University of Illinois Extension
Planting Annuals - Gardening with Annuals - University of Illinois Extension

Planting Annuals

Bedding plants are sold in a variety of ways. Depending on the grower and the size of the plant, you may buy them as "cell packs," in flats, or individual pots. If it is not possible for you to plant them right away, keep them in a lightly shaded area and be sure to water them as needed. Just prior to planting, water the bedding plants well to thoroughly moisten the soil. Ideally, the garden bed should also be slightly moist prior to planting.

Don't get in a hurry to plant too soon. Most annuals prefer warm soils and stable temperatures to grow well. When you are ready to plant, lift plants from the cell packs or pots. The best way to do this is to either gently squeeze or push up the bottom of the container if pliable, or turn it upside down, tap it lightly, and the plant will fall into your hand.

If the roots are extremely compacted, it is a good idea to loosen the roots slightly by either breaking the soil ball apart slightly or cutting the sides of the root ball with a knife. This loosening helps to encourage better rooting in the garden bed. Some growers like to offer plants in flats without individual cells. In this case, separate the plants gently by hand or use a knife to cut the plants apart. When transplanting plants grown in individual peat pots, remove the part of the pot above the soil surface. If left on, it can act as a wick and dry out the roots around the interior of the peat pot. The bottom of peat pots should also be removed to allow for better rooting and drainage. Also, be sure that peat pots are moist before planting.

cell packs of annuals

Plants should be set in the garden at the same level or just slightly lower than they were grown in the container. Carefully firm the soil around the plant and water well to wash soil around the root ball and eliminate air pockets. An application of a liquid fertilizer with a high phosphorous content such as 10-52-17, also called starter fertilizer, may prove beneficial at this time. Use about two tablespoons per gallon of water and apply a cup or two around each plant.

Water plants as needed to maintain uniform soil moisture around the roots. Using organic mulches will help conserve soil moisture as well as retard weed growth.