Thursday, June 20, 2024

Gardening with Dr. Joe White: Bedding plants…an easy way to add more color to your landscape

by BPT Staff
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Attractive colors generally catch the eyes of nearly everyone regardless of the source. And certainly the blossoms of plants (especially bedding plants) offer eye-catching color. However, even non-gardeners seem to appreciate landscapes that provide a variety of colors. But it’s not surprising that bedding plants are more often the site where the color is most concentrated and where it usually lasts the longest.

Dr. Joe W. White is a retired horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

Probably a majority of gardeners have planted most of their bedding plants for the summer season, but they will be busy with grooming and possibly replacing a few plants. Plants are dynamic always increasing in size, producing blooms or making colorful fruit or seed pods. Most do all of this in a relatively short period of time. Also, they may change form and will lose tissue to hungry insects. The level of light, the quality and kind of nutrients they receive during a given period of time will determine how they respond in providing color.

Most gardeners usually desire to maximize color in their landscapes and to have it last for a full season. Good bed preparation is very important for bedding plants to do their best and choosing proven plant materials also plays a major role.

One practice that often eliminates common plant problems is the construction of raised plant beds. Should a storm drop an excessive amount of rain over a short period, most of the water will drain off and out of the bed and damage to plants will be very little or none. When building a raised bed for flowers, getting a soil test on the media is highly recommended. It provides the information needed to adjust nutrient content (if necessary) and lets you know the level of acidity. ( Some plants do best in a highly acid soil while other prefer a more alkaline soil.) Once a bed has been completed and its media adjusted, it’s a good idea to spread two or three inches of an organic material over the surface of the bed and lightly mix it into the surface.

The colors and textures you want in summer bedding plants are available in a number of different species and to get the look you want you may have to use a combination of species. A factor of importance sometime overlooked is the amount of light each species you wish to grow can tolerate. The following is a partial listing of bedding plants divided by light tolerance:

Full sun to part sun:  ageratum, cosmos, gomphrena, zinnias, lantana, periwinkle,  ornamental peppers, salvia, scaevola, tithonia, portulaca, sun coleus and wave series of petunias.

Moderate shade to part shade:  impatiens, caladiums, begonias, coleus and torenia

Do understand that there are other good bedding plants besides those listed. You may have found other kinds of plants suitable (and have under your landscape conditions discovered that they have performed beautifully). So, you may not want to change and there is no need to make a switch.

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