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GARDENING : Planting Flowers Already in Bloom

March 26, 1994|From Associated Press

Buying flowers already in bloom can be an expensive way to achieve quick results in the garden. Even worse, sometimes it works well and sometimes it doesn't. But certain precautions simplify the problems and shave the costs.

First, make sure it's the proper time for what you're planting (cool-season or warm-season types).

Second, check that the plants will do well in your climate. Wholesale growers are mass production specialists, so consult a reference for suitability before selecting, particularly if you are new to a region.

While many annuals now are bred to withstand transplanting in bloom, they usually will flower faster if existing flowers are pinched off before transplanting.

So look for compact, healthy plants that are just starting to show bud color. That way you can be sure the label's color description is reasonably close, and you avoid much of the transplant shock.

Look also for well-proportioned, uniform plants with stocky stems. Avoid those that are leggy or limp. Leaves should have a rich, green color. If the foliage is mottled or leaf edges curled, pests are likely to be present.

If lower leaves are yellow, it could be because the soil mix became too dry. In that case, the root system may be damaged and the plants may never flourish.

Make sure, too, that the retail nursery's staff is familiar with the care of seedlings. Seeing them watering wilted plants is a good tip to go elsewhere.

It's usually not a good idea to buy plants kept in a sunny location, either. The amount of soil mix in small packs can heat up tremendously, damaging the roots.

To cut costs, watch for sales. Many garden centers offer weekly specials. Perhaps what you want will be discounted a week or two later. Be sure to follow selection guidelines.

Seeds, of course, are the most economical way to start flowers. They also provide the most possible choices. However, some degree of skill is needed. It also takes time, often many weeks. There is no instant gratification.

The same difficulties apply to cuttings.

So for the average home gardener, the nursery or garden center six-pack has become the most common route to floral displays, even with the cost.

Some flowers are easier to care for than others because they don't require removal of fading blooms to stimulate new ones (dead-heading) and they don't need pruning to avoid becoming spindly.

Many flowers are low-water users. Where possible, it makes sense to opt for those that don't require regular watering. Don't plan to grow shade-lovers in sun or sun-lovers in shade. Group them by cultural needs. Do they like moist soil or dry conditions? Do they prefer regular fertilization or refuse to bloom where soil is too rich in nitrogen?

For instant color, many experts recommend buying four-to-six-inch pots rather than the more common six-packs.

Such pots are considerably more expensive, of course. But the larger size provides a better root system to help them adapt when transplanted in bloom.

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