When to Plant Annuals for Mid-October Bloom - 5a

kyndalmFebruary 17, 2010

Hi All!

I am a new member but have been a frequent reader for some time. Many helpful and knowledgeable individuals!!

We are getting married on October 16th and have decided to grow our own annual flowers for it.

I did some research and have chosen:

-Several types of sunflowers including Burpee's Fun N Sun Hybrid Mix, Chianti Hybrid and Italian White.

- Bachelor Button

- Zinnias including Pinwheel Mix and Cut and Come Again Mix

- Coreopsis

- Verbena

I have also bought the "mega pack" of wildflowers that have many different flowers.

First question is are these wise choices?

Second - any more suggestions?

Third - when in the world should I plant these to have them in good condition for Mid-October? As soon as we're frost free or wait a little later?

Fourth - There is a slight possibility that we might have a frost before our wedding. Will that ruin the whole thing?


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I think that there is a very good chance for you to have frost before your wedding:( I hate to tell you this, but if you are new to growing flowers, you may not want to rely on this method for your wedding....I'm saying this out of true sincerity, I would hate for you to have to stress out about not having wedding flowers at the last minute! October is very late in the growing season in zone 5, and by that time the plants can tend to get pretty ragged looking and they don't have much energy to send out blooms. Gosh...I feel like such a Negative Nelly!

On a happier note, welcome to garden web and congrats on your wedding! I wish you all the luck!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 10:07AM
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I have to agree with Sarah. I gardened in zone 5 for 20 years, and there are VERY few annuals that look good that late in the season. Honestly, I can't think of ANY that look good in October! Between the short days, cold nights, and frost threat, I'm afraid you would be very disappointed. Congrats on the wedding!

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 12:56PM
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First, congrats and welcome!

We had an outdoor October wedding, but we're in warmer zone 7b. You might consider asking a greenhouse grower to have some potted plants protected and ready for you rather than stressing over frosts and such taking out your hard work.

I know this is an annuals forum, but there are a number of fantastic fall-blooming perennials that you can grow.

Mums aren't just the container mums anymore. There are short, tall, all kinds of bloom shapes that can handle a few frosts. Perennial mums can be planted in the spring and kept pinched back until July 4th for autumn bloom. Bluestone Perennials has a selection on their website.

Swamp sunflower - helianthus angustifolis 'First Light' is loaded with blooms. Some asters can give you the same fall color.

My annual zinnias 'Benary's Giant' and marigolds, sown in July were in bloom here in zone 7 even after a few light frosts.

That said - evergreen shrubs can be beautiful for a fall wedding.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 2:45PM
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Annuals sown in spring will be worn down and seedy by October.

You didn't say what colors you were using for the wedding, but by the look of your list you want multi colors

I second what wonbyherwits said---but.

If you are looking for flowers for the church or ceremony, I'd say ask a greenhouse to grow them for you or buy them.
Mums are cheap in the fall. Many groceries have floral departments now. When my son got married 15 years ago they bought all their flowers at the grocery and they were just as nice or nicer than florists bouquets, but 1/3 of the price.
You are going to have lots to do for the wedding in those last few days and you don't really want to add flowers to the mix or be disappointed and scrambling for flowers at the last minute

If you want flowers in the ground for your home then go for Asters They come in wonderful colors, in open daisy like flowers to big pom pom type flowers. They are planted in the spring but don't bloom until the fall. In addition plant babies breath in the ground in late June-- early July. It will put on a show then too.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 3:28PM
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Thank you all for the replies! I really appreciate it, and although yes, I am a little sad, hopefully I can get around it.

I am lucky to have a future mother in law with a beautiful established perennial garden and she will be helping.

What if I were to sow the seeds in June and use a temporary coldframe/greenhouse structure to cover the garden in September-ish?

Do you think that would work? They might bloom a little later since I planted them later, or is that not how things go?

Again, I really, really appreciate your responses!!

Believe it or not, I work at a greenhouse (in the advertising dept).. but it is a small company, and I am afraid to ask I suppose. I will have to think on that one.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 5:33PM
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I sometimes grow flower orders for off-season parties and weddings. An independently owned g'house would be more likely to do this for you than a corporately owned one. This would be more likely to be cost effective if you were wanting potted arrangements. If you wanted cuts, and were wanting to do your own arrangements, they or a floral shop could order in stems by quantity. You won't get wholesale, and they will mark-up but not like if you bought them by the each.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2010 at 8:35PM
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Like Oilpainter said...the last few days before your wedding are going to be very busy for you...the last thing you are going to want is a floral disaster! I think that in the least you should try and have a few types of flowers ordered...just in case. You could always try growing and if it works out, you will have extra that you can add to arrangements! Like said above...it is much cheaper to bunches of single type flowers from a grocery store and then you can still put together your own arrangements. But...in the end, it is your day and you HAVE to do what you want and feel is right.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 7:49AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

ok .. i did it .... sorta ...

first .... to simplify wildly .... annuals bloom according to the intensity of the sun .... i doubt you can be successful is starting them later ... and hoping to delay bloom since sept/oct sun in MI is not going to be sufficient to trigger bloom.. and i am talking outdoors ...

you are not going to FORCE a plant that is suppose to bloom in the high sun of JUNE.. to bloom in the relative darkness of OCT ... i can not address greenhouses ...

next ... i had a rose collection.. over 100 plants ... their last bloom of the season in MI is often the largest flower of the year ... deepest colored.. and scented ... something about the effects of the refrigerator MI is in october ... and it worked for me ... i took two 5 gal buckets of budded roses to the florist to be inserted into the flowers i bought from them ... but i dont see you buying many roses and growing them successfully.. it defeats the money savings ....

but, as i say .. the fail safe was the florist ... IMHO.. there is NO WAY you can insure that you will have flowers on the specific date ... short of a professional ...

and on top of all that ... as noted.. in the few weeks before the big day .. you will surely have WAY TOOO MANNNYYY things to worry about besides mother nature ... like we can control that ...

so .. my best advice ... pay for your flowers .... and set the deal with florist that anything you or future mom-in-law bring in.. they will add into the design ...

and do shop around.. as i recall from 1995 ... prices for our concept varied between 300 and 1000 dollars ... and we went with the 300 plus all i could add ... and it turned out wonderful ...

flowers were very important to this gardener ... but i gotta admit .... it is nearly one of the most ridiculous wastes of money in a wedding .... PLEASE focus on the important things.. like your bouquet.. and the maids .... and dont worry all that much about any other flowers ... the guests really dont care.. if you have a fully functional bar across the room ... lol ...

so.. bottom line.. its money well spent for a fail safe.. and let mom in law worry about adding some late blooming perennials ... which most likely wont bloom from seed this year ... asters and mums would be perfect ...

good luck with the wedding


    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 9:06AM
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Again, thank you all!

And WHOOPS.. I didn't realize I put 5a in the title.. silly me. I am actually in the southern part of Zone 5b, so time might be a little more on my side, although not by much.

I am going to check out some grocery stores this weekend. What a good idea to buy from there and supplement what we may have come October. It will definitely tone down the stress.

Ken, I had no idea about the annuals/sunlight concept. Thank you for enlightening me :) And yes, you are right, we will most definitely have the functional bar so that is probably going to be the most important thing to guests! LOL

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 11:57AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

heck.. a preacher ... a bar.. and you two .. saves you about $20,000 .... rotflmbo ....

zone is irrelevant to the declination of the sun.. it is min winter temp ....

see link

why do i think you are in MI ??? in detroit there is EASTERN MARKET .... regional ... BIG TIME farmers market ... should be one in every big city ... might get great wholesale prices if you are willing to figure out how to put it all together ...

see ya


Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 12:07PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

The daylength is very important. Many, if not most, annuals begin to go through the natural progession to old age as the days get shorter and shorter. There's nothing you can do to stop it. Our gardens begin to go to seed and look, well....downright seedy!

    Bookmark   February 18, 2010 at 4:00PM
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Ken, you got the wheels turning. We have a Farmer's Market here in town. I might check into vendors there when it starts in May! Thanks.

What about planting some of my favs in large window boxes in June/July, bringing them inside in early Sept under lights? Bad idea?

Also, thank you EVERYONE for the help and preventing my wedding from being a floral disaster/disappointment.

Boy am I glad I came here!!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 12:05AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Bad idea. Most flowering plants will not take kindly to being introduced to the hostile indoor environment, lights or not.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2010 at 12:38PM
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Rhizo is right. You're setting yourself up for disappointment, and also a lot of stress when you don't need it.

Even some flowers aren't readily available to florists in certain seasons. I have had brides who wanted lilacs in September. I'm sorry..........they weren't available anywhere at any price. I ended up spraying out dried hydrangea.

Even fall flowers are iffy in mid October in your Zone. Mums coming into bloom at that time are called season extenders.

I have had lovely annuals coming back into their own at that time of year, until the frosts hit, but if you're lucky enough to be in that situation you take the luck of the draw on what is available.

You are not going to pull this off without a greenhouse involved, or a flower vendor and then you may have to give serious thought to what is in season in mid-fall. I've grown for fall weddings and I would even look at your list with a jaundiced eye.

I did the flowers for my son and DIL's summer wedding several years ago. I did potted gerberas. I grew four times as many pots as they required just to make sure that if some weren't in good bloom, I'd still have enough. Then a week or two before the wedding, I had a massive attack of spider mites in the hot g'house where they were growing. I got them under control, but not before the blooms were roached by the treatment. I ended up going to a competitor and buying floral quality gerbers by the stem and wiring them and picking them into my lovely foliage. It cost a fortune, but I made the commitment and I knew how to fix the situation. Believe me, somebody who didn't know how to wire fresh flowers and who to call to have them faxed in over a holiday would have been in a mess. No..........there wasn't a gerbera in town either potted, or in a florist shop or especially at THE SUPERMARKET????

You can still save major money on your flowers if you do it right, but cover your bases and do it well ahead of time.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2010 at 5:00PM
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