Tricking biennials, such as foxgloves, allows Florida gardeners to grow these plants.

Tricking biennials, such as foxgloves, allows Florida gardeners to grow these plants.

(Looks like I can add BLOGGER to my resume’. Hope everyone’s patient with me as I wade into this media. It is bound to get better as I progress.)

Yesterday, I found some annual lobelia at the local vegetable stand to add to the hanging planter with the Lothospernum that came south with us this fall. It has been looking as if it could use some company.


 

Flats of other annuals and the biennials: hollyhocks, Lychnis and foxgloves are coming along slowly. All are way, way out at the edge of the dock so they can get as much sun as possible, benefit from the warmth of the old St. Johns River as it flows beneath, and most important — so the #!%&!! squirrels won’t dig them up. 

One foxglove that stowed-away in another pot that traveled south with us has been moved into its own pot and is flourishing. It should be blooming by the spring. This whole business of raising biennials from seed here in Florida is new, to me at least. Others, such as Candy Pfau of Interlachen, and Maggie Ouellette of St. Augustine, have been growing hollyhocks for years. This year Candy branched out into foxgloves with great success.

Biennials are plants that produce foliage their first growing season, go dormant over the winter, and then flower and produce seeds their second growing season. Because these plants, which are usually grown in regions north of here, usually do not survive our hot and humid summer weather in Florida and consequently are not able to return for a second year. Therefore if seeds are planted according to package directions, ie. in the spring, Florida gardeners cannot get them to flower. Hollyhocks, foxgloves and Lychnis (rose campion) are all biennials.

THE TRICK: If you want to grow biennials that actually flower in Florida, you have to trick them into thinking that they have been around for two springs. Plant seeds in October, November or early December in flats of a good quality potting soil. Transplant into cell-packs when seedlings are about three inches tall, and then into beds or large pots when root systems have developed fully.

All of these biennials are quite hardy and should sail through the winter without cold damage. In late February fertilize plants regularly. They should bloom in late spring. Enjoy!

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