Petunia will enjoy warming spring weather.

Cool season annuals were cool just a few months ago. Now, it is getting to be about time to warm up to warm season annuals. They will become a hot commodity as winter yields to spring. Many begin to bloom with warming spring weather, and continue to bloom until autumn. Then, as the weather cools, they relinquish their space to cool season annuals.

Warm season annuals, or summer annuals (or warm season or summer bedding plants), are technically a bit early for a few regions. They should wait until after the last frost date, which might be later in the month for some climates. Even where frost is no threat, it may be too early to replace cool season annuals that continue to perform until spring weather. 

Warm season annuals only seem to be seasonable now because the weather has been so pleasantly mild and even warm. Some cool season annuals are already beginning to deteriorate, which facilitates their replacement. Warm season annuals might dislike cool nights and short days, but should appreciate the opportunity to disperse their roots early.

However, some degree of risk is associated with early planting of warm season annuals. Mild frost, although unlikely, is still possible in some climates, and could necessitate frost protection for vulnerable plants. Resumption of rainy and more typically wintry weather is more likely. Heavy rain can thrash fresh bloom. Sustained dampness can cause mildew.

Like warm season vegetable plants, warm season annuals can grow from seed or small plants from cell packs or little pots. Some prefer to grow directly from seed. Others prefer transplanting. Nasturtium, for example, prefer direct sowing. Petunia, which perform well after transplant as seedlings or small plants, are likely to languish if they grow from seed. 

Because seed take a bit of time to germinate, they can go into the garden slightly prior to the last frost date, and earlier than vulnerable seedlings. Similarly, they can start within a greenhouse early for later transplant. With proper scheduling, frost should no longer be a problem by the time seedlings emerge above the garden soil, or are ready for transplant. More variety is obtainable as seed.

6 thoughts on “Warm Season Annuals Are Hot

    1. I believe that I got that picture at work, but really do not remember. We do not use many bedding plants. I like it because it reminds me of the red, white and blue petunias that were so popular for the summer of 1976.

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    1. Ours are not very fragrant because there are not very many of them, and they do not get very warm during the summer. I remember the fragrance when they were popular for large beds in the 1970s. Tose older varieties were more fragrant than some of the modern sorts.

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      1. Hmmm…I wonder if the breeding takes the fragrance out? It certainly has with roses. I am trying to dig out one of my old roses that’s been infected with rose rosette from a bunch of knockouts (since removed) on the other side of the fence. I need hatchet, I think, because that root may well go to China….

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      2. Bigger and more colorful flowers are generally less fragrant than more subdued flowers. They attract pollinators visually; while the visually subdued flowers attract pollinators with olfactory appeal. Fragrance was not likely bred out of modern petunias as much as it was not bred into some of the ridiculously garish modern varieties. However, some of the old varieties were both very colorful and quite fragrant. Even some of the modern sort sometimes surprise with a bit of fragrance.

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