This blog is about growing tropical-looking plants in the Phoenix, Arizona area

October 6, 2015

How and when to plant petunias in Phoenix

It's October, and here in the Phoenix area that's the best time to plant petunias, or any annual flower. Unlike back east, where you plant in spring, here you plant in fall. Annual flowers will bloom all winter (how cool is that?) and then will die when the desert heat returns in April. Of course, you can plant all winter, but if you plant in October or November, it will give your petunias more time to grow. So get planting! This is how:

• Go to your local nursery, or Home Depot, or Lowe's, and buy some six-packs. I bought six six-packs yesterday and with the help of the Woman in My Life, we got them all in the ground in a couple of hours. Yes, buy them small. There is no point in buying them in larger containers. If you plant them properly, they will grow like crazy.

Dig a hole about the size of the rootball of the plant (a couple of inches). I like to "punch them in" all over the garden. I add a tiny amount of Osmocote (or any dry fertilizer) and a tiny sprinkle of water crystals (this is a good secret for desert planting - you can buy these crystals, which are mostly used for indoor plants, and they help retain water and release in to the plants if they start to dry out).

Repeat, repeat, repeat. Plant them in every available spot in-between plants. I try to keep them towards the front of the garden, because they're low and fairly small, but if I can, I try to plant a few up the slope a bit. Now water them in thoroughly with Miracle-Gro mixed in a large watering can. Then water some more. And if you want to water some more, go ahead. Annuals love water.

I don't bother hanging onto my receipts from Lowe's, even though you can get your money back if your plant dies. That's because my plants don't usually die, and if they do, it's my fault. The best way to kill a tiny plant is to handle it roughly, and break the rootball. Or you can fail to water it. But with a little bit of care, annuals are spectacular. Yes, they only live for a few months, but during that time they are amazing. And be sure to send photos of your flowers in bloom in winter to your friends back east!

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