November is the perfect time of year to add cool-season bedding plants to flower beds to keep them beautiful, attractive and colorful through fall and winter and then put on a huge beautiful display in spring.
LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill has come up with four groupings of cool-season plants — bloom all season, take the winter off, plant in fall and bloom in spring, and plant early and young.
What every category has in common is that a fall planting generally gives the best results, Gill says.
The “bloom all season” group is planted now when the plants are flowering, and they’ll continue to bloom all through our mild winter and provide flowers for five or six months. This category includes pansy, dianthus, alyssum, viola, calendula, stock and ornamental cabbage and kale.
Plants that “take the winter off” are flowering now, then blooming is reduced or stops during the short days and long nights of midwinter. These plants continue growing, however, and put out their biggest display in spring. The two most popular bedding plants in this category are petunia and snapdragon.
A few “plant in fall and bloom in spring” bedding plants are best planted by seed in fall with flowers showing up in the spring.
They should be planted now so they have the winter growing season to produce strong, robust plants that will produce an outstanding display of blooms in spring. This category includes all of the annual poppies, sweet peas, bachelor’s buttons (or cornflower) and larkspur. All of these plants will commonly self-seed, and you may see new seedlings show up each fall in areas where they grew the year before.
“Plant early and young” types include hollyhock, delphinium and foxglove. Although these plants may be perennials in other parts of the country, they typically do not survive the summer here and are grown as cool-season annuals.
The biggest mistake in planting these is waiting until March or April, Gill says. The trick is to plant young, not-blooming, transplants in fall or by February at the latest. This allows the plants to grow into large, well-established plants before they bloom.
Handled this way, all three of these plants will bloom as early as March and continue as late as May to produce the large, showy spikes of flowers you expect.
Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.