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Past Articles Library | Stretch the Season by Growing and Drying these 3 Annual Flowers

Using annual flowers in your landscape and container gardens is a clever approach to spreading your gardening dollar. This is especially true when you can get spring and summer enjoyment from the fresh flowers along with fall and winter pleasure through floral arrangements. Below are three easy to grow annuals that add that splash of color during the growing season along with floral interest when dried.

Plumed Cockscomb (Celosia cristata v. plumose)

The Greek word Celosia means “burned,” which describes the reds and yellows of this annual flower. But, while the Greek word gives a hint of color, this plant can also produce blooms in orange, and pink along with less vibrant tones of the colors mentioned.

Plumed cockscomb plants can be purchased but if you would like to get a start on the season, propagating indoors is no problem. To begin this process, one must first decide on the container. Plumed cockscomb do well in peat pots along with planting flats and/or plastic pots. If you choose any container that is not made of natural material, you will need to sterilize it by washing in bleach water and rinsing in clear water. Place in a sunny location to dry.

Once dried, you are ready to plant but…..wait. You will need to start your seeds four to five weeks prior to your local frost free date. After you have that date, fill your containers with a well draining, all purpose potting soil medium that has been moistened. If you have skipped this step, water the soil in until you see moisture come out of the bottom of the container. On the other hand, if you are using peat pots place them in a container of water. Leave them in the water until the soil is evenly moist.

Next, sprinkle the seeds on the soil surface. Mist with water and place in a sunny location that is kept between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Plumed cockscomb seeds take 10 to 15 days to germinate.

A week prior to your local frost free date you will need to harden off the plant material.

If you do not want to start your seeds indoors, prepare a garden space that is in a sunny location with well draining soil. Directly sow your seeds in this area after your local frost free date has passed.

To dry the cockscomb flowers, simply pick the flowers in the morning, tie a few together, and hang up in a warm area away from sunlight. In a few weeks, the cockscombs will be dried and ready for arranging.

Bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis)

The bells of Ireland are a unique annual. The mature size of this flower is 2 feet, which makes it a great plant for background plantings. While it is known for its “bell-shaped” green calyxes, believe it or not there are also flowers hidden in the calyxes. These come in shades of white or pink.

When growing bells of Ireland, you can either directly plant them into the garden space as soon as the soil is warm or dry enough to work. Another technique is to start your seed indoors eight to ten weeks prior to your local frost free date.

Planting bells of Ireland seeds begins with preparing the container. To do this, just wash the container in water with a capful of bleach, rinse, and allow to dry in the open air. Once the container is dry, fill with a moistened all purpose potting soil. Sprinkle the seeds on the surface. Do not cover the seeds with soil. The seeds of this annual need light to germinate. To help the seed make contact with the soil, mist the surface with water. Place your planted container in a sunny location and in 23 to 35 days you will see your little bells of Ireland appear.

When you are ready to plant this annual outside, place it in a location that has good drainage and is in full sun to partial shade.

Drying is easy to do. Cut the bells of Ireland in the morning and hang upside down in a dark room. In a few weeks, the “flowers” of this annual will have dried to a light brown. 

Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila elegans)

When it comes to this annual, you can either directly sow it into the garden space after your local frost free date or start indoors. Since baby’s breath only has a blooming cycle of six to eight weeks, I would recommend starting the seeds indoors three weeks prior to your local frost free date.

Whereas other annuals can be started in plastic pots, it is recommend to simply plant your seed in peat pots. The reason for this is the fact that it is hard to separate the seedlings. In doing so, just plant the seeds in peat pots and plant pot and all.

To begin this process, you will need to get your supplies. This includes a flat or some type of container to hold your planted peat pots, all purpose potting soil, misting bottle, and seed. Once you have all your supplies, you will need to sterilize your flat. Why sterilize it? Well, while it is simply used to hold the planted peat pots it can still hold plant diseases and pests. In doing so, take the time to soak the flat in a basin of water with a capful of bleach. Scrub to remove any soil and/or debris, rinse in clear water, and place in a sunny location to dry.

While your flat is drying, fill your peat pots with a good all purpose potting soil mix. If your flat has drainage holes, place your filled peat pots in a container of water. The reason for this is simple. You need to water the soil in before you add your seed. Since peat pots are made from peat, they easily take up water. This process, in turn, “waters” the soil while making it evenly moist and not too wet.

Once the peat pots are moist, just sprinkle the seed on top and add a minimal amount of soil to the top to cover the seed. Mist with soil surface to secure the seeds to the soil. Place in a sunny location. In 10 to 15 days, you will see little green dots of growth.

Plant outside in a sunny location that is well draining after your local frost free date has passed.

When it comes to drying this annual flower, the process is easy. You can either pick it and place it in a vase without water or hang upside down to dry.


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