Every year we are bombarded with hundreds of choices of annual color. Some of you may not be sure what annual color is - so here is my definition: A plant that will survive for one year or less. And what becomes even more confusing than deciding on what plant to buy, is that some annuals are perennials in the south, while cold annuals in the south, may be summer annuals in the north. Wow! That’s a lot of information to learn. The best way to decide on what’s best for you is to visit your local garden centers and they usually have what grows best in what season for your area. So when choosing annual color you then have to decide, do you want color for just one season or do you want your annual color to last spring through fall. In Texas there are several annuals that will survive from late spring through the first frost.
I’m basically a lazy gardener. I don’t like to do things over and over just to get the same effect. Annuals need to be planted every year or at least most do. I’m the first to tell you I’m not a big fan of annual color, because most plants are beautiful for a very short period of time and then they are gone. So when choosing an annual I want something that will survive for more than one season. I like annuals that will re-seed so they might come back the next year. And of course I need deer resistant plants. This criteria helps narrow down my plant choices.
I’m a big fan of perennials because most of the time you plant them once and enjoy the beauty of them for years. So in most of my garden areas I use perennials for color, but I still like to add a few annuals for added color throughout the summer. Winter months when everything is dormant or just green is a great time for some annual color but not all annuals will survive very cold temperatures. So yes annuals do have the place in landscape design. One of my favorite uses for annual color is in pots and hanging baskets. So here are some of my favorite annual plants.
Moss Rose will grow in full sun or slight shade. It has small flowers in bright colors of pink, orange, yellow, and white. These flowers are about an inch across and look somewhat like a rose. Moss Rose is extremely tolerant of high temperatures and drought conditions. In the south this plant will re-seed itself. So plant it somewhere you want it to grow year after year. And that is what is happening to my pot. I planted the Moss Ross last year and the plants are coming back this year!!
Moss Rose comes in solid colors and/or mixed as shown. You can break off a piece and add it to soil and it will root very easily. Once they fill in the pot it just overflows with this burst of color. And Moss Rose will bloom non-stop until the first freeze.
Zinnias are one of the easiest flowers to grow and are available in just about every form suitable for any landscape situation. They are also one of the easiest plants to germinate from seed. I planted my seeds and within 3 days I could see little green plants. There are several varieties available from ‘Thumbelina’ which grows about 6-8 inches tall, to ‘Giant’ that grows to 3 feet tall. Zinnia flowers are single or double with colors in shades of pink, orange, red, yellow and white. To get the most blooms spent flowers should be removed or dead headed. The flowers have very sturdy stems and are great in flower arrangement. Zinnias are prolific bloomers and will bloom until first frost.
Snapdragons are fragrant annuals that are native to the Mediterranean. The long lasting strong stem flowers are perfect in flower arrangements. In fact, some varieties are grown for commercial use in the floral industry. There are several varieties for your garden as well. There are dwarf varieties and tall varieties and everything in between. The dwarf varieties will get to about 6-10 inches tall and the tall varieties will get up to 48 inches tall. Make sure you check the labels or the packages for plant height. The flowers will bloom in almost all shades except blue. Snapdragons bloom best in cooler temperatures, and will bloom in spring and then in fall again with the occasional bloom throughout the summer. Regular dead heading will keep you plants blooming longer and mulching and regular water will help them survive the summer heat.
All these annuals are similar in colors and may re-seed and come back again next year. I love the fact that I may not have to buy annual plants every year. In most of my designs, whether commercial or residential, I like to leave a small focal spot for an area of annual color. I like to limit my use of annuals because it can get expensive every year and I can get just as much color from perennials.