Kiwi Gardener



annuals (plants that bloom and then die when the cold cuts them down in late autumn or winter) are among the cheapest and cheeriest of rescue plants. What’s more, they go for a song over summer when hot days leave them looking limp and leggy. If you’re a plant rescuer, scoop up a few punnets of these cheap-as-chips, sickly annuals and follow our first aid instructio­ns!

Annuals are usually grown in cellpacks as part of a four-, six- or eight-cell plastic container. ailing annuals look sickly for a number of reasons. The first is that their roots are tightly constricte­d. To encourage growth when repotting, remove the plants from their individual cells, and pinch or snip off the lower four corners of the root zone. This will signal to the roots to break away from their matted mass and spread out into new soil once planted.

ailing annuals are almost always ‘leggy’ (spindly and non-branching). To encourage them to bush out, pinch off 2–3cm from the growing tip (or tips if there are more than one). This will stimulate the little plant to grow more new shoots from the base or the side of the existing stem.

If, by some happy chance, your seedling cell plant is already bushing but looking floppy and sickly, pinch off any open flowers. Your plant is on the road to recovery and it will produce more blooms, but right now, it needs to put all its energies into establishi­ng foliage and new roots.

If the plants have dead or browning flowers still attached, snip these off as they have the potential to invite in fungus. If the leaves of the plants are already dotted with black spots, fungal disease may already have arrived, in which case spray a solution of copper oxychlorid­e onto the foliage by following the instructio­ns on the container.

Check your plants over for aphids, and if there are any signs, spray every second day, for a week, with a homemade solution of soapy water (see the earlier recipe for your poinsettia­s). Don’t be tempted to strengthen the solution with extra soap as you risk damaging the foliage of these tender new plants.

Finally, fill a container (or prepare a space in the garden) with good quality, all-purpose potting mix, water it well, and pop your seedlings in. Don’t be tempted to crowd the plants in or you’ll face the same problems you’re currently dealing with. Instead, do some research to find out how large the plants will grow, and plant so that, when mature, they will be just touching their neighbour, and no more.

Most importantl­y, shift your container to a shady spot (or provide shade cover for the garden space) for one to two days to give the young plants time to settle in before facing the heat of the sun. Gradually expose them to brighter light over the next few days. In no time at all, your babies will be thriving.

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