Friday, May 17, 2024

Time has arrived to get your spring bedding plants

By Kendra Raymond

Most everyone in our area can agree, it has been a tough winter. From early to late-season storms and the damage that ensued, it is time to recoup our losses and move forward with yard beautification.

A mother and her daughter select plants for a
window box in Raymond at a local greenhouse.
The storm damage clean up continues in our area and neighbors are coming together to help each other regain some sense of normalcy on their property. The Town of Windham brush disposal area on Enterprise Drive has extended their closing until 6 p.m. June 9.

Now it’s time to think about adding some color and pizzazz to your yard with flowering annuals, vegetables, and perennials. The chance of frost has passed, and local garden centers and big box stores are brimming with colorful options ready to plant.

As a horticulturist, I have spent plenty of time in greenhouses during the spring season. Most customers arrive, list in hand with a laser focused expression on their face. They wander through the rows of colorful annuals, fulfilling the “mandatory” bucket list.

I am pondering the question, why does this seasonal rite of passage hold such reverence for us Mainers? To look for answers, I spoke to a couple customers at a local greenhouse who were purchasing contents for planters which are often located on steps or decks.

The two said that they plant the same annuals every year and they wouldn’t consider changing up their yearly purchases. Both explained that there is no need to deviate as the planters have always flourished.

Another group had a different opinion, telling me that they are willing to try anything new, and that they “like surprises.” The shoppers also expressed interest in the new farm to table trend, as well as untraditional container plantings like herbs or vegetables.

The Mid-Maine Greenhouse Growers Association reminds home gardeners to stay connected, listing their mission as: “Our goal is to help you find the right plants to get the most out of every flower bed, vegetable patch and patio pot - because we grow the plants we sell.”

Containers or gardens

For container planting, that is anything being placed in a hanging basket, plant pot, window box, or other receptacle – it is important to think ahead. Most seedlings are sold in 4- or 6-packs and are often root bound and still immature. Most of these plants will expand substantially when transplanted into a larger space, so make sure to allow room for expansion. I learned a little trick, which I will share here: mix up a bucket of fertilizer, remove the seedlings from the packs, dip the roots into the solution, and then plant into new soil. This gives the plants a boost of energy.

If your bedding plants are being moved into a garden, the fertilizer dip can also be used in this application. You may also want to consider a soil test just to make sure the garden will provide the necessary conditions for growth, including the proper pH and nutrient content. Before planting, it is a good idea to turn over your soil with a rototiller or pitchfork, amend with manure and peat, and rake flat.

Sun or shade

Before purchasing annuals, I would recommend considering the destination for the plants. Once this is determined, simply ask an employee at the greenhouse which plants like sunny or shady locations. There are also many plants that thrive in both sun and shade.


Another important factor to keep in mind is the time you are willing to invest in caring for your annuals. Most container plantings are quite low maintenance, and only need watering about once a week. Gardens are usually watered by the rain, with just a bit of supplementation during dry spells or when the plants are first moved.

The University of Maine’s “The Garden Pro Answer Book” by Dr. Lois Berg Stack, is filled with copious amounts of information for home gardeners, landscapers, and garden center owners. It provides information on challenging sites, gardening, and many tables and charts.

Check out the Maine Landscape and Nursery Association website at:

The University of Maine bulletin, “Annual Flowers for Special Uses” is a great resource and can be visited at:

The Real Maine website provides a useful directory of greenhouses and nurseries here: <

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