The Q&A Archives: Soil & Summer Annuals, Zone 7B

Question: Just moved here from West Coast. Unfamiliar with yard care here. Need to know soil type, which summer annuals are best and how to take care of lawn & prevent pest control in Zone 7B.
Thank you.

Answer: A good starting point is to have your soil tested. A pH of 6.0 to 6.8 is satisfactory for most annuals. Most Georgia soils are acid and require the addition of lime to correct pH. In the absence of a soil test, add a complete fertilizer such as or 10-10-10 at the rate of 1 lb. per 100 sq. ft. A single application of such fertilizers will rarely provide season-long nutritional requirements; supplemental applications may be necessary (See "Care and Maintenance"). Incorporate the fertilizer and lime when tilling in the soil amendments, and rake the soil surface smooth.

Annuals vary in their insect and disease susceptibility. Some are virtually trouble-free in the landscape while others require considerable care to look their best.

Many disease problems can be prevented. Good soil drainage is crucial in the prevention and control of many soil diseases that cause root and stem rot. Keeping the foliage dry and providing good air circulation helps control foliar diseases. Bed rotation is also important in the control of certain diseases. It is generally unadvisable to plant the same species in the same bed year after year.

A variety of insect pests attack annuals. The most common are aphids, spider mites, white flies and caterpillars. Infestations are more easily controlled early, before the population has a chance to swell.

A number of pesticides are available for controlling insects and diseases of annuals. Accurate identification of the insect or disease is the first step. Then select an appropriate pesticide, one that is labeled for control of the pest and approved for use on the given plant. Misuse of pesticides can not only fail to control the problem, but may cause injury to desirable plants. Always read the label carefully.

Some good choices for annuals include:
Amaranthus. Amaranthus caudatus (Love-Lies-Bleeding, Purple-Tassel Flower, Summer Poinsettia). A. tricolor (Joseph's Coat). Amaranthus is grown for its highly colored foliage. A. caudatus varieties range in height from 3 to 5 feet, terminating in vividly colored foliage and long tassels. A. tricolor varieties are more highly branched and range in height from 1 to 4 feet.

Ageratum. Ageratum houstonianum (Floss flower). Most varieties now offered in the trade are compact and range in height from 6 to 12 inches. Blues predominate, but white and magenta varieties are available. Tall cutting varieties are also available.

Alyssum. Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum). A low-growing (4 to 8 inches), spreading plant, Alyssum blooms from late spring until frost. Colors range from white to rose to purple. Alyssum may decline in mid-summer due to extreme heat.

Aster. Callistephus chinensis (China Aster, Annual Aster). Plants range in height from 6 inches to 3 feet. Taller varieties require staking. An excellent cut flower, almost all colors are available. Aster is subject to many insect and disease problems. Do not confuse Callistephus with the true Asters (many are dependable perennials).

Baby's Breath. Gypsophilia elegans. White, rose and purple varieties are available. Plants form round clumps 1 to 2 feet high. Plants bloom only about six weeks; successive plantings are necessary to insure season long flowers. Do not confuse with G. paniculata (Perennial Baby's Breath).

Balloon Vine. Cardiospermum halicacabum. Balloon Vine is a woody perennial vine usually grown as an annual for its showy fruit. It is useful for quick cover on fences and trellises.

Balsam. See Impatiens.

Balsam Apple. Momordica balsamina. A member of the cucumber family, Balsam Apple is a fast growing vine. The orange fruit, up to 3 inches long, is edible.

Basil. Ocimum basilicum (Sweet Basil, Common Basil). Grown principally as a culinary herb, several varieties have been developed for ornamental use. Most produce plants 1 to 2 feet high and some have purple foliage.

Begonia. Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum (Wax Begonia, Fibrous-rooted Begonia). One of the most popular bedding plants grown, Begonias flower from spring until frost. Colors range from white to pink to vivid red. Some varieties have bronze foliage and some green variegated with white. Some varieties are more sun tolerant than others. B. X tuberhybrida (Tuberous Begonia) is also grown but is not as well-suited for landscape use in the South.

Candytuft. Iberis umbellata. Several colors are available in addition to the familiar white. Plants form a mat-like habit. Annual Candytuft is not as commonly used as I. sempervirens (Perennial Candytuft).

Calendula. Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold). Varieties range in height from 1 to 2 feet. Yellow and gold predominate in the color range. A half-hardy annual, Calendula performs poorly under hot conditions, but is good for early and late season color.

Calliopsis. Coreopsis basalis. Calliopsis is an easy-to-grow annual about 18 inches high with numerous yellow flowers. This species is not as commonly grown as are the perennials C. lanceolate and C. verticillata.

Celosia. Celosia cristata (Cockscomb). Many new varieties of Celosia have been developed in recent years which far extend the use of the plant. Heights range from ? to 2? feet. Colors range from cream to yellow, gold, pink and red. Flower types vary from fasciated convoluted combs to feathery spikes. Some varieties also have bronze foliage.

For more ideas, visit your local garden center.

Enjoy your new garden!

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