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Everything to know about annuals

The third week of May is the official green light for planting annuals.

Annuals are plants that survive only one year and need to be replaced annually. They live their short life in the fast lane, party hardy and produce continuous blooms or bountiful harvest up until a fall frost.

By mid-May, all danger of frost is past and you can add tender annual plants such as geraniums, marigolds, petunias and vegetable starts of tomatoes, peppers and squash right into the ground.

All plants prefer to make the big move on a cloudy or cool day so wait until late afternoon to do the transplant operation if the weather is hot.

Here are some questions and answers from readers about annuals:

I want to have some color in a pot near my front door. The problem is this area is covered by the porch and always in the shade. It seems like most shade plants (like hosta) have nice foliage but few flowers. I would like more color. What flowers will bloom in deep shade?

– L.M., Puyallup

Dear L.M.: Think begonias if you want it made in the shade with intense color. Begonias come in several forms, but the tuberous begonias that grow from bulb-like roots have the biggest and brightest flowers. The variety “nonstop” offers continuous color.

Impatiens and lobelia are two more summer bloomers that thrive in the shadows.

Remember that white and pale flowers plus any foliage plant with lime green or variegated foliage will also help to illuminate your dark corners.

We have a hot, dry bed in the front of the house and I would like to add some summer color. I need plants that will survive up to a week without water. This is because we often go to a summer cabin and I am tired of returning to find wilted flowers.

– B.N., Kent

Dear B.N.: For powerful color without the drinking problems, think rose moss or portulaca, a plant with fleshy leaves and daisy-like blooms in bright pink, yellow and orange.

Other sedums and succulents (plants with thick leaves that store moisture) will also thrive on rainfall alone but without the bright blooms.

Plants with gray foliage such as dusty miller, artemisia and lavender are naturally drought-resistant.

Another idea is to install a drip system in your planting bed and hook it up to a timer on your faucet. New versions of these automated watering systems make them easy to install.

There are bite marks in the leaves of my rhododendron. Only the edges of the leaves are eaten so that some of the leaves look like they have been notched out in a pattern. What should I spray on them?

– P.B., Olympia

Dear P.B.: It is a weevil that has you needled and even if you spray poisons on your plants, this night-chomping insect won’t be stopped. There are some more natural steps you can take to control the weevil population.

First, scrape away the dead leaves and debris from under the rhodies to expose more of the weevil larvae to the birds. Prune up your rhododendron so that no branches touch the ground.

Then place a barrier of sticky black “tanglefoot” or Vaseline on the stem or trunk of your rhododendron to trap any weevils trying to climb the plant at night.

You can go outside with a flashlight and try to hand pick the weevils as they feed – or take the easy way out and replace the infected plant with a weevil-resistant variety. Rhododendrons with “fur” or indumentum on the back of the leaves are naturally more pest- and cold-resistant.

Marianne Binetti is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and eight other gardening books. She has a degree in horticulture from WSU and will answer questions from her Web site at www.binettigarden.com.

Meet Marianne

What: Marianne Binetti gardening talks

When: 9 a.m. May 23: Tomato Talk;

noon: Edible Landscapes

Where: Johnson’s Home & Garden Do-It-Center, 23920 S.E. Kent-Kangley Road, Maple Valley

Information: 425-432-3384