Perennials, Annuals, and Bulbs for March

The first flowers of Spring!

  • Be mindful of warm days when the sun can cause heat to build up under rose cones, cold frames and in other plant protection systems. However, avoid removing mulches prematurely from plants with tender new tissue forming.
  • Bluebells are superb for naturalizing in the same manner as daffodils but prefer a shadier location and will bloom even where they get no direct sun at all.
  • In your flower arrangements, avoid mixing cut daffodils with tulips. Daffodils produce a chemical "slime" that injures tulip blooms. If you wish to use these two flowers in an arrangement, place the daffodils in another container for a day after cutting, then rinse off the stems and add to the vase of tulips. Adding 1 tablespoon of activated charcoal or 6 drops of bleach to each quart of water also helps.
  • Crocuses and gladioli are not true bulbs, but are corms. The main difference between bulbs and corms is the method of storing food. In corms, the food is stored in an enlarged basal plate or stem. In bulbs, food is stored in meaty scales. Corms are smaller and tend to be flatter than bulbs.
  • To start new plants of the mother fern, Asplenium viviparum, bend down the tip of a frond with plantlets and anchor the tip to the soil with a U-shaped wire. When a plantlet has rooted, it can be cut from the frond and transplanted.
  • Prune roses at this time. Remove dead and weak canes. Properly dispose of clippings.
  • Replenish mulch around Azaleas and Camellias.
  • Prune Crape myrtles and Altheas.
  • Take bulbs out of cold storage for forcing as soon as they've had a long enough cold period. The smaller bulbs such as hyacinth and crocus only need eight weeks of cold, while tulips and daffodils need 12 to 14 weeks. Paperwhite narcissus do not require this chilling, so they can still be purchased and potted up to grow and bloom yet this spring.
  • Tender bulbs of tuberous begonias, caladiums, dahlias and canna lilies can be potted up in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Discard any that have rotted in storage.
  • If you've been storing geraniums in cool, dark conditions, it's time to pot them up, cut them back and start watering again.
  • Cut back geraniums and coleus that you've kept growing indoors through the winter to only a few buds. This will stimulate new growth and a fuller plant by the time summer arrives.
  • As tulip, narcissus and other large bulbs begin to emerge, set pansy plants between them for added color.
  • Accurate information on the longevity of flower seeds is hard to find. Based on limited observations, the following should be considered as short-life (one year) seeds: aster, candytuft, columbine, ornamental onion, honesty, kochia, phlox, salvia, strawflower and vinca. Some common, flower seeds viable for more than one year if stored properly are alyssum, calendula, centaurea, coreopsis, cosmos, marigold, nasturtium, nigella, petunia, salpiglossis, scabiosa, schizanthus, sweet pea, verbena, viola and zinnia.
  • Seeds of the following annual flowers can be started indoors: ageratum, wax begonia, browallia, dianthus and carnation, dusty miller, impatiens, larkspur, lobelia, dwarf marigold, nierembergia, pansy, petunia, moss rose, snapdragons, celosia and stocks.
  • Impatiens, one of the best annuals for shady spots, start blooming three months from seeding. Start seed indoors now, and they'll be ready to set out after the last frost date for your area. Pinch back seedlings once or twice before setting out to promote compact, bushy plants.
  • Be sure to use a sterile seed-starting medium, supplemental lighting and bottom heat for best results. Different species also have different requirements for light or darkness during germination.
  • Celosia seeds are best started in individual containers to avoid transplant shock. Do not set celosias out in cold weather as the plants may become stunted and perform poorly.
  • If weeds occur in bulb beds, do not remove them by cultivation. Pull them by hand so the bulbs and roots will not be disturbed.
  • Some annuals, such as verbenas, snapdragons and petunias, take 70 to 90 days to bloom. They should be started indoors in early spring or purchased as greenhouse-grown transplants.
  • This is the time to start resurrecting the water lily pool. Drain and clean the pool before growth begins. Plant new, hardy water lilies.
  • Rejuvenate your liriope by using a lawn mower to cut back the old foliage to a height of 2 to 3 inches. Avoid mowing too close and damaging the crown of the plant since that is where the new growth emerges.
  • Divide and transplant summer and fall blooming perennials (astilbe, aster, bleeding heart, coral bells, daylilies, phlox and shasta daisies). Perennials perform best in well-drained soil with plenty of humus. Astilbe, hosta and bleeding heart will bloom in the shade.
  • Hostas, liriope, daylilies, dicentra, Shasta daisies and coral bells are some perennials that can be divided before growth starts in spring.
  • Buy some new perennials for your flower border. Spring is a good time to renew and add variety to your landscape. Visit a local garden center or secure catalogs from your favorite nursery.
  • Cannas for early flowering can be started in boxes or large pots in a warm cellar or enclosed porch. Cut canna rhizomes into pieces, each containing two or three points or "eyes." Plant in a soil mixture containing adequate sand for good drainage. The developing plants are sensitive to cold and should be set in the garden about a week after the average date of the last frost in your area.
  • Don't forget to compost naturalized bulbs in the spring as leaves emerge. Do not mow the area until the bulb foliage begins to die back.
  • Divide and transplant perennials, such as ajuga, Shasta daisy, daylily, liriope and oxalis. Rework beds before planting, adding organic matter or compost.
  • Many annual flowers are very frost hardy when plants are small, including alyssum, California poppy, candytuft, larkspur, pansy, viola, phlox, pinks, Shirley poppy, snapdragon, stock and sweet pea. Seeds can be sown as soon as the soil has thawed.
  • When the leaves of spring-flowering bulbs emerge, apply a compost to ensure quality blooms next year. Remove the bulb foliage only after it dies naturally.
  • When buying transplants, choose those plants with a compact, bushy form and bright-green leaves. Young, healthy plants with no flowers or flower buds will adapt more easily and overcome the shock of planting much faster.
We come from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between we garden.
--Author unknown

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