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Monday, September 2, 2019

Fall Annuals to Purchase and Plant from Seed

Q. As much as I love them, the geraniums are just too high maintenance for me this year. Gave up on them. Can you recommend something, in addition to Lantana, that is colorful and low maintenance?

A. Like vegetables, flowering plants have a time of year when they perform best. Lantana is generally a summer flowering woody perennial while geraniums flower best in our climate, even though they are perennial, during the cooler months of October through March. The usual planting dates may vary somewhat with the weather, but it should be around early to mid – October.

Commonly Found Geranium Alternatives

Some common alternatives for geraniums used as annuals during the winter months include Snapdragons, Pansies, and Petunias planted with Alyssum and Lobelia. Even though they aren’t true winter annuals, they grow best during the cooler weather of mid fall through early spring.

Start Fall Flowers from Seed

Some fall flowering plants for fun that you can start from seed include 
  • Alyssum (L)
  • Bells of Ireland (T)
  • Calendula (M)
  • California Poppy (L)
  • Candytuft (T)
  • Cornflower (M)
  • Gilia (L)
  • Godetia (L)
  • Iceland Poppy (M)
  • Larkspur (T)
  • Lupine (M)
  • Nemesia (M)
  • Nemkophila (L)
  • Pansy (L)
  • Phlox, Drummondi (L)
  • Pinks (L)
  • Stocks (M)
  • Snapdragons (M)
  • Verbena, Sand (L)
  • Verbena (L)
  • Viola (L)
L=Low   M=Medium Height   T=Tall

Many of these will self-sow themselves year after year.

Big in the Back

Pay attention to their mature size. Taller plants go in the back of the planting area and smaller plants go in the front. Before planting any of these non-desert flowering annuals, mix a decent compost into the soil before planting if it’s going in a bed.

Amend the Soil Each Year and Fertilize Regularly

 A 1-inch layer of compost mixed into the soil 6 to 8 inches deep annually at planting time, just like a vegetable garden, is enough. If the compost is a dark brown or black amendment “rich” in nutrients, don’t add any fertilizer at planting time and for the first 2 to 3 months after planting. If the compost is not rich, mix in a high phosphorus fertilizer with the compost just before planting.


Deadhead these plants regularly. Removing spent flowers produces more flowers and extends the life of the plant. Fertilize these winter annual flowers lightly with a high nitrogen fertilizer once a month.

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