I've got a bunch of annuals and they aren't doing very well. The leaves and flowers are turning brown and purple. Any ideas?

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  • Can you give some information on how much light they are getting (under a tree, half day, by an east wall, etc.), How much you're watering (or it's been raining), What texture the soil is, or any other relevant info you think of? This makes it much easier to make a correct diagnosis. Thanks!
    – J. Musser
    Jul 4, 2014 at 18:55

1 Answer 1


This looks to me like nutrient deficiency; Phosphorus in particular plus a few of the micronutrients. If you've never used compost (decomposed organic matter) now would be a good time. In addition, try fish emulsion for fertilizer. It is a slower release, organic product 5-1-1. Makes plants hardier, more vigorous, more healthier. Then in a week or two give them Osmocote 14-14-14. They won't ever need more (the annuals in your picture, I mean).

Also, when growing annuals, the best thing you can do is cut the flowers off. Annuals have but one job in life and that is to make babies, seed. Once they set seed, it is time to die. The more brutal you are with cutting flowers off, the more vigorous, bud-producing, large, healthy the plant becomes.

I used to do entrance color install and maintenance for homeowner associations. I would cut off every! flower. I had lots of horrified homeowners perplexed. I told them to come back next week, same time. They did and were blown away by the profusion of flowers.

I see seeds on your plants, so part of the problem could be your plants have done their job and they are dying quietly. The fish fertilizer might help, definitely the compost will help. (Evil grin) Cut flowers off! Cut all those seed heads off! All that energy goes back into the plant to use to make itself bigger, stronger and more likely to produce lots of potential seeds. I hope this helps extend your plants' lives.

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    Phosphorus deficiency symptoms can also be a sign of possibly too much water or that the soil is too cold. Both of those, especially after the plant has had a good warm spell can lead it to think it's getting time to drop seeds. Think of how the plant tells that fall is coming on. When that happens, quite a few plants show similar signs to this. Jul 4, 2014 at 1:52
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    A lot of good points except for "Science doesn't know why but this stuff does more than add nutrient". If you can't find a reference for it then it is just an opinion. Can you rephrase this or provide a reference?
    – kevinskio
    Jul 4, 2014 at 11:34
  • Nope. Sometimes that is the truth. Science does studies, finds results but can't say why. There will always be mysteries. Sigh. I'll try to find something more on this.
    – stormy
    Jul 4, 2014 at 17:35
  • I agree with kevinsky. Please rephrase that statement, or add references.
    – J. Musser
    Jul 4, 2014 at 18:50
  • So I cut most of the flowers off, added compost, and applied fish fertilizer. They are looking a bit better. I'm guessing they are getting too much water.
    – Ultravi01
    Jul 17, 2014 at 1:11

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