Cool-season bedding plants continue to be popular in Louisiana. Most home gardeners do more warm-weather than cool-weather flower gardening, but we all need to realize that we have many great cool-season flowers that will do well in our climate from mid-fall through late spring.
Home gardeners need to consider the following practices to ensure they get the desired performance from cool-season flowers:
—Prior to planting, properly prepare the landscape bed to allow for good internal drainage and aeration.
—Incorporate fresh, nutrient-rich, finished compost or landscape bed-builder soil into beds to provide nutrients.
—Apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting. For extending the season, fertilize again at half the recommended rate in late February to early March.
—Manage irrigation properly. Many times cool-season flowers need less irrigation than we think. Warmer days of spring will increase irrigation demand. Monitor rainfall. Overwatering leads to many problems with cool-season bedding plants.
—Remove old flowers from plants in spring to extend the bloom season.
Most cool-season bedding plants are planted October through November, but if you do not get the opportunity to add some cool-season flowers to your landscape now, planting can continue through February. Most plants will last until May or even June in some years if properly cared for.
Pansies dominate the cool-season flower market and are available in a wide choice of colors, including blue, rose, pink, yellow, white, purple, red and scarlet. Flower sizes come in large, medium and small. Some varieties have solid color (“clear”) flower petals, and others have blotched flower faces.
Normally, clear-faced flowers are the most popular for landscape use, but some folks like the colors of the blotched flowers in mixed plantings. Violas, also called johnny jump ups are smaller versions of pansies and are equally impressive in landscape beds and containers.
Petunias are all the rage as a good, cool-season bedding plant in south Louisiana. Plant petunias through mid-October for the best fall results. Other cool-season annuals include alyssum, dianthus, ornamental kale, ornamental cabbage, stock and snapdragon.
You also can try biennial and perennial flowers such as foxglove, columbine and hollyhock. You should definitely include the Camelot series foxgloves and Amazon series dianthus in your cool-season planting plans. These two plants were fall Louisiana Super Plants last year.
Cool-season flowers add color to landscapes at a time of the year when we have fewer trees and shrubs in bloom. If we have improved growing conditions the next couple months, your cool-season bedding plants will shine in late winter.
Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (La. 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse.