Be it the humid summer or dry winter, nature somehow finds its way to spread its cheers and colours all around.
This time round, we have dug up a few plants, which are striking enough to take center stage in your balcony garden -ones that will bloom into early spring -from January to March or April.
1. Plants grow very little in winter. So, make sure you start with proper-sized ones. Use sufficient numbers of plants for the size of a container to make an impact from the very beginning.
2. Position your container where they will get as much sunlight as possible to ensure that your plant remains green and healthy. Water your pots carefully in winter. Smaller plants are more susceptible to over or under watering. Make sure you check the potting mix regularly as it can dry out fast.
3. It is not necessary to feed plants in containers during winter.
4. Raise containers off the ground on pot feet or bricks to improve drainage.
"During winter, the best flowers to grow in Indian climate are petunia, cockscomb, antirrhinum, cineraria, zinnia, calendula, chrysanthemum and marigold. Flower plants need soil up to 5 inches deep. So, all you need to do is take an earthen pot of 6-8 inches, dig a hole in the soil and bury the seed about 2 inches deep. After 6 weeks, you will see the seeds sprout into saplings. The after-care is very essential.Sprinkle water as and when required," says Nirupom Sen, secretary-cum-CEO, AgriHorticultural Society of India.
One of the most popular annual flowering plants, they are quick-growing and known for beautiful blooms in pink, purple, red, white and yellow. Petunia seeds can be sown when temperature is cool. These plants grow between 6 inches to 4 feet and are perfect for hanging baskets and planters. The seeds are very small, so one needs to take extra care while sowing. Prepare the potting mix before sowing the seeds, water and allow the pot to drain. Sprinkle seeds on well-drained soil and gently push them down. Do not cover them with soil, as they need light to germinate. You can use small containers as petunias are low-growers.
Cockscomb or celosia
It is a hardy annual that reaches up to 1.2 metres in height. Celosia plants are also known as cockscomb that flower from summer and continue into early autumn. They have flowers in yellow or pink. It is best to grow cockscomb plants in large groups. Germination time is five days to two weeks. These require full sunlight or light shade. Potting soil will do to sow celosia. Maintain a moist soil with regular watering. These plants require proper light for growth.
These plants are not suited for growing in hot, dry climates. If you are growing cinerarias in the garden, they should be grown in partial to full shade, and planted in slightly acidic, rich, well drained soil with high fertilizer content. Water them regularly to keep the soil evenly moist. But be careful not to over-water. Cinerarias readily reseed themselves in the garden or even in containers.
These are easily grown plants known for colorful flowers. Zinnia is propagated directly from seeds. You need to sow the seeds sometime between April and May, when the weather is a bit warm. Spread soil over the seeds in a way that it covers them partially, as they need light to germinate. Make the soil moist and cover the container with a plastic bag to maintain humidity level. Seeds should sprout within a week. Take a medium-sized container with adequate number of holes for drainage. From sandy to loamy, these plants can be grown in any type of soil. Add organic fertilizer to the soil for better results. Zinnia thrives in full direct sun with some afternoon shade. BDW, they just grew one of these on the International Space Station, making it the first flower to bloom in space. Cool, right?
No flower is as easy to grow as marigolds. These annuals shine in gold, copper, white, yellow, orange, red and mixed colours. Marigolds bloom from mid-summer till winter.You can select the colour and size that are perfect for your garden or container. Plant these next to your tomato, eggplant, chili pepper and potato plants because marigolds are known to keep away some insects that can harm these plants. Just get marigold saplings from the nursery. Dig a small hole with a trowel and place the sapling in the container. Add potting soil gently around the roots. Marigolds can be planted much closer in containers than in the ground. Allow about 3 inches between small varieties and up to 5 inches for giant marigolds. Place your marigolds where the plants will be in sunlight for at least six to eight hours every day. Use any kind of well drained soil. It requires occasional watering.
These are a very prolific, easy-to-grow annual flowers. Also known as `pot marigolds', calendulas produce orange, yellow, and lemon colored blossoms on long stems. Flowers bloom from mid-summer till winter. They look great as indoor embellishments. Calendulas are grown from seeds, which are sown early in the season. They germinate easily and grow real quick. Low in maintenance, calendula plants like rich, well-drained soil, but are also tolerant of average to slightly poor soil. Improving your soil quality will produce much healthier plants and flowers, so add plenty organic fertilizer. Water them during dry periods, once or twice a week.