| B. Rosie Lerner
Revive Annual Flowers
It is not unusual for annual flowers, such as impatiens and petunias,
to look a bit peaked about the middle of summer. For some plants, such
as pansies, stock and snapdragons, stress from summer heat turns off the
initiation of flowers. But most flowering annuals are fairly heat tolerant
and can be revived with a little pinch of their stems and a sip of nutrients.
Though for the most part, our temperatures haven't been all that stressful
this year, most areas have had substantially heavy rainfall. Such heavy
rains can wash away much of the available nitrogen, making it unavailable
for plant uptake. Plants that are becoming deficient in nitrogen will
often look a bit pale, or in more serious cases, the leaves will turn
yellow, beginning first with the older, lower leaves. If left uncorrected,
the deficiency will begin to affect the new growth, resulting in stunted,
pale leaves. Though nitrogen generally is thought to promote foliage growth
rather than flowers, plants that are under stress from lack of nitrogen
may bloom sparsely or not at all.
Containerized plants are especially vulnerable to leaching, since proper
watering procedure calls for enough fluid to be applied so that some runs
out of the bottom of the pot. This helps ensure that water moistens the
entire soil area. But this method also washes some of the nitrogen away
with each watering.
A bit of supplemental fertilizer, applied alongside the plants, can rejuvenate
your tired plantings. The amount to apply varies with the specific product,
formulation and plants. As a general rule of thumb, you can use one-half
to 1 pound (1-2 cups) of 5-10-5 fertilizer per 100 square feet, but be
sure to follow the label directions for your particular product. Be sure
that any of the dry fertilizer is rinsed off of the foliage as soon as
possible to avoid burning the plants.
Feed starved containers with a water-soluble product, diluted according
to label directions. You can either use a very dilute solution with every
watering, or use a bit stronger solution once every week or two.
For most annual flowers, pinching the plants back about halfway will
encourage more branching and, in turn, more flowers. The plants may look
a bit raggedy initially after being cut back, but with a little water
and fertilizer, you'll be rewarded with a much more attractive plant.
Removing the faded blossoms from annual and perennial flowers, which
is often referred to as "dead-heading," is another good gardening
practice. Dead-heading will help encourage more blooms, by preventing
seed pods from competing for the plant's food supplies. The plants will
also be more attractive with the old, spent blooms removed.