Also, why rainy weather makes plants droopy.
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Spring Planting is in Full Swing!

We had an enjoyable weekend at my daughter's commencement and I'm heading into a couple of full weeks of planting flowers. If you are on my schedule for planting service, I look forward to seeing you soon! If you'd like to talk about getting your containers planted yet this spring, it's not too late! Call me (970-988-3808) or e-mail me right away.

Rainy Weather Affects Plant Growth 

We’ve had some on-again-off-again kind of weather this spring: sunny and warm for a few days, followed by several days of clouds and rain. If rainy weather makes you feel dreary, the plants around you are feeling lethargic, too. Perhaps you recall from your high school science class that plants require sunlight as part of their photosynthesis process. Without sunlight, the plants are unable to convert nutrients and carbon-dioxide to energy through the photosynthesis process. On cloudy days, they produce much less of the energy they need to grow and bloom.

Additionally, the plants’ circulatory system slows down in cool weather. Plants don’t have a heart (obviously) nor any type of pump for their circulatory system. Rather, water carries nutrients up through the plant from the roots to the shoots using physics: capillary action, osmotic pressure in the cells, and hydraulic conductivity. This process is called transpiration and when the weather is cool and humidity is high, transpiration rates are low. Thus, on rainy days, plants are both unable to produce new energy and unable to move nutrients to their cells so their growth rates slow down significantly.

You many notice some of the plants in the landscape are sort of stuck. For example, my Peonies are covered with buds, but they’re just not opening. Also, I’m finding that many of the annual plants I like to put in container gardens are smaller than they’ve been in previous years. Many of them have buds, but just aren’t blooming yet – they need a few good days of sunshine to open their flowers completely. While the nurseries are able to control much of the climate for nurturing plants, they are not able to replicate sunlight on a large scale. I don’t control the weather either (even though I might wish to). Rather, I just trust that warm, sunny days are coming soon and the plants I know and love will bloom reliably as soon as the weather cooperates!

Get to Know These Plants

CalibrachoaANNUAL: Calibrachoa

This plant has really come into the limelight within just the last 10-12 years. It doesn’t have a common name but pronunciation isn’t too hard –except that the CH sounds like K (kal-ee-BRAK-oh-uh).  The flowers look like miniature Petunias, being only 1” in diameter on compact, well-branched plants. While the flowers are small, the plant makes up for it in volume – it blooms constantly throughout the summer with blossoms covering the plant. Calibrachoa was categorized as a subset type of Petunia and was marketed as “Million Bells Petunia.” Older books may list Calibrachoa under Petunias (if they list it at all) but according to Wikipedia, there are significant differences in the chromosomes of the two plants and Calibrachoa has been re-categorized to its own genus. Both Calibrachoa and Petunia are native to South America where they are considered weeds, inhabiting scrublands and open grasslands. The nicest features of Calibrachoa are that it does not require dead-heading nor does it need to be cut back as Petunias require. Petchoa is a hybrid which was accomplished by crossing Petunia with Calibrachoa. Petchoa is very new to the market – if you want to try out a new plant, look for it in the garden center!

Bleeding Heart  / Dicentra spectabilis

With an intriguing heart-shape, the flowers of Bleeding Heart dangle all along the stems and arch out and over the plant. One of the first plants to arrive on the scene in the spring, Bleeding Heart plants grow rapidly, reaching a height of 2 to 3 feet tall in just a few weeks. Bleeding Heart is a “must-have” for the shady garden, but it will tolerate a sunnier location with plentiful water. Since it is early to arrive in spring, it is often early to depart – the foliage yellows and dies back mid to late summer. Don’t assume it has died nor forget where it is and accidentally dig it up in the fall! Bleeding Hearts are long-lasting as cut flowers. The flowers don’t travel well once cut and therefore are not grown commercially for the floral industry. If you have Bleeding Hearts, you can cut a few stems in the early morning and place in a bud vase with fresh water for an unusual display.

Lilac / Syringa vulgaris

Full sun is essential for Lilacs – anything less than 6 hours of sunshine per day and the plant won’t flower nearly as prolifically. The large clusters of wonderfully fragrant flowers are what Lilacs are known for and give many people a sense of nostalgia. Lilacs are easy to establish in the landscape by transplanting container-grown stock in the spring. Once established, Lilacs require only occasional supplemental water – they need only ½ of an inch of water per week to survive. In five years, most cultivars will reach 5’ tall and wide growing to the mature height of 8-10’ by ten years. There are many, many cultivars and varieties; height, width and bloom time vary accordingly. To achieve the absolute best flower display next spring, Lilacs need some attention right after this year’s show. First, remove as many of the spent blossoms as you can reach to prevent the plants from spending energy making seeds. Next, prune out as much as 1/3 of the oldest stems. Remove these stems all the way to the base of the plant. Syringa vulgaris is an heirloom species which you often see growing on abandoned plots or around old farmhouses. If that seems like too much work for you, know that the shrub will continue to grow without any maintenance, but flowering will be less abundant.
Ever wonder where I get my information? Here's my resources:
  • Armitage, Allan M. Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Second Edition. Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing LLC, 1997.
  • Crockett, James Underwood. Annuals. New York: Time-Life, 1971. Print.
  • Ellis, Barbara W. Taylor's Guide to Annuals. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Print.
  • Flint, Harrison L. Ortho's All about Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Des Moines, IA: Meredith, 2002. Print.
  • Gordon, DeWolf P., Jr. Ph.D., et al. Taylor's Guide to Perennials. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. Print.
  • Hessayon, D. G. The New Bedding Plant Expert. London: Expert, 1996. Print.
  • Hughes, Megan McConnell, et al. Better Homes and Gardens® Flowering Trees & Shrubs. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2012. Print.
  • Peschke, Donald B., Publisher. 108 easy-going, easy-growing flowers!, a supplemental to Garden Gate magazine. Des Moines, Iowa: August Home Publishing Company. 2006.
  • Whiting, David, et al. "Pruning Flowering Shrubs, CMG GardenNotes #619." Colorado Master Gardener GardenNotes. Fort Collins, CO: Colorado State University Extension, 2011. Print & Online.
  • "Transpiration." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 18 May 2016.
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