Plant annuals for easy summer color
Annuals grow from seed to flower to seed in one growing season and usually are killed by frost. Their whole purpose is to produce seed, which is why they are reliable for their flowers. Even annuals grown for their colorful leaves, such as coleus, eventually bloom.
Annuals do best when they have adequate fertilizer and they don’t have to compete with weeds. In the ground, Preen Garden Weed Preventer Plus Plant Food accomplishes in one step a season of weed prevention and fertilizer for established annuals or perennials.
We can pick annuals just because we like the color, fragrance, the way the foliage looks framed against the house, or to cut for indoor enjoyment. Some thrive in shade. Some need sun, and others can take either. Most annuals do well in the landscape, window boxes and other containers. At the end of the season, pull these plants from the garden or containers and dispose in the compost. Or, if the seed heads or foliage are attractive in fall or winter, pull the plants from the soil during spring cleanup.
Here are a couple to try:
It wasn’t that long ago that verbenas (Verbena) were scraggily with small flowers and a tendency to get fungus disease or spider mites. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case.
Several garden-worthy large-flowering, all-summer-blooming verbenas have been introduced in recent years. These are much less bothered by pests. The newer varieties also are self-cleaning, so there’s no need to snip off the spent blooms, called deadheading.
Verbena thrives in full sun and average soil. Water when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Verbena is fairly drought-tolerant, and if allowed to dry out, it usually can be revived with a good soaking and shearing back any dead growth.
Many verbenas have a nice cascading habit, which makes them ideal for softening the rims of window boxes or containers. That spreading characteristic also helps fill gaps in sunny garden beds among perennials or shrubs. Depending on the cultivar, verbenas range from 4 to 6 inches tall with a spread of 8 to 24 inches.
Annual verbenas are fairly cold-tolerant, which means they continue blooming through a couple of freezes. As a bonus, verbenas attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers also can be cut for indoor arrangements.
Recommended cultivars include: Tapien series ‘Salmon;’ Turkana series ‘Scarlet Star;’ ‘Peaches & Cream;’ Babylon series ‘White;’ and Tapestry series, ‘Lilac Blue.’ Some verbenas are perennials in USDA Zones 6, 7 and warmer, such as ‘Homestead Purple’ and ‘Imagination.’
Bloodleaf (Iresine), which gets its name from the color of its foliage, is one of those tender, tropical plants that has escaped the house and made a home for itself in the summer garden.
Several new, very showy cultivars have been introduced the last several years, prized for the striking foliage color. It rarely flowers. The upright bloodleaf is perfect as a centerpiece in a container planting or as a backdrop in a window box. Iresine get up to 24 inches tall, depending on the cultivar.
Iresine is very heat-tolerant and extremely low-maintenance. It can be grown in shade to full sun; however the latter may cause some leaf fade on the darker varieties. It prefers moist, well-drained soil. Iresine is a frost-tender plant in northern climates, but is winter-hardy in USDA Zone 10 and warmer.
Recommended cultivars include: ‘Blazin’ Rose;’ ‘Blazin’ Lime;’ and ‘Aureoreticulata.’