May 7, 2012

Still time for planting

AMY IVY, Cornell Cooperative Extension

---- — One of the things I enjoy most about gardening is all the variety.

It used to be that vegetables and herbs were in one location, perennial flowers were in borders along property lines, and annual flowers lined the edges of sidewalks and shrub beds. But now the trend is to mix these together. Perennial flower gardens can have shrubs and annual flowers; vegetable gardens not only look nice with flowers, but those flowers often attract beneficial insects; and some vegetables are attractive enough to be included in flower gardens.

Annual flowers can add a spot of color to any location of your yard as well as in planters on your porch, window boxes and hanging baskets.

But here it is in early May. If you're like me, you have a handful of colorful seed packets and you're wondering what to do with them now. Some of them can be planted now and you will still have some nice color later this summer, while for others, it's too late.

You can still buy the starter plants, of course, but it's too late to start them from seed and get a good flower show before fall. Annual flowers live just one year and die with the cold, while perennial flowers survive the winter and live for years.

Quick to Bloom

This group of flowers can be planted from seed right into your garden soil (direct sown) or started inside right now and transplanted as seedlings in late May: bachelor buttons, nasturtium, cosmos, zinnia, calendula, sunflower, morning glory, sweet alyssum, the smaller marigolds and others.

Slow to Bloom

This group takes a very long time to bloom from seed, so you need to buy them as transplants. They'll bloom all summer long, so they're a good investment, but don't bother planting seeds of these plants now: petunia, pansy, geranium, begonia, impatiens, ageratum, snapdragon, salvia and others.


Perennials are relatively easy to grow from seed but may not bloom this year. It's still a good value though, so if you have room, plant some in a holding bed to grow this year, and they'll begin their yearly display next year: Shasta daisy, dianthus, Echinacea, lupine, delphinium, columbine, liatris, gaillardia and others.

You may get some bloom from these first-year seedlings, but it's best to consider that a bonus rather than counting on it this year. If you can wait a year, though, this is a very economical way to expand your perennial flower garden collection.

Many other perennials are best handled as divisions or bought plants, including iris, lilies, sedum, hosta, nepeta (catmint), aster, phlox, spring bulbs and others.

Save the Date

Our Master Gardener volunteers will be holding two perennial-plant sales this year, featuring plants from their own gardens, on June 2 in Plattsburgh and on June 9 in Lake Placid. Visit our newly revamped website at and click "Events," or call our office for more information.

Amy Ivy is executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Clinton County. Office phone numbers: Clinton County, 561-7450, Essex County, 962-4810, Franklin County, 483-7403. Website: Email questions to