Growing Flowers in Winters

Winter season flowers have the longest period for   flowering. This is the time when a great number of flower species can be grown. Winter season flowers have more potential to grow in gardens, residential areas, road sides, flats and balconies.

The following  information for beginners on growing winter flowers.

  1. Time –  The main crop of winter flowers grown in   North India is between October and March. Almost all winter flowers take 120 to 150 days for growing and flowering. So you can decide the sowing time according to when you want the flower to bloom. For example, you may want to time the flowering  for participation in a flower show competition.
  2. Preparation: The media in which seeds should be sown is prepared in the month of September. The soil is prepared by mixing sweet earth – compost – leaf mould/ coco peat in the ratio of 1:1:1. After properly mixing this material a little quantity of bavestine (fungicide) @ 5 grams per 1 litre of water is added as a precautionary measure against any fungal attack. This mixture is used to sow the seeds in a seed bed or in shallow pots. If you are sowing seeds for crops to produce early blooms in November – December, then seeds should be shown in the month of August. Ensure proper shade and provide protection from any late rainfall.
  3. Sowing of seeds – Before starting to plan and grow seasonal flowers, one should arrange for  quality seeds. Always purchase seeds of  a reputed brand.

Next the sowing mixture should be screened and added to shallow pots. If the seeds are to be sown in a seed bed, please ensure that all rubbish, crop residues, debris and foreign material are removed. Now, the seeds should be properly spread over the levelled surface and covered by a thin layer of the same mixture (amount of surface layer is dependent upon the size of the seed). A gentle shower of water should be applied after covering the surface with a Hessian cloth. The same practice of watering should be continued for 4 – 5 days to keep the media wet. Do not over water. After this period, remove the Hessian cloth. Germination usually   starts by the end of one week.  The  watering frequency can then be reduced to every alternate day. This should be decided by observing the physical appearance of the seedlings.

  1. Transplanting – Within 2-3 weeks your seedlings are ready to be taken out for transplantation in the required location. This should be done in the second half of the day and the seedlings should be picked up by a weeding khurpi or by a small fork so that the root hairs of the seedling are not damaged. Usually small seeds like Sweet Alyssum, Brachioma, Matricaria and Sweet Pea need to be sown directly, as transplanting of these seedlings is not very successful.

Select the size of pots/containers in which the seedlings are to be planted according to the growing habit and size of  the plant. Make a mixture of neem cake, bone meal and DAP in the ratio of 2:1:1, and add a handful of this to the basic soil mixture used previously, 2 – 3 days before transplanting.

  1. A selection of varieties for herbaceous border – These can be divided into the following according to the grown height and suitability of the location:-
  • Edging flowers – if you want to grow flowers along the walkway or show borders away from the middle of the park, then plants such as Sweet Alyssum, Daisy, Matricaria, Brachioma and Viola etc. are suitable varieties. The same species can be grown in small containers or 6” to 8” Earthen pots.
  • Dwarf varieties of flowers – if there is a 3 to 5 ft. width of flower bed, then dwarf varieties like Pansy, Candytuft, Dianthus, Calendula, Aster, Stock, Wall Flowers, Phlox etc. can be grown in the second row of the border.
  • Medium Height flowers – Antirrhinum, Clarkia, Lupinus, Saponaria, Larkspur, Acroclinium, Salvia, Godetia and Gypsophila are suitable flower varieties for the third row or back of the border.
  • Tall Height flowers – there are limited options in this category.They are grown in the back of the herbaceous border, or away from the central point of the garden, along the boundary wall. Flowers such as Hollyhock, Corn Flowers, Single Dahlia and Cosmos can be used.

Flowers for shady areas – Cinerarias and Salvia are the most suitable   varieties to grow in shade areas. Salvia and Single Dahlia can also be grown in semi- shade locations.

Flowers for window sill and parapets – Nasturtium, Petunia, Phlox, Verbena etc.  can be grown in such locations. Trailing flowers enhance the beauty of a building.

Flowers for rockery and mounts –  varieties that require less water and  have a bunching nature should be grown in such locations. Mesembryanthemum, Nasturtium, Petunia andVerbena are suitable varieties.

Flowers for Hanging Baskets – Pansy, Viola, Petunia,Nasturtium, Verbena, Permulas, Callanchu, Sweet alyssum and Daisy are commonly grown in hanging baskets.

Cut flowers – The varieties suitable for cut flowers, flower arrangements, bouquet and baskets etc. are Carnation, Sweet Sultan, Dianthus, Aster, Gypsophila, Helichrysum, Antirrhinum etc.

Aromatic flowers – flowers grown during the winter season attract honey bees and butterflies due to their fragrance. Sweet Alyssum, Sweet Sultan, Sweet William, Sweet Peas, Dianthus, Stock, Phlox and Cherry etc. are commonly grown varieties for fragrance.

Flowers for decoration – for traditional use in decoration, Marigold, Chrysanthemum, Aster, Gladioli and Sunflower are commonly grown in the winter season.

Flowers grown for screening – Single Dahlia, Hollyhock and Corn Flowers are used for screening and as a partition between two areas. Sweet Peas are most suitable for parabolas and fencings.

  1. Colour Scheme
  • Monochromatic colour scheme – we can use one colour of different varieties like yellow Antirrhinum – yellow Nasturtium – yellow Marigold – yellow California Poppy – yellow Pansy.
  • Analogous colour scheme – plant matching shades of flowers like blue  Lupines , blue Antirrhinum , blue Ageratum ,blue Brachioma , blue Viola.
  • Contrast colourscheme : Red Antirrhinum , white Dimorphotheca , maroon Sweet William , yellow Pansy.
  1. Inter culture and growing activity
  • Irrigation and manuring – after planting the seedlings a gentle shower is to be applied as a first irrigation. This should be repeated for 3 days. Then irrigation should be given after an interval of 5-6 days for a period of one month. Watering should be restricted for one week and shallow hoeing should be done by using a weeding khurpi.
  • After hoeing and inter culture let it dry for 4-5 days. In layman’s language khushki should be given to seedlings for proper aeration of roots and restoration of growth energy. After one week when you feel the plant needs immediate watering a gentle feed of 50 grams mixture of Urea – DAP – Bone meal in a ratio of 1:1:1 per square meter should be applied followed by flooding with water. The same practice should be adopted for flowers growing in pots or containers. The fertilizer mixture can be reduced to half  a teaspoon per pot. A similar dose may be applied after one month, in the second half of January.
  • Liquid manuring – when seedlings are ninety days old, a gentle dose of liquid manure should be applied for miraculous growth and bud formation. Depending upon your needs, you can prepare 20 litres or 200 litres of liquid manure. Fill the appropriate container with water and dissolve 1 kg fresh cow dung in 20litres water (10 kg in 200 litres). Add a little quantity of Neem oil cake. Leave for ten days, by which time the liquid starts to become the colour of tea. Mix with a  bamboo stick and  let the solids settle down. Take a mug of clear extract, mix this in 10 to 15 litres of water and apply to your flower seedlings. This will help in branching, bud formation and improving the size of flower.
  • Pinching and disbudding – to get proper branching you should pinch the top growth of seedlings. By this you can attain the desired number of branches and control the size and shape of the bush.

Bud formation can be achieved early in your seasonal flowers but is dependant upon fluctuations in temperature and the  food supplied. To attain proper growth and size it is necessary to remove early buds from immature plants. Sometimes the plug plants/seedlings that arrive from Pune and Bangalore etc. are already forming buds. These should be immediately pinched off for the  healthy growth of the plants.

So the important practices for growing quality flowers up to competitive standard are khushki – feed – pinching – disbudding – liquid manuring – and then training and support.

  • Training and support – the stems of winter flowers are most delicate and soft. When either the number of flowers is more or the size of flowers is bigger than usual, the plant needs proper support to stay upright and bear the weight of the flowers. For this bamboo sticks and sutli/threads are used.
  • Insect and pest control – usually sucking, chewing and boring insects damage the tender vegetation of the flower. Aphids, thrips and mites are most dangerous and harmful for the growth of winter flowers. They attack during the month of February or even in January in cloudy weather when the temperature fluctuates. A gentle spray of malathion or rogor @ 2 ml per litre should be applied two times with an interval of ten days or on a need basis. The curling of leaves is also observed in the early stages of growth and is due to a virus attack but transmitted through insects. It is therefore necessary for their prevention to spray a suitable insecticide well in time or you have to remove the plant.
  1. Display and presentation

flowers grown in pots should be placed in a proper manner according to the location requirement of sun light, and utility of the grower. When you are participating in a competition ensure the following steps:-

a) Painting the pots with the bright colour of chemosam or hiranchi.

b) ensure that bamboo sticks are painted in a green colour and threads used for binding should also be in a matching green colour.

c) the ghera (circle) of the sticks should be made in such a way that all the buds and flowers are visible from every side of the pot. The stick should be cut off in equal level to the plant.

d) tagging – ensure that there is proper tagging so that the class – section, subsection and exhibit number are clearly mentioned on the tag and pots in required number are placed in the right location demarcated by the organiser.

e) if you are making a group of one or more varieties of flower ensure that there are the right number of pots and that their placement is done in a way to increase their brightness and visibility. Bricks or empty pots can be used to raise the central point.

f) outer line can be made of an edging plant like Ophiopogon, Alternanthera or Sweet Alyssum etc. these pots will help to camouflage/enhance the beauty of your exhibit.

Now, sit back and enjoy the burst of colour, fragrance and beauty of your winter flowers.