fertilizer through the growing season, but it may not be necessary.

Once you are ready to plant your seeds, follow the planting guide on the back of the seed packet.

Smaller seeds prefer to be planted shallowly, a quarter inch deep or less.

You may need to thin the seedlings when they are a few inches tall to prevent overcrowding. This will ensure they have enough space once they get full grown and aren’t competing for water and nutrients.

With 25 years of backyard gardening experience, Julie is a plant and nature enthusiast. She lives in Taylor and hosts the “Plow & Hose Organic Gardening in Central Texas” podcast.


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