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Some annuals require little or no deadheading

By By Amelia O’Brian / horticulture columnist
Aug. 4, 2002
Dear Gardener: I really hate deadheading my annuals. Surely there are some types of annuals available that do not require a lot of deadheading? Please help me eliminate this chore from my weekly routine. Thanks.
Dear Taylor: There are some annuals available that require little or no deadheading. The first one that comes to mind is the ever-familiar lantana. It will bloom all summer long without any deadheading. Depending on the area where it is planted, it may need a little pruning back to keep it in control. It is available in several color combinations and heights.
Portulaca (moss rose), Diascia, and Scaevola (fan flower) are all great low growing, spreading types.
Moss rose comes in a variety of colors and thrives in very dry conditions. Diascia is my newest favorite annual. It is no trouble at all and even a small plant will fill up a pot in no time flat. It is available in red, apricot and pink. The pink just happens to be hardy. Scaevolas have purple or white flowers in sort of a fan shape thus its common name. Any of these plants look great in pots or hanging baskets, as well as on the edge of a border.
For the back of the border, I recommend a couple of plants. Purple fountain grass is a great annual ornamental grass that is basically carefree. My all-time favorite low-maintenance, tall plant has to be cleome, though. It blooms all the way up the plant stalk, leaving seedpods dangling below. It will bloom all summer and reseed itself.
Dear Gardener: I have just finished removing some junipers from a landscaping bed. I am planning to plant some perennials there in the fall. My problem is that the soil is in terrible shape. I am looking for a way to improve the soil over the course of the next couple of months. I plan on adding compost and other amendments when I plant the area, but I would like to do something now for the area. I have never seen soil this depleted.
Dear Reader: It would be a good idea to start enriching the soil now instead of waiting till planting time. I suggest killing or removing all the unwanted plants in the area. Then cover the area with some sort of organic, biodegradable weed barrier, such as grass clippings, old leaves or wet newspaper.
Keep the area covered throughout the rest of the summer. The coverings will start to decompose, adding to the soil and attracting earthworms. They will also help suppress any weed seedlings.
In the fall, spread soil amendments on top of the clippings or newspaper then till it all into the soil. At this point, you might want to do a soil test to determine the pH of your soil as well as any deficiencies that may be present. After making the necessary adjustments to the soil, plant as desired.