If you’ve moved here to Southwest Florida from pretty much anywhere else, then it may have come as a surprise how different our subtropical climate is from where you came from. There may have been favorite flowers that you grew every year where you lived, but you’ve found they just do poorly here due to our extreme weather conditions. Don’t be sad though, at Peer Landscaping we can help you discover flowers that are similar or maybe we will help you discover your new favorites! When it comes to brightening up your landscape, annuals offer gorgeous varieties of color and form and often make for good cut flowers to brighten your kitchen table as a centerpiece.
As their name suggests, annuals only last for one season typically which is why offer a twice a year annual planting service where we come plant a variety of colorful annuals and perennials in March and replant the garden in October. Why those dates? Because annuals fall naturally into two groupings, one group that thrives in the warm season and another that does better in the cool season. Warm season annuals can tolerate the intense heat and daily downpours we get, while cool season annuals need less water, and tolerate cooler temperatures better, so do well when planted in the fall. As you can see, they need to be planted at the right time. For example, winter annuals can live through the spring, but if you plant them too early in the fall, they may not make it through our extreme heat. Being that we are native Floridians, we’ve discovered the perfect time for planting your annuals. Unfortunately, we’ve notice that a lot of the big box stores out there sell these plants out of season sometimes, and we urge you not to buy them then as they will die quickly. Having said that, let’s take a look at what constitutes
Florida seasons in a typical year:
- Spring —April through May
- Summer—May through October
- Fall—October through December
- Winter—December through March
Uses for Annuals
In terms of overall landscape design, we can use annuals in many different ways. They are a great color addition when lining sidewalks. They make for great border plants for surrounding a garden bed or right in front of a tall green hedge.
One of the Important design tenets that we use when designing your landscape is to create various levels of visual interest, so we design in layers. So, there may be tall hedges in the back, with midsize plantings in the middle and the annuals fill in the area closer to the ground. They provide that colorful interesting view right in the foreground of your garden, making it feel fuller. The annuals are great filler plants for a newly planted landscape, and even a more established landscape. We also love to place annuals in containers they add a splash of color to a deck, porch, or patio. In beds and as borders they provide bright accents.
You’ll notice that we keep mentioning annuals as an accent or filler for your garden and that is typically the way we use them. They are not a dominant feature and as such we look to try to harmonize them with the other plants, shrubs, and trees we are using for your landscape. We use color to direct the eye to the parts of the garden we want to draw attention to or perhaps even to a particular feature. For example, we may surround a water feature with beautiful blue and yellow flowers or use gorgeous red flowers alongside your walking path to draw people to your front door.
Pairing Annuals and Perennials
One of the common misconceptions about your annual bed change outs is that you can’t use perennials, but that is simply not true. We often mix annuals and perennials because they help keep color in your landscape all year long, especially at time like in the fall when the summer annuals have already run the course, but it’s too early to plant the winter annuals. Perennials add beautiful color when mixed with the annuals and can be interchangeable. We love to use both to create stunning color using different plant combinations. Whether we contrast light and dark colors, or using warm hues in hot spots, we will be sure to surround them with beautiful foliage. And of course, we will use colors that create tropical flair.
Preparing the Beds
At Peer Landscaping we like to focus on making sure that there is a perfect soil blend that is installed to make sure that the soil does not hold to much water but also does not drain too quick. Successful annual beds really depend on this kind of thoughtful preparation. We will take the time to remove grass and weeds, loosen and aerate the soil and then add organic compost and fertilizer to add moisture and enrich the soil. Flower beds should typically be fertilized prior to planting, and we will do so with a fertilizer that is controlled release and will last for months.
As we are planting the annuals, we water them well before and after putting them into the ground. You will have to hand water the newly planted flowers for a couple of weeks until their root systems are established. As we plant them, we loosen and spread out the roots, and then add mulch to the beds afterward to keep the moisture in and the weeds away.
Southwest Florida Annuals and Perennials
Choosing the right plants for the right location is key to having them flower beautifully all season. A large part of that decision depends on how much sunlight the plants will receive in the location chosen for the flower bed. As with all plants, some annuals love full sunlight and others do better with filtered sunlight (no annuals like full shade however). We also have to choose the right annuals to plant for the correct times of the year, keeping in mind that not only does the temperature change, and the weather patterns, but also the location of the sun. During the summer the sun is directly overhead, but in the winter, the sun is lower in the southern sky, which means it may be blocked by trees or houses for part of the day. Let’s take a look at the types of annuals and what they need to perform well in your garden:
- Coleus – These do well in both seasons, though they need slightly different sunlight in each. This plant wants partial sun in the winter with more shade in the spring.
- Dianthus – This plant also does well in both winter and summer and likes full to partial sun.
- Dusty Miller – A winter annual this plant likes full to part sun.
- Geranium – The plant wants partial shade to full sun, but requires more shade in warmer weather.
- Lobelia – This plant needs full to partial sun.
- Marigold – These golden beauties do well in winter and in the summer and want full to partial sun exposure.
- Petunia – In the winter these like full sun to partial shade.
- Snapdragon – With lots of colorful blooms to choose from, these flowers like full to partial sun.
- Sunpatiens – In the winter these need full sun to partial shade.
- Sweet Alyssum – These need full to partial sun to thrive.
- Viola – A winter only annual these require full to partial sunlight.
- Caladium—This is actually a perennial that comes back every year. It requires partial or full shade.
- Celosia or Cockscomb—This plant does best in the spring and early summer and requires partial shade to partial sun
- Gaillardia, known as Blanket Flower—This plant needs full to partial sun, and although it is an annual, it will often re-seed.
- Gazania Daisy –These beauties need full to partial sun.
- Gerbera Daisy –These bouquet ready flowers usually do best in the spring and early summer and require partial shade and partial sun,
- Ornamental Cabbage (a.k.a. Flowering Kale) – Also does best in the spring and early summer, these hardy plants like full to partial sun
- Pentas—These prefer to be planted in late spring in a site that receives full sun.
- Portulaca, also known as Moss Rose—like full to partial sun.
- Purslane—Like full to partial sun
- Vinca—Often used as a ground cover, Vinca loves the sun and also does well with partial shade.
- Wax Begonia—This one depends on which type of Begonia is planted. The bronze leaf Begonia wants full sun to partial shade, but the green leaf Begonia wants full shade.
- Zinnia—These pretty wildflowers love full sun and do well in partial sun as well.
No matter which annuals are your favorite, we can help you enjoy a gorgeously colorful flower bed all year long with our twice a year annual planting. Give us a call at Peer Landscaping and let’s get started creating your dream garden!