How to plant those flats of annuals

Ilona Erwin

You bought beautiful annuals by the flat. You have loads of colorful transplants that in your minds eye will fill your garden with bloom, but now you need to put them in the ground.

Here are a few tips for good success.

Water The Flats

For This Job You Will Need

  • A trowel or hand fork
  • Watering can or a hose with nozzle
  • Some well-made compost, if available.
  • Garden scissors or pruners

First, make sure you keep those plants well-watered before they go into the ground. They are growing in very small amounts of soil and dry out and wilt quickly. You will preserve the investment of your hard-spent money and careful picking of the best plants, by keeping them watered.

The earth you are planting them into is drier than they are used to, plus the fact that we like to be working in the spring garden on sunny days, makes it a good practice for new plantings to be well watered before planting. After planting keep moist, morning and evening watering is best.

*Note: the best plants are sturdy, not leggy; just budding, not blooming. But if your plants are brought into bloom by the nursery to better catch your eye…. follow the next step.

Remove The Blooming Flowers

Cut off all those full lovely blooms. I know you hate to do it, I know it is hard to delay satisfaction of looking at all those little spots of color, but more blooms will replace them…. and they will have the healthy established root system to support them, especially if the weather hits a dry and sunny spell. Cut or pinch the flowers off before setting in the soil.

Loosen The Roots

You have cultivated and loosened the ground, it is all ready for your new plant , and now all you have to do is pop them in, right? Well, you could skip this step, but you want your plant to reach full potential and that means taking care of that all-important root system at the beginning.

When you remove the plant from its growing pack, slice the packs or carefully shake it out, then with a tool, garden scissors or a sturdy twig, or your fingers (any of these will work), tease out the roots a little. Especially if they have encircled the plant or gotten knotted up at the bottom.

planting annualsWhen you see the roots curling around in the shape of the pot, pull them free carefully and then spread them out in the planting hole.

Once you get started it only takes a bit more time and effort for this step, and the plant will establish so much better and sooner.

It seems like a fussy step, but believe me, it makes a big difference.

Now You Plant

Remember to keep new plantings moist

If you have some well-made compost on hand, toss in a handful for each plant, or add a bit to the larger area you intend to plant.

Fill in dirt around your plant and firm it in, and then water and keep the plant moist for the first week or so.

If it is a hot sunny day you can tip its pot over it to keep it shaded for the first day or so, if you like (this only works with single pots!!!) .

Allow roots to take hold before you fertilize the new plants.


Don’t fertilize anything yet, give the plant a little time to get adjusted to the shock of being transplanted.

Keeping Your Annual Flowers Looking Good

Give Haircuts, to keep from looking seedy.

When you plant annuals one of the lovely things about them is that they bloom their little heads off all through the season, but sometimes they are a little too enthusiastic about it and start going to seed. You do not want your annuals to go to seed, since that spells the end of their life cycle. And besides, they can start to sprawl and look a bit ratty.

So dead head or else give them a little haircut.

How to give a plant a haircut

In plants like alyssum, you give a haircut: just shear off the excess growth to make a more compact plant. With other plants with larger blooms you pinch off the dead blooms before they can set seed. This will renew the urge for the plant to produce flowers and give some strength back to the plant- since making seed seems to be an exhausting process.

Finally, Now You Can Fertilize

Annuals can be fertilized all through the season, after a few weeks to get settled into their spot.

I know you are going to have a beautiful garden!

Some good general garden books:

More annual plant fact and hints and tips on planting them:
My annuals page
More annuals page

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.