Nothing gets me more excited than the first round of blooms you get in mid-spring from the annual flowers that you planted in April or May depending upon which growing zone you live in. Seeing your petunias cascading over the edges of their containers or seeing your marigolds getting bigger and then flowering profusely in your garden it is easy to take your eye off the ball and forget that to continue their beautiful display they need to be fed! Most perennial flowers do just fine with one feeding of granular fertilizer in the spring but for annuals to continue to look their best they need to be fed regularly. This requires setting up a feeding schedule and if you don’t know where to start let me tell you how I do it.
How often I fertilize an annual plant and what fertilizer I use depends upon whether or not it is growing in a container or in a flower bed. I’ve grown annual flowers in containers for decades and tried both granular fertilizer that you get in a box and scratch into the soil surface as well as liquid fertilizer that you mix in water and then pour into the container soil. Granular fertilizers carry a risk of burning and even killing your plants if they are not applied properly and they can be tougher to work with in a container as the plants expand over the container edges and make it more of a challenge to scratch the granular fertilizer into the soil surface. As a result, I use liquid fertilizers for containers as they are much easier to apply over the course of a long growing season and if they are mixed properly have a low likelihood of burning your plants. Miracle Gro is an example of a liquid fertilizer and I feed the annuals in my containers every two weeks as the nutrients can leach out of a container pretty quickly.
Similarly, I have used both liquid and granular fertilizers in annual flower beds and deciding on which one to use is really a matter of preference rather than effectiveness. I’ve gotten great results with applying liquid fertilizers every 2 weeks to my annual flower beds. The drawback for me is that due to the size of my property this is a time consuming task and frankly there are other things I’d like to be doing in my garden during the summer than fertilizing. As a result, I lean toward using a granular fertilizer in my annual flower beds as you generally only have to apply it once or twice a growing season as granular fertilizer releases its nutrients over a longer period of time. This is a time saver for me and as I mentioned previously I get similar results from both products.
An additional item that I wanted to be sure to mention is that while most annuals need fertilization there are some that don’t need it and frankly do better without it. Portulaca, for example, thrives in soils that are not enriched and if you give too much fertilizer to your nasturtiums you’ll get a lot of foliage but not as many pretty flowers. If you’re not sure of how much fertilization a particular plant may need than consider become a Blooming Secrets subscriber and you can ask us directly! Finally, while I’ve focused on fertilizers that are inorganic there are organic fertilizers that you can use as well. Organic fertilizers generally don’t need to be applied as frequently and have a very low risk of burning your plants. They are generally more expensive, however, than inorganic fertilizers. So, in closing, don’t be surprised if you hear your annual flowers calling to you like the plant in Little Shop of Horrors, “Feed me Seymour! Feed me!”
Photos Courtesy Of Jill Mazur.