Saturday, April 28, 2012

When To Plant Annuals in Michigan? Go Blue!

Happy Mother's Day!  Here in southeast Michigan, the safe bet is to wait until the middle of May to plant warm weather annuals like petunias, impatiens and geraniums.  Otherwise a sudden cold snap can seriously harm these tender plants, especially in the early stages of growth.  A family tradition is to donate a few hours towards planting annuals each Mother's Day.  It began with youthful scrawled coupons in various crayola colors. They were always redeemed.  It's a gift that continues to give throughout the growing season.

Sitting in "The Big House" in Ann Arbor along with forty thousand other  family members, and eleven thousand of the brightest and best tender seedlings, the freezing cold had no impact.  The warmth of emotion and communal pride in our young upstarts warded off the icy wind.  The saplings are ready to transplant.  The freezing rain held off until we hustled back to the parking lot. Timing is everything, in life, as in the garden.


Cold hardy annuals like pansies and violas can be planted safely in early to mid April depending on the weather.  This warm winter, many survived and are thriving. 

For timing, consider the area of your property where you wish to plant.  Sunnier areas can accept annuals earlier than cooler shaded spots.  Look at the perennials in your garden.  Some hosta still look like asparagus poking out of the ground, while in otherspots they are in full circular bloom.  Plant in the latter, sooner.

Don't be seduced  by the early appearance of flats of sunny impatiens at big box stores. It's tempting, but those colorful darlings spent their infancy in a warm greenhouse.  Remember that annuals are just tropicals in the wrong neighborhood. Popping them into the cold ground can cause a significant shock.  More dangerous are the heavy rains we often experience here in Zones 6a to b throughout April and May.  Those tiny upstarts can't swim yet, so sitting in a pool of accumulated precipitation just isn't condusive to good growth.

Besides, those early flats are typically overpriced.  The best deals begin when the Michigan grown flats appear in May at Eastern Market (go after 2:00 pm for the best deals) or some of the local grower's greenhouse.  Locally grown plants have a greater likelihood of thriving.  Newer non-native favorites like Angelonia and Cleome should wait untilmid June. 

Block's Marketstand and Greenhouse is a personal favorite, but each gardener has their own. Block's opens when the plants are good and ready, and not a moment before.  A call to the greenhouse in mid April results in a recording informing the caller that "We will open around the end of April."  It's worth the wait.  The flowers are healthy, the selection endless, and the prices low.

alternative to impatiensEven if the plants are local, it's still best to "harden" them off.  This takes only  a couple days, and involves no more than setting them out during the daylight hours, and bringing them in at dusk. They can sit in the garage at night. 

No need to tuck them in.

Happy planting!

GO BLUE!

Related Articles:

Impatiens Disease -- Trouble in the Landscape

Container Gardens -- Pots on the Spot!

Why Do the Red Maple Leaves Look Brown? Frost Damage to Spring Plants