Our amazing floriculture and maintenance teams are starting their flower installation spring rotation soon and the results are always amazing. How do you get that same impact at your home?
Annual flower beds are a staple of front doors, entrances, and anything else you want to highlight and draw attention to. You will see them often around entrance signs at HOAs and retail centers as well as serve as a good indication that you may be on the right track to the front door of a business. At home, you will likely find annual beds around mailboxes and near front doors as well. But why annual beds?
Annuals get changed out twice a year, maybe even three times if you install mums in the fall. This allows the beds to always have color and blooms. Shrubs and perennials can’t give you that year-round impact. Spring annuals, such as petunias, begonias, and impatiens bloom from spring until around the first frost. Ahead of that frost, our team changes the spring annuals out for pansies. They also use snapdragons, dianthus, and a variety of kale, mustards, and artichokes to give height and interest. These varieties do well until the temperatures start going up in the spring.
The trick to a great-looking annual flower bed is prep. While your shrub beds and perennial beds get planted and left mostly alone, annuals require a lot more care. To create an annual bed, select your location. What are you trying to highlight? What is there now? Are there underground wires or irrigation? Are there a lot of tree roots? You want to try to stay away from areas that are not able to be well-tilled. Once you have a location picked out you are going to need soil. Good soil. Mixing topsoil and organic compost, like Black Cow (available at Lowe’s or Home Depot) at a 1 to 1 ratio is best. You need to remove what is currently in the area, whether it is grass or other plant material, and till the area well. Then, add the topsoil and compost and till again. You want the bed to be raised from the existing landscape by at least 4-6”. The soil needs to be loose and fluffy to at least 8” deep.
Now that you have your annual bed space ready to go, pick your plants. Pay special attention to whether your bed is in the shade or the sun and ensure you get plants that tolerate the space well. Height is another factor. You may not want 4’ tall elephant ears right by your front door. You also don’t want to block your line of sight pulling out of your driveway. Consider adding 2-3 varieties for color and height difference.
Plant the taller plants in the back, and shorter ones in the front. Use the space between your pinky and your thumb extended into a “hang 10” sign to measure the spacing of most plants. Making sure that the bed is smoothed out after planting will help get water evenly distributed and look nicer. We suggest using a fine pine bark mulch or soil conditioner in the bed once the plants are in to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
In North Carolina, we suggest planting spring annuals from late April to very early May. You want them to be well-rooted before the summer heat hits. Pansies should be planted mid-October and before mid-November, so they root in before it gets too cold. You will need to water them in well and keep an eye on them as they root for additional watering. Automatic timers and sprinklers can help with this. Don’t forget to take these up before it freezes.
Because you are tilling the bed twice a year, at each flower rotation, weed control will need to happen every few weeks. Anytime you disturb the soil, weeds like to take hold. As a final professional touch, install a 6” pine straw or shredded mulch band around the bed to hold the soft soil in place and make it look finished.
A well-planned, well-maintained flower bed can add curb appeal to your home if you are willing to take on the additional cost and time. Annual flower beds add a place where you can showcase your favorite color combos and go wild on what you want it to look like twice a year. It is a creative way to make your home stand out on the block. We hope you enjoy planning and planting yours!