Is it flower-planting time?

By Gregg Eyestone

The first part of May is typically a good time to plant many of our annual flowers. Last year, it was too late for most annuals to get established. Many of the ones that were given to us at that time for our demonstration garden didn’t grow. The soil and air temperatures were too hot for plant growth. They went straight to summer time survival mode.

This spring is a tale of two different seasons. I’m hoping the soil and air temperature will climb soon for planting. Most of our annuals are warm-season plants just like our summer vegetables. Many annuals only thrive in warm soils and air temperatures. Planting them too early stresses the plants. I would like the soil temperature to be at least 70 degrees with it expected to continue to rise when planting. Last week the soil temperature was only at 53 degrees.

Many of the favored annuals need soil temperatures above the 70 degree mark. Vinca in particular needs warm soil. The series “Cooler” which is on our “Prairie Star” recommended planting list tolerates the cooler soil temperatures better than other vincas.

Pentas, lantanas and heliotrope need these warmer soils. There is no rush this year to get these planted. I just hope that we have a good window of opportunity for planting.

These plants are usually planted from transplants. The best ones are short and stocky. It has been a challenge for the producers to keep them that way given the lingering cool weather.

Branching is one key to lots of flowers. Pinching the flowers after planting will make the plants bushier. This means more flowers in the long run.

Fertilizer at planting will aid in getting the plants off to a quick start. A routine of nitrogen fertilizer over the growing season will aid in flowers. Follow packaging instructions.

I suggest you take advantage of the season by planting when the time is right. That way you have the best change at having a colorful landscape.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the Riley County, K-State Research and Extension website at

Gregg may be contacted by calling 785-537-6350 or stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or e-mail:

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