Disaster stories from a veteran gardener

By Barb Delision

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

Back in June, I thought this was going to be a great year for gardening. We had a wet spring. Everything was growing great. I live in a condo, so my gardening consists of containers. After Memorial Day, I went out and bought five or six different kinds of flowers to fill the containers.

I always place tuberous begonias in the sunny area, and ferns in the shade. I had a hanging basket of begonias that only bloomed once or twice. The other pot didn’t bloom at all. Of course the humidity was 80-90 percent and the temperature was just as bad during this time. I watered and fertilized, but unfortunately, no new flowers appeared. I moved pots to different areas, gave them a bloom-booster fertilizer and waited.

My easy-growing impatiens were glorious for about a week. Then the blossoms dropped and no new ones appeared. The plants just died. The top leaves dried out and the inside stems molded.

That was it. I had had it.

I decided now was the time to do some research on what was happening. I went online and tried to find out the reason the plants didn’t flower, and also why they molded and dried out. I found the list of necessities for growing healthy blooming flowers.

Well, they were all things I knew, but just forgot to do. When I replanted the third time, I followed all the rules for growing flowering plants in pots which I ignored in the beginning.

First of all, in high humidity the leaves had to be kept dry and not crowded in the pot. Adequate circulation of air among the stems and flowers was necessary. The scorching afternoon sun burned the leaves with water on them. Even plants that are marked sun/shade need six hours of sunlight to produce flowers. Shade must be minimized.

Also, for the plants to produce flowers they had to be pollinated. The ones on the front porch were out in the open, so the pollinators found them. The flowering plants on the back porch were behind screens, so no pollinators to do the job.

Now the final plantings for the back porch has all different types of sedum. There are so many different kinds out there and they love the afternoon heat and don’t need pollination.

I went to the houseplant section of the greenhouse and found some large plants with variegation and some different shades of green leaves to add color to the setting.

I’ve moved the pot of portulaca out to a sunny spot in the yard and it’s beginning to bloom as I knew it would.

I moved the tuberous begonia back to the front porch and gave it a better setting with more air circulation, but no flowers yet.

I’m still hopeful. Here’s to a better season (and planning) next year.

To help plan your containers for next year, or to find out why things didn’t work this year, check out http://go.osu.edu/containergardening.

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