I received an interesting question from a gardener the other day. I'll answer it here on my website because I know other gardeners have had the same problem.
The question concerned those full, beautiful potted plants and hanging baskets that are available in the springtime but lose their stamina by July or August. In this case, they were Petunias. The man thought he was doing something wrong and wanted to know how he could keep them alive longer. The fact is, pre-planted containers are jam packed full of starter plants to ensure a full look by Mother's Day -the traditional start of the flower season.
Many times, a consumer could actually remove a plant or two from the container and fill the gaps in with potting soil-especially the type that contains a time released plant food. The planter won't be as full but you may enjoy it for an extra month or so.
However, even if the pots were planted a little looser, they would still begin fading earlier than we want them to. The fact is, plants only bloom for so long before they die back. We accept that fact when we're talking about perennials. With annuals, we're basically beating the system by feeding them and forcing them to live longer. The main reason annuals die back earlier than we expect is that they have used up the nutrients in the potting medium.
You will rarely, if ever, hear me advise gardeners to use Miracle-Gro or any of that blue-watering-stuff. If you want to have annuals for the whole summer (even a short upstate NY summer) , you have to feed your plants something. Feel free to try natural plant nutrients like manure tea or compost tea. Of course, whatever mix you use, it's always best to start with rainwater.
I've been known to trim out a few of the leggier stems of a petunia in July to ensure a late September show. This is equivalent to "pinching back" plants to send the growth back toward the center. This works with almost all plants.
So my advice would be:
- give your plants some elbow room
- feed them something and
- don't be afraid to pinch back for a fuller look.
Bottom line is, the days will get shorter, the nights will get longer, the plants will get thinner. You can only fool Mother Nature for so long. Enjoy your flowers while you can!
A set of questions I receive a lot is "What the heck is that planter thingy in front of your house and where can I get one?"
This is actually last year's design. I call them Tippy Pots. They look tippy but are actually very sturdy. I use clay pots and rebar, add some potting soil and flowers and they fill out and last the whole summer. I do water them often as they tend to dry out where they're tipped.
I could do this as a craft class or come to your home and demonstrate right there as it's NOT a portable design.
What ever you do, have fun with your flowers!