Create a visual feast with your landscape

Annuals offer a burst of color immediately

How is your flower garden doing? Has it relished the cooler temperatures we have had? I bet it is looking lush. Perhaps there are a few spots that need a little something, just a finishing touch to make a good flowerbed great.

The extra zing you need may be a simple fix. Try adding annuals to your landscape.

I know what you are thinking. Perennials are what you spend your money on.

You get more bang for your buck with plants that come back better each year.

Annuals, though, add a burst of color immediately. It seems their mission in life is to add color to their surroundings and a smile to your face.

How can you put a price tag on that?

Flowering annuals come in all colors and sizes. From palest pink to royal purple, from creamy white to blinding yellow, you will find exactly the shade for your flowerbed. From tiny spots of color to huge swatches of color, annuals will fill in any vacant space you have.

Annuals only bloom for one season. Try not to think of that as being a disadvantage. By planting annuals, you can change colors and redesign each year.

Annuals will thrive in myriad locales.

If you plant them in large masses, you have a dazzling display that catches everyone's eye. These splashes of color can be seen from your window or from passing cars.

You can fit them in with your vegetables to prevent weeds from growing. You may even place them under shrubs for a different look.

Annuals can do well in our heat. Sweet alyssum, cosmos, amaranthus, marigold, portulca, morning glory, verbena, vinca, and zinnias are some that take the heat in stride.

Containers are perfect places for annuals. Put them by your front door or on the patio.

Hang a basket near your window and see a colorful display at every glance.

If you have limited space, these are the plants for you.

Their blooming cycle and low maintenance make them naturals for pots, window boxes or hanging baskets. All these plants need are a water supply, nutrients and deadheading. Do those three things and you should have continuous blooms until frost occurs.

If containers are your favorite or easiest way of growing annuals, be creative.

Painted kitty litter containers, old buckets, discarded large mixing bowls would be ideal. You can buy clay and plastic pots, urns and whiskey barrels.

Remember, the larger the container, the less watering you will need to do. In the super-sized containers, you can mix and match different flower combinations.

Use potting soil from a nursery for the best growing conditions. Don't use your garden soil. It may be too sandy or too heavy (clay) and will probably be loaded with salt.

Annuals are labeled according to growing conditions, anywhere from full shade to full sun. Check the conditions where you will plant the annual.

A light shaded area means three to four hours of shade per day. A partially shaded area means six hours without sunshine. These are places that get morning or afternoon sun. Most annuals flourish under these conditions.

Under trees could be the spot for a jolt of color. If sunlight filters through, annuals like impatiens will thrive.

Beds along west-facing walls will get very hot, even though they are in the sun for only half a day. Vinca will love that spot.

Helpful hints for success with your annuals are:

1. Check moisture often because the soil dries out quickly. Water is a must for any plant, but especially for annuals. Any lapse of watering will reduce the quantity and quality of blooms.

2. Fertilize often to bring on larger blooms and more of them. Phosphorous is the key for annuals. If you add too much nitrogen, it will help the leaves but not the flowers.

Each bag of fertilizer tells you the amount to add.

3. Follow feedings with deep watering to move nutrients to the roots.

4. Check for pests. You can do this while deadheading.

Have I sold you on the joys of adding annuals to your garden?

I hope so, but I've got to go. Time for me to plant mine.

For more information, contact The University of Arizona Mohave County Cooperative Extension at 101 E. Beale St., Ste A, Kingman, (928) 753-3788, or e-mail: mohavece@cals.arizona.edu.