When spring arrives, I always rush to the local plant nurseries to peruse the tables filled with flats of fabulous flowers ready for garden beds. Annual flowers provide the eye-popping hues that make a garden come alive. While shrubs and trees give the garden structure and can also have gorgeous blooms, annuals are the seasonal divas that can steal the show with their extravagant bling.
By definition, “annuals” (often called bedding plants) are plants that complete their entire life cycle from seed to flower to seed in a single growing season, with all parts of the plant dying annually. Annual plants have a long blooming season but need to be planted again each spring. Some tender perennial plants (plants that can come back again the next year) like begonias, geraniums, and impatiens are often used as annuals in garden beds. Annuals provide the biggest bang when massed together in a bed, on a trellis, in window boxes, or in containers that are strategically placed where you can enjoy them. Their vibrant colors, textures and interesting shapes provide a focal point and help deflect the eye away from any garden deficiencies. Plant annuals where you need to liven up the space, have a bare spot, or by the front door to welcome guests. Adding annuals is a quick fix if you are trying to sell your home.
When designing with annuals, consider selecting no more than three different hues for your color scheme. Too many different color combos can prove a distraction and make the garden look busy. Know the light requirements of each annual; plant sun-loving annuals together in sunny beds and shade-loving annuals where they can be protected from the sun. Also learn how tall and wide each annual grows. Place tall annuals in the back of your beds or containers and shorter annuals in the front.
Planting and Maintenance:
To get the most bang for your buck with annuals, take the time to plant and maintain them correctly. Annuals can be sown from seed directly into a garden bed, seeded indoors and transplanted to the bed, or purchased as plants from your local nursery. Annuals planted in a garden bed thrive in loose, well-drained soil. Dig down at least six inches or more and break up the native soil. Add compost and coarse pine bark, sand, or perlite to enhance drainage. If you are planting annuals in containers, buy bags of a soilless potting mixture specifically formulated for container plants. You can also go online and find recipes for making your own soilless mix. Most are made with peat moss and perlite or vermiculite.
Keep annuals well watered and don’t let their roots dry out. Annuals planted in pots may have to be watered every day or more during the heat of the summer. When hand watering, refrain from wetting the foliage and flowers to cut down on fungal diseases. Adding mulch to your annual beds will help keep the soil moist during the summer.
Since annuals are working hard and fast to bloom and go to seed in just one season, they benefit greatly from an extra boost of fertilizer. You can add a slow-release fertilizer (one that releases the nutrients over a period of time) at planting. If the cost of slow-release fertilizer is a concern, just sprinkle 10-10-10 fertilizer every six weeks or so at a rate of one pound per 100 square feet. Annuals planted in pots will continue to bloom profusely if you apply a water-soluble fertilizer every ten days. If you want to cut down on the use of chemicals in your garden, try any of the excellent organic fertilizers on the market for annuals. Don’t forget to deadhead your annuals (take off spent blooms) to encourage new flowers, discourage pests, and keep the garden looking attractive and well tended.
Amazing Annuals for 2015
It is always exciting to see what new annuals come on the market each year. Since there are so many to choose from, select only annuals that have been proven to perform well in our challenging hot and humid climate.
Cora Vinca (Catharanthus roseus) was recently chosen the 2015 Georgia Gold Medal Winner for annuals. This lovely, spreading periwinkle is easy to grow, heat and humidity tolerant, and disease and deer resistant! It looks great in a garden bed, container, hanging basket, or as a groundcover, with large flowers and a uniform growth.
SunPatiens® ‘Spreading Shell Pink’ (impatiens x hybrid) thrives in high heat, full sun or shade, rain, and humidity. It is a 2015 All-America Selection (AAS). AAS tests and introduces superior new plants from seed and cuttings. An All-America Selection plant is the best of the best. SunPatiens ‘Spreading Shell Pink’ blooms continually with gorgeous soft pink flowers and spreads vigorously. The plant is resistant to downy mildew, which tends to be a big problem with impatiens.
Ornamental Pepper NuMex Easter (Capsicum annuum) is another All-America Selection from 2014. It is a showy plant that features small clusters of fruits on top of the plant in colors that range from lavender to light yellow to light orange, reminiscent of the colors of an Easter egg. This ornamental pepper looks stunning in containers or hanging baskets placed in full sun.
Petunia Trilogy Red F1 (Petunia x atkinsiana) is another selection in the Trilogy petunia series that is a brilliant red color. A 2015 AAS winner, this petunia has large, upright blooms that continue throughout the season. It thrives in full sun, is heat-tolerant and recovers quickly after a rain.
Angelonia Serenita Pink F1 (Angelonia angustifolia) was selected a 2014 AAS Flower Award Winner. This summer snapdragon is heat tolerant, drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, needs little maintenance and has long-lasting blooms that work well in containers.
Coleus Wildfire ‘Smoky Rose’ (Coleus) A member of the mint family, coleus is prized for its multi-colored, variegated foliage. Terra Nova Nurseries recently introduced several new coleus color combos, and ‘Smoky Rose’ has dark leaves with vivid pink centers and bushy, dense indented leaves. It is a spectacular focal point in the garden when mass planted or placed in a container.
Begonia Cocoa ‘Enchanted Sunrise’ (Begoniaceae) is a 2014 introduction by Terra Nova Nurseries. This colorful full-shade begonia has big salmon-colored blooms and dark chocolate leaves with lime-green veins. It is versatile enough to be used in a garden border, in a pot placed in the shade, or even as a house plant that will bloom in the winter.
Pump up the eye appeal of your garden this year by experimenting with some of these spectacular new annuals on the market.