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Steele: Water-wise bedding plants great gifts
Flowers are always a wonderful gift.
Giving a pot of annual/bedding plants that will last all season means your gift provides months of enjoyment.
Many annuals available in garden centres are native to hot, dry regions like South Africa so they thrive in our summers.
Some examples are Livingstone daisy, Cape daisy, gazania, and Osteopspermum.
Mexican native, angel’s trumpet (Datura) is a fast growing, spectacular plant. It blooms in the evening through to morning, attracting interesting moths for pollination. But a warning—plants and seeds are poisonous.
Choosing plants adapted to dry heat means the chore of watering pots is reduced.
Plants still need to be watered in a pot as it is a confined space. Also the outside of the pot will heat up, causing soil to dry out faster than in the ground. The larger the pot, the longer the soil will stay moist between waterings.
It’s important to choose plants suited to the light conditions the pot will be placed in.
For sun, good trailing, water-wise plants include creeping zinnia, lantana, and verbena.
Marigolds, particularly the ferny-leaved signet variety add cheery orange, red or yellow.
Dracaena spikes can be added for height contrast. Dusty miller is great for silver foliage contrast with almost anything.
There are many varieties of geranium and petunia. These both grow well in sun with moderate water. They also do well in part shade where they need less water.
Before doing any planting, make sure to soak the root ball, in its pot, in a bucket of water.
Wait until bubbles stop coming out or it sinks to the bottom of the bucket.
If roots are twining around themselves, loosen them so they will grow outward once planted.
Cover the roots with soil. Water well once planting is completed.
When you are transplanting plants, if they are not already dense and bushy, it is best to trim them back (i.e. pinch out the buds and blooms).
This will make the plant grow much bushier and have a lot more flowers.
If the plants are in flower but need to be trimmed, you could wait until after you have given your potted arrangement to your mother and then discuss this step with her.
All these annuals do very well planted in garden beds, where they need less water than in pots.
A really tough and interesting centrepiece for a patio table can be made using a shallow planter of hens and chicks (Sempervivum). There are many varieties to choose from. An interesting stone or piece of wood could be added. These will grow in sun or part shade and need little water.