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Mon, Oct. 14

Why flowers die, what to do to prevent it

The snow may be gone but what about the last frost? If the flower you want states plant two weeks after the last frost, think Mother’s Day or later to be safe. (Pixabay via Watters/Courtesy)

The snow may be gone but what about the last frost? If the flower you want states plant two weeks after the last frost, think Mother’s Day or later to be safe. (Pixabay via Watters/Courtesy)

At the Lain casa, flowers have been planted and are filling in quickly. Take a look at the Pinterest Board to see this year’s gardens. It’s nice to pass from the drab gardens of winter to the blooming colors of spring.

If you’ve experienced flower garden failures, you probably have labeled yourself as having a “brown thumb.” However, even experienced gardeners make mistakes resulting from impatience and the initial excitement of spring planting.


Avoid rough planting; there are ways to get a plant out of its container without needlessly stressing it. (Pixabay via Watters/Courtesy)

When you come home with a truck full of flowers, there are a few gardening mistakes that can be avoided easily, immediately coating your thumb in a lovely shade of green! There also are a few tricks that can increase the beauty of your gardens.

Mistake No. 1

Getting Rough When Repotting — When repotting plants, especially flowering plants, their stems are very vulnerable to damage. When you pull and tug on your new plants’ stems, you’re introducing injuries that provide a portal for the unwanted access of harmful fungi, insects, and other pests.

Solution: Never pull a plant out of the container by its foliage or stems. Tap on the bottom of the pot to loosen the plant. If it’s slightly stuck, squeeze the pot to loosen the rootball. If it’s really rootbound, get out your box cutter and carefully slice the container off of the plant.

Mistake No. 2

Picking the Wrong Location — Many mountain plants need at least six hours of sun to set new flowers. Without this source of photosynthesis, these plants stop blooming, weaken, and become susceptible to pests and diseases. 

Shade-loving mountain plants have learned to grow under the protection of a woodland canopy and will scorch when exposed to our bright midday sun.

Solution: It’s OK to push the envelope a bit on plant exposures. As a general rule, plants that receive 6-plus hours of sun during the growing season are considered in “full sun.” 


Waterwise plants are good in the Prescott area — or on your property farthest from the faucet. (Pixabay via Watters/Courtesy)

Mistake No. 3

Planting for the Wrong Region — New gardeners often bring cacti up from the desert of Phoenix for Prescott planting. All cacti will thrive until our first hard freeze around Thanksgiving when each plant will shrivel, freeze solid, and turn into a pile of black mush.

Solution: Talk to the gardeners on your street for advice; you’ll know them by their beautiful gardens.

Visit a local botanical garden to see what grows well in your region. Shop for plants locally, and ask your garden center for advice.

Mistake No. 4

Planting Too Early — It’s not fair: Winter has hung on three weeks too long, and the nurseries are tempting you with all those beautiful dahlias and New Guinea impatiens. If the nursery is selling these flowers, it must be time to plant them, right? 

So you bring home a flat, and set out your newbies the first time the thermometer hits 60 degrees F.

The problem with this approach is that the nursery was tending these tender tropicals in controlled-temp greenhouses, and now you’ve plopped them directly into the spring thaw. Not always death-proof to a sudden night time dip in temperature.

Solution:  Usually the last frost date is May 9. If the plant tag says to plant them two weeks after the last frost, do so or be ready to protect and cover each one every night if necessary. For the earliest spring flowers stick to stalwarts like pansies, dusty millers, snapdragons, and primroses.

Mistake No. 5

Too Much (or Too Little) Water — Flowers are as particular about moisture as they are about sun exposure. “Moisture loving” may mean an inch of water per week, or it could describe a bog plant like our cardinal flower. Local natives are ready for planting at the garden center and blooming like crazy right now, but most of these mountain tough plants can literally be watered to death.

Solution: Plant together flowers with similar needs. The landscape around your mailbox and far away from your faucet may be perfect for native xeriscape plants. Install moisture-loving plants in the garden bed by the downspouts.

Again, for local inspiration take a look at the gardens Lisa and I planted. Some of my personal favorites are:

Herbs — The entire family of herbs is easy to grow, but start with this list: Basil, Bay, Catmint, Chamomile, Lavender, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Scented Geranium, Thyme.

Perennials — Astilbe, Dianthus, Daylily, Hosta, Iris, Lily, Lily-of-the-Valley, Peony, Phlox, Primrose, Russian Sage, Salvia, Sedum, Sweet Woodruff, Verbena. 

Annual Flowers — Alyssum, Candytuft, Geranium, Marigold, Nasturtium, Pansy, Petunia, Poppy, Primrose, Stock, and Violas.

Until next issue, I’ll be here at Watters Garden Center helping gardeners with their flower successes.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or contacted online at or

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