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    Save the Date: Perennial Plant Society’s 30th Plant Sale is April 4, 2020, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the new Expo 3 Building at The Fairgrounds Nashville. Here’s where you can find the newest varieties of perennials, shrubs, vines and annuals from local growers, along with long-time, never-fail favorites, ready for spring planting. Learn more at the PPS website.

     

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Keep geraniums on the sunny side

QUESTION: Every spring I buy pots of geraniums to place in the planters on our front porch, which is shaded by a couple of tall trees. They look great for a couple of weeks, then the lower leaves begin to turn yellow and the flowers become scraggly and sparse. The neighbors’ geraniums always look great! What am I doing wrong?
Geranium 2
Geraniums seem to be on porches and in planters everywhere in summer, so they should be fairly easygoing – and easy-to-care-for plants, right?

Right. As long as you provide what they need to grow and thrive: sun, enough (but not too much) water, and perhaps a bit of fertilizer every now and then.

These are, no doubt, the so-called “common geranium” (Pelargonium x hortorum) that you can find at every nursery and garden center, grocery store and roadside stand in the spring. Notice that in the growing tips that are usually provided, “sun” is the first item on the list. The recommended dose is five to six hours of full sun, so if your geraniums are on a porch that is in the dappled shade of tall trees most of the day, they will not get the sunlight they need to bloom well.
Geranium 1
Move them to a sunny spot, and the geraniums likely will respond with a burst of new blooms. Clip dead flowers off to encourage continued blooming.
Water the plants when the soil is dry or just barely moist. Don’t let the plants become waterlogged, though, and make sure the container drains well to avoid rot and fungus that may develop. Feed container plantings lightly every few weeks with water-soluble fertilizer.

By the way, sources note that common geraniums may stop blooming during extended hot weather, and in that case will benefit from light shade in the afternoon. They should begin to bloom again when the weather is cooler.

Poppies next spring

I saw beautiful poppies in gardens this spring and summer and would like to grow some of my own. When and how do you plant them?

There are several types of poppies; some are perennials, some are cool-season annuals. A few of them can be grown from seed sown in the fall, so start planning now to have a garden of poppies next year. Here’s a short list of the possibilities, according to the editors of the Southern Living Garden Book:

Iceland poppy (Papaver nudicaule) is a short-lived perennial with cup-shaped blooms of yellow, orange, salmon, pink, white or cream. Sow seeds or set out transplants in the fall.

Oriental poppy (P. orientale) has large, crinkled blooms in scarlet, orange, pink, salmon or white that grow from bushy clumps of foliage. The blooms may be black at the base. Plant dormant roots in the fall.

Shirley poppy, or Flanders Field poppy (P. rhoeas) is an annual poppy with single or double flowers in white, pink, salmon, red, scarlet, lilac or blue. Sow in the fall by mixing seeds with an equal amount of sand and broadcast it where you want them to grow. Note: The Southern Living Garden Book says this is a “notorious self-sower,” which is usually a gentle way to say it could take over your garden whether you want it to or not.

Alpine poppy (P. alpinum) is a perennial that grows better in fast-draining, gritty soil. It has smaller flowers (1 ½ to 2 inches in white, yellow, orange or salmon. It, too, self-sows freely. Sow seeds in fall or early spring.

To plant poppy seeds, prepare the soil in a bed in full sun and simply scatter the seeds on top, or barely cover the seeds. Water the ground carefully, and kept the area moist throughout the fall.