Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Add Color with Annual Flowers (page 2 of 2)

by Susan Littlefield

Get a Head Start Indoors

If you want even earlier blooms, try starting some of your annuals early indoors, then transplant your seedlings to the garden when the weather is warm. Especially if you live in a short-season part of the country, this head start can bring color to the garden as early as possible.

For example, marigolds can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before the last spring frost date for your area. Sow seeds in pots in a soilless geminating mix. When seedlings sprout, move plants to a sunny southern window or under fluorescent lights. Other candidates for indoor sowing are annual phlox, morning glories, four o' clocks, and zinnias. Sow seeds in peat pots that can be set directly in the garden at transplanting time to minimize disturbance to the roots.

Keep Annuals Growing Strong

Keep annuals growing and blooming well throughout the season by fertilizing regularly. Mulch around plants to help conserve soil moisture. And clip off faded flowers before they have a chance to set seeds, so that the plants continue to produce more flowers in their drive to complete their life cycle.

Question of the Month: Scarifying Morning Glory Seeds

Q: I've heard that I need to scarify my morning glory seeds before I plant them. What does this mean?

A: Scarifying seeds does not mean creeping up on them and shouting "Boo!" It simply means making a break in the hard covering of a seed, allowing water to enter so the seed can begin to sprout.

Some seeds, like morning glories, have a very hard seed coat that in nature is broken in a variety of ways that assures that the seed germinates under the proper conditions. Alternate freezing and thawing temperatures, extreme heat from a fire, passing through the digestive system of an animal are all ways in which a hard seed coat can be breached to allow moisture in. We can reproduce this conditioning with a procedure called scarification, which is simply nicking, scraping or cutting through the seed coat. For example, you can cut off the pointed end of a morning glory seed with a sharp razor blade or scrape the seeds across a piece of sand paper. If you have a lot of seeds to scarify, put them in a jar with some coarse sand and shake vigorously.

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