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Saving the lives of warm-season plants

Hold off planting frost-tender geraniums and warm season vegetables and herbs until about May 10. (C) NDPetitt/morguefile.com

Hold off planting frost-tender geraniums and warm season vegetables and herbs until about May 10. (C) NDPetitt/morguefile.com

I’ve been saving lives the last couple of weeks…the lives of basil, peppers, tomatoes, rosemary, impatiens and geraniums (Pelargonium), to name a few.

That’s because people want to buy these plants at the garden center where I work, even though it’s too early. Call it the 70-degree temperature syndrome. Symptoms include trying to rush the season. Even though temps are warm, the soil has not reached the right temperature for the plants to grow and thrive. That’s why the rule of thumb for planting warm-season vegetables and flowers is May 10. In fact, temperature dropped to 36 degrees in central Indiana on May 13, 2013.

So, if you can’t plant them yet, why do garden centers have them for sale? Because customers want them, or think they want them. Some lucky people buy plants early to hold over in their greenhouse until they can be planted outdoors. Others say they will keep them in the garage, possible depriving plants of necessary light. Others say they plan to leave them outdoors during the day and move them indoors at night.

These are all viable options, but require some vigilance on the part of the buyer to make sure plants are watered as needed. The lack of light may cause plants to stretch and become weak.

Why not let the garden center do all the work necessary to keep the plants alive until planting time? That’s less worry on your part. And you’ll know that the plants will be well tended so they will be at their best.

Show your school colors

Getting ready for high school or college graduation celebrations in the backyard? Talk to garden centers now to make sure you can get flowers in the school colors you want. Most garden centers will help you find plants and colors you need.

Stick with annuals to carry the school-color theme. Perennials are iffy about their bloom times and getting just the right color may be challenging. Most of the time, annuals are already blooming, so you can make sure you get the colors you need.

Some colors, such as black, are going to be harder to find, even in annuals. There are a few black petunia varieties on the market, or look for black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’).

For gray or silver, look for licorice vine (Helichrysum petiolare) or dusty miller (Senecio cineraria).

If you have any dried or faux hydrangea flowers, you can always spray paint them any color you need and stick them in a pot with annuals or use as a bouquet for a tabletop arrangement.

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