February 28, 2009 by Rick
Why are more and more Florida gardeners relying on gallon size annuals and perennials as their primary size for their home gardens? The answer is Success and Value.
In this warm subtropical climate where soils are primarily sand and coral rock in south Florida it is difficult to build and maintain a rich organic soil for the best performance of annuals and perennials. Add to that the long dry season and the need to conserve water by limiting our irrigation days and you can see why larger pots filled with compost rich organic soils that hold water and nutrients are critical to your success.
Looking back over the history of bedding plants in Florida we see that in the early days gardeners had a choice of starting seeds or buying small 6 packs. As gardeners migrated to Florida from northern states they requested the familiar Michigan 6 pack. Trouble was the rich clay and loam soils from the temperate northern states didn’t exist in their new southern homeland. Faced with infertile, fast drying sand and marl rock instead of loamy soil the transplanted gardeners failed to make the 6 pack annual survive. The 6 packs often needed watering more than once a day for the first week then every day for the next 30-90 days. Rarely do we see them sold but newcomers from the north still request them. I even see letters to the editor about the absence of six packs and other weird sentiments about Florida not having any seasons. Some people just don’t adapt well to paradise.
The next phase was started in 1980 with the 18 pack landscaper tray and the 4.5 inch annual we see so many of in the stores today. Many more folks make these plants survive because they can set the timer to water every day and be assured of success. These 18 pack annuals and 4.5 inch are grown in ultra light artificial sterile media and are used to getting watered twice a day. Without daily water they are difficult to establish and that is why we have consecutive day water exemptions in many counties for our newly planted landscapes.
The evolution to planting gallon color solves most of these issues of water use for establishment, transplant failure, transplant shock and 1 day a week watering. This is especially true if you use plants grown in compost rich soils made with organic components and with water holding polymers like we use. The gallon plants still need a plan and attention to keep them moist and growing but this can be easily achieved with much less water wasted.
I want it now! The most significant change that led to the acceptance of gallon color is in our lifestyles. We are so used to fast food, instant credit, take it with you purchasing that it is just second nature for most people to want the instant satisfaction and assured survival that gallon color offers over small 18 packs and 4.5 inch pot. Start out with plants 3 to 5 times larger that are loaded with buds and bloom and you will get to enjoy them quicker, longer and as a sure thing. This trend is national and catching on in areas where the period between last spring frost and first fall frost is short. Compare the life expectancy, beauty and satisfaction you get from Florida Friendly gallon size flowering plants to a cup of Starbucks and decide which value makes you happiest.