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Fall bedding plants provide an array of colors

By Gary R. Bachman

MSU Horticulturist
Coastal Research & Extension Center

Now is the perfect time to embrace your garden’s ability to support beautiful, colorful fall bedding plants.

The Telstar dianthus’ flowers have a fringed margin and are available in single, double and semi-double petal arrangements. Pansies seem to have “faces” that give the flowers a variety of personalities. (Photos by Gary Bachman) Click to enlarge Click to enlarge
The Telstar dianthus’ flowers have a fringed margin and are available in single, double and semi-double petal arrangements.

Pansies seem to have “faces” that give the flowers a variety of personalities. (Photos by Gary Bachman)

Garden centers are offering some great choices for fall bedding plants. Telstar dianthus is one of my favorite cool-season plants, as it offers seasonal continuity for your landscape. Its flower colors include carmine rose, pink and white. Like most members of the dianthus family, its fragrance is delicately floral. The flowers have a fringed margin and are available in single, double and semi-double petal arrangements. The colors are from the same dianthus palette of pinks as the spring-blooming landscape varieties and summer varieties such as Purple Bouquet and Amazon dianthus.

Telstar dianthus will grow to be 8 to 10 inches tall. The bushy plants have a stout structure with linear toothed foliage, and plants should be spaced about 8 inches apart in order to form beautiful and fully massed landscape beds.

I am sure you have seen the brightly colored pansies at your favorite gardening center. These are another great way to add color to the winter garden. These plants are tough, cold-tolerant and flower nonstop.

Pansies are known botanically as Viola wittrockiana and have a mounding growth habit of 4 to 10 inches tall. There are many different cultivars and selections in a rainbow of colors. Older selections have multicolored flowers in yellows, purples, blues and whites. These flowers seem to have “faces” with features of color blotches. These faces seem to give the pansies a variety of personalities.

Matrix pansies, especially the Coastal Sunrise mix, have been outstanding landscape plants for several years in Mississippi. The Coastal Sunrise plants are loaded with large, colorful flowers. The flowers are held high above the plant and are a terrific landscape display. The plants branch quickly, increasing the enormous number of flowers produced.

Violas are related to pansies and are another good choice for cooler weather. These tough plants will grow well in the landscape or containers. Violas can be hardier than pansies, blooming right through winter and well into the spring season.

Violas are known botanically as Viola cornuta and are commonly called Johnny Jump Ups. It is quite common for viola to become perennial in the home garden because they are prolific reseeding plants. Garden centers usually carry wide selections in a nearly endless variety of colors.

For the best performance, be sure to plant any of these bedding plant choices before cold weather sets in, allowing the root systems to establish. If these plants are exposed to freezing temperatures, any current flowers will be lost. The flowers will, however, start to show again once moderate temperatures reappear. Add one pound of slow release fertilizer and a good layer of mulch to keep these plants well fed and comfortable during the colder temperatures of winter. They will be ready to continue blooming in the spring.

Take advantage of Mississippi’s mild winters and add these beautiful, colorful fall bedding plants to your garden.

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Released: October 11, 2011
Contact: Dr. Gary Bachman, (228) 546-1009

Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.

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