Annuals provide quick color early in the season before the perennial bed is ready to bloom. When potted in hanging baskets, window boxes or tucked into container gardens, annuals typically produce abundant blooms that continue until frost. Success with annuals depends on providing the proper growing conditions, including a suitable container and growing medium, proper nutrients, appropriate lighting and attention to watering.
Select a container that is large enough to accommodate the root system of the plant. Hanging baskets range from 12 to 18 inches depending on the type. Wire baskets lined with coco fiber tend to be wide and shallow while plastic pots may offer more depth. For plants like petunias, ivies and impatiens a 12-inch pot with a depth of 6 inches is adequate for five to six plants. For large annuals like cone flower or sunflower, a pot with a depth of 12 inches or more is required.
Check for drainage holes in the pot. Without adequate drainage plants are susceptible to root rot or other soil-borne diseases that thrive in wet soil. Roots need oxygen and soggy soil may choke out oxygen to the roots.
Fill the pot three-quarters full with a lightweight potting mixture. A mixture of equal parts potting soil, peat moss and perlite or vermiculite makes a lightweight mixture that promotes healthy plant growth.
Remove annuals from flats and loosen the root ball by shaking gently to remove excess soil. Gently tease roots apart if the plant is root bound. Tightly wound roots must be loosened to encourage healthy new root formation.
Plant seedlings to the original soil level and fill in around the plant with soil mixture. Firm the soil in place around the stem to secure the plant.
Water thoroughly until water runs free of the bottom of the pot. Water again when the soil dries. Check the pots frequently and watch for any signs of wilting. Plants grown in containers dry quickly and may require daily watering.
Fertilize with water-soluble fertilizer on a 10 to 14 day schedule throughout the summer.
Place in the appropriate lighting for the plant. Check the plant identification tag for lighting requirements.