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Annuals & Perennials

(March 2010)

QuestionI have a neighbor that needs some help with her nine window boxes. Her window boxes are 36" long, 7 1/2 " wide and 6 " deep, and they have a nice layer of moss all around, and no plastic liner. There are 4 on the first floor and 5 on the second. They get some morning sun, the 4 on the right more - maybe 4 hours, and the 5 on the left maybe 2-3 hours. Watering is not a problem, but her house is a dark red. Light pinks, yellows, white and any shade of green, especially the silver ones would look good. She would like a cascading effect on the top 5 as they are so high up. Would perennials work? That way she wouldn’t have to replant every year. Any suggestions you have would be wonderful.


AnswerThere are two reasons I would probably opt for more annuals than perennials. First, I wonder how long perennials would last in these window boxes. The soil temperature will get much colder in these moss lined wire containers than in the ground, the containers aren't that large, so the volume of soil is smaller, and they will be elevated, so my guess is that most perennials would freeze or at least go totally dormant during the winter. Another downside for flower potential, is that perennials have a defined season of bloom and then they have a period of just green growth. Do you want them to have color in the winter months as well? How awful would it be to use annuals? For the summer season, Silver falls dichondra would be fantastic in them as would the sweet potato vine--there is a pink and white variegated one, or even the Blackie would look good. If you want to try a perennial, try variegated Vinca major or the variegated needlepoint ivy. Creeping jenny would also be nice, but the bright yellow of the foliage might clash--you may want to go with the green one. For color in the pots that is more upright, try the Zahara zinnias, bubblegum pink petunias or angelonia. These are all annuals, but give you way more color in a season than perennials would. Some of the smaller ornamental grasses may also be a perennial option for filler.

(July 2010)

QuestionI have some petunias planted in urns and a hanging basket. They all have grown over the edges and are hanging down, which would be beautiful but they are looking ugly and woody. Is it the hot weather? Should I trim them back, if so how much?


AnswerIf the hanging baskets aren't large, this often happens to petunias with hot weather. I think they often do better for home gardeners in the ground. They need a lot of fertilizer in containers to keep full and healthy. Petunias are heavy feeders in any situation, but we water pots so much that we leach out the nutrition quickly. Weekly applications of a water soluble fertilizer are needed for petunias in pots to look good. Cut them back by half or if the ends look good, add some more plants to the top of the container to fill in there.

(October 2007)

QuestionHow do we keep red ants out of potted plants? I have two hibiscuses in pots along with a couple of other plants, prepared by a gardener who works in a local nursery. I had them put together about one and a half years ago to spruce up the front entrance of my daughter¹s apt. I have them now at my place. One of them has had blossoms and the other hasn¹t. Today the ants were milking the aphids on the buds! Ants are such a problem. I want to put pots on my steps but the ants always find there way under the pot.


AnswerAnts must crawl up the pots so using some type of physical barrier can keep them at bay. The above mentioned Tanglefoot can be applied to a band and then put around the pot—the ants can’t cross it. I have also had gardeners use the hot pepper wax as a barrier and even Vaseline. It is not unusual to find ants ‘herding’ aphids. They love the sweet honeydew the aphids give off.

(April 2007)

QuestionI have three 10" hanging pots that are in full sun all day. I would like to plant some colorful plants (that maybe hang over). Do you have any suggestions?


AnswerThere are several suggestions. One that really can take heat and grow non-stop is the ornamental sweet potato vine. It is a cascading plant that comes in either bright lime green- ‘Margarita’, purplish black – ‘Blackie’; or variegated. It is quite prolific. You could use it as the cascading plant and use pentas or melampodium as a filler plant, but try not to overcrowd the containers or watering will be more difficult. You can also use some of the trailing lantana or petunias. If you have ever seen the glorious hanging baskets in downtown Hot Springs, they are all one variety of petunias. Try the Wave or Supertunia varieties. They all should take the sun. Make sure you keep up with the nutritional needs of the plants and the daily watering that will be needed as the heat increases this summer.

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