Annual plants rarely need drastic pruning. By midsummer, however, some plants, such as petunias, will start to become leggy, with flowers concentrated at the ends of the branches. You can help the plant maintain a nice bushy form by pruning back one of the longest branches once a week or so. Prune way back to a set of leaves near the main stem; sprouts will form at the leaf axils, and these shoots will keep the plant bushy.
Botanically speaking, the "goal" of annual flowering plants is to reproduce -- that is, to form flowers, achieve pollination, and subsequently produce seeds. Once seeds are formed, the annual plant has completed its mission, and it begins to die back. How can you keep the plant alive and blooming? By deadheading, youre removing the developing seeds. The plant is tricked into producing more flowers, and more seeds, which you then remove ... and on and on.
Be sure to remove the developing seeds! On petunias, for example, its easy to make the mistake of removing just the petals. However, if you look closely at whats left, youll see a small, pointed seed pod where the petals were attached. Be sure to remove this seed pod too. You can use your fingers to pinch off petunia flowers; however, you may need pruners to deadhead flowers with tougher stems.
Well, weve covered most of the basics of plant maintenance in this class. The focus of our next (and final) class is troubleshooting, or identifying problems in the garden. Once weve identified some common problems, well look at ways to manage them. See you then!
National Gardening Association. All Rights Reserved.