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Amaranthus cruentus makes a striking statement in beds or borders. Growing to 6 feet in height, it bears somewhat fuzzy-looking spires of purplish red flowers in summer, followed by seed heads that can be red, purple, or yellow. It is native to tropical regions of North and South America, and is one of three Amaranthus species cultivated for their grain.
This hardy annual has vibrant, ornamental red, yellow, and green foliage that lends a tropical effect to the garden. Small flowers, borne from summer to early autumn, are inconspicuous in comparison to the effect of the foliage. Cultivars feature yellow and maroon-shaded leaves, but the species still offers the showiest foliage.
This fast-growing annual of the Midwestern wet meadows grows to 4 or 5 feet tall. Hundreds of 2-inch golden daisies with buttery tips and dark, fringed eyes smother fine foliage in late summer. Be cautioned, this plant generously self-sows, and is on Kentucky's invasive plant list.
Rosettes of cabbage foliage are grown as annuals for fall and winter interest. Color intensifies in cooler temperatures (below 50°F). Good for bedding and containers.
This pepper boasts the most dramatically deep purple-black leaves and fruit imaginable. The vigorous, bushy plants grow to 18 inches tall and almost as wide. Flowers are lilac, and dark black peppers emerge in fall.
The disease-resistant Cora™ series of periwinkles comes in a range of flower colors—from white to lavender to burgundy—and looks great until the first fall frost.
This colorful annual legume bears attractive yellow flowers that have reddish-purple spots at their base. The compound, feathery leaves look like those of sensitive plant. Fruit is contained in a pea pod, which adds additional garden interest and may attract birds.
Cosmos are branching annuals with ferny foliage and pink, crimson, or white flowers that work well in the back of a border. Although introduced in 1799, cosmos did not beome popular for the garden or as the subject of breeding efforts until the early 1900s. The rest is now history. The variety 'Sensation' won the All-American Selection Award of Merit in 1936 for its clear colors of pink and white, on early-blooming, 3- to 4-foot-tall plants. 'Purity' is the glistening white form of cosmos in the 'Sensation' series. 'Sea Shells' has quilled florets. The Sonata Series cultivars are dwarf plants only growing to about a foot or two tall.
Totally Tempted™ cuphea has nonstop, bright red summer flowers that don't need deadheading. It doesn't mind summer heat and has a more compact habit than most cultivars in this species, growing to just a foot tall and a little wider.
'Blue Bird' is a Pacific Hybrid delphinium grown as an annual or biennial. Its mid-blue flowers have white centers. The flowers are large but short-lived and bloom on tall stems from early summer to midsummer. Grow at the back of a border or in the middle of an island bed. There is nothing quite like delphiniums in the garden.
Sunflowers are some of the easiest plants to start from seed. They are available in numerous cultivars which span the range of heights, flower colors, and form.
These branching plants with thick stems and glossy mid-green leaves grow 5 to 6 feet tall. Slightly nodding flowerheads 2.5 inches or more across appear in summer. Bright yellow ray florets are sometimes flushed with red or purple-red disk florets.
A seldom-seen annual or short-lived perennial, this easy-to-grow plant performs as the perfect filler in beds and containers. It forms a well-branched compact mound of deeply lobed, dark green leaves, which provide an interesting textural backdrop to its charming, hibiscus-type flowers. The flowers are truly stunning with their cream petals, purple-hued undersides, and deep burgundy centers. While each flower lasts only a single day, the plant blooms profusely all season and produces inflated seedpods. The flowers will not normally open on a cloudy day, but this is a small price to pay for such a gem of a plant.
This African daisy blooms nonstop from early June through October, even in extreme heat. It has an attractive mounding form and is an ideal candidate for pots and baskets. Its daisy flowers are pale yellow with maroon centers.
This penstemon cultivar has huge red flowers with white throats on upright spikes. The plants bloom all summer, even more so when given a weekly dose of liquid fertilizer. Hardy in Zones 9 and above, Phoenix™ Red is usually grown as an annual.
This spectacular selection shines brightly in the most brutal of circumstances. Month after month, this petunia spills oodles of white- and yellow-throated, pink-rimmed blooms elegantly over bed edges.
Virtually covered in yellow, daisy-type flowers throughout summer, creeping zinnia makes a cheerful addition to any garden. Plants are mat-forming with bright green foliage. Easy to grow and tolerant of heat and drought, creeping zinnia is a generous bloomer that doesn’t need deadheading. It makes a wonderful ground cover and looks great planted among rocks or along pathways. It’s an excellent filler and spiller for containers, and it combines nicely with just about any summer-blooming plant
'Torch' is a quick-growing annual that produces vivid red or orange-red dahlia-like flowers from mid-summer on. Its leaves are somewhat attractive, being dark green and lobed. Plants can reach up to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide in just a few months.
This upright, 30-inch-tall, bushy annual cloaks itself all summer in purple blossoms up to 2 inches across. But more important, it is the forebear of scores of varieties that can be found in almost any place you can buy seeds. There's the Whirligig Series, the California Giants, the Profusion Series, the State Fair Series—the list goes on and on.
The needlelike leaves of these Profusion Series zinnas lend a soft textural feel that contrasts nicely with the glowing hot colors of the flowers. The vibrant flowers are about 2 inches in diameter, and the plants grow to just 12 to 15 inches tall and wide. Use them en masse in borders and beds, or plant them in containers. -Julia Jones, Designing with annuals, Fine Gardening issue #120
Alliums All Season Long
Deer resistant and dynamic, these bulbs provide color from the first showers of spring to the last leaves of fall
by Stephanie Cohen
Spectacular Spring Bloomers
These perennials are the light at the end of the long, wintry tunnel
by Dave Demers
Find out what all the buzz is about by planting these colorful perennials
by Sally Roth
Enchanting Japanese Maples
Two experts pick their favorites based on color, shape
by Francie Schroeder
How to Grow Trilliums
Plant the best species for your region in fall for a spectacular display in spring
by Gene E. Bush
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