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A large ornamental okra with dinner-plate-sized, sulfur yellow flowers with dark eyes. Each flower lasts only a day—unfolding slowly in the morning and closing gradually in the evening—but the abundance of flowers open on any one day conceals their short life span.
There are many cultivars available of this fast-growing annual. They are best used as bedding, edging, or container plants. Panicles of blue, pink, purple, or white flowerheads arise from oval, downy leaves in midsummer and continue until frost. They have a soft, fuzzy appearance and attract butterflies.
This early, compact bloomer grows to only about 6 or 7 inches tall. With its icy blue-purple flowers, it works well when planted tightly along the foreground of a bed. Its color blends easily with most other hues and textures. -Julia Jones, Designing with annueals, Fine Gardening issue #120
This dark-leaved, tropical foliage plant loves heat, and is useful spreading through a bed, border, or in a container where its deep purple leaves can contrast with brightly colored flowers or foliage. Alternanthera are native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of Central and South America. Their flowers are generally an afterthought. This plant works well for edging, as an annual groundcover, or in a formal knot garden.
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.
As an herb, A. graveolens is commonly grown for the culinary attributes of its leaves and seeds. Its distinctive foliage texture and flower color and form make this plant a nice companion in a mixed border. It provides a valuable food source for butterfly larvae and attracts beneficial insects also.
This plant produces upright racemes of two-lipped flowers with spreading, rounded lobes in a vast arrray of warm colors. It flowers profusely summer through autumn.
This tuberous begonia bears green heart-shaped foliage with red veining and claret-stained undersides that steal the show when backlit. Pendent clusters of slightly fragrant, satiny pink or white blossoms open from midsummer until frost. It makes a good perennial companion for ferns and hostas.
English daisy bears stems topped with a single white, daisy-like flower. The flowers are tinged maroon and yellow; but cultivars are available with single, semi-double, or double button flowers in shades of white, pink, salmon, and ruby. The plant's smooth, spoon-shaped leaves form neat rosettes. This carpeting perennial is often grown as a biennial. Its many cultivars are used for bedding out or container displays.
This heirloom beet from 1840 is primarily grown for its tender, sweet, deep red-burgundy foliage, but the beets are tasty when harvested at the 2- to 3-inch size. The glossy leaves reach 18 inches high. Though it is edible, it is often grown as an ornamental, and its dark leaves contrast nicely with many garden plants.
This is a sweet Swiss chard with beautiful candy-apple-red stalks and dark green, crinkly leaves with touches of red. Both the leaves and the stalks are very ornamental and 'Ruby Red' is great in a vegetable or cottage garden, or in an ornamental bed or border. It is especially attractive when grown with plants whose colors call attention to the red coloring. Although related to beets, the root is inedible, but the leafy greens are valued for their mild flavor and high nutritional value.
These fast-growing plants with succulent, bristly stems are old-fashioned favorites of the border or herb garden. They self sow to produce a succession throughout the season of new plants and blossoms. The beautiful flowers are edible and are particularly bequiling on salad or floating in summer drinks.
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 plant produces distinct, 2-inch blossoms primarily in rich blue (but also in shades of purple and white), with dark eyes smudged white. It is suitable for sun and partial shade.
Pot marigolds bloom most of the summer, but are intolerant of intense heat and may die out during periods of hot humid weather. Their branching stems are covered with simple, alternate leaves and they produce large flowers in different hues of yellow and orange in the summer.
This rose-and-cream Calibrachoa is one of a kind. The unique markings on the petals and the plant's mounding habit make it a standout in hanging baskets and containers.
Calibrachoa is a relatively new genus of flowering plants. The first cultivars weren't released until 1992. This cultivar's self-cleaning, petunia-like flowers are painted in a sunny mix of orange, red, and yellow. It is an easy-to-grow, trailing perennial, often used as an annual in hanging baskets, window boxes, and other containers.
Calibrachoas are great alternatives to petunias. Superbells® Dreamsicle is cloaked with larger-than-usual, yellow-throated apricot-orange flowers. It can create a carpet of color or cascade beautifully from a container.
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.
The flowers of this celosia cluster together in great numbers and look like silky, feathery plumes in vivid hues of yellow, red, magenta, or apricot. The plumes rise above the foliage on 2-foot-tall stalks, which wave their flags of color in the breeze from July to frost.
Best used as a foliage plant, this plant's intricately cut, frosty-silver leaves produce a large, elegant arching mound. It also bears pale lavender-blue pin-cushion flowers on lanky 30-inch stems in late spring.
Bachelor's buttons bear charming and prolific flowers in hues of blue, pink, lavender, white, and maroon. Those with a true blue color are especially welcome in the garden as that color is rare in nature. Each disc-shaped flower is about 1.5 inches across, with ragged petals radiating out from the center.
A rare and graceful beauty, this plant is not a true foxglove, but its flowers are similarly shaped and hang in clusters. They come in shades of white and pink with pale violet stripes highlighting the inner throats. This plant’s soft coloring brings the delicacy typical of spring-blooming plants into the summer garden. The gray-green foliage has a distinctly nutty fragrance and is deer resistant. As a large-scale plant, South African foxglove holds its own when planted among shrubs and is best complemented by plants with deep purple foliage. It also makes a good cutting flower.
Though subtly colored, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ draws comment wherever it inserts itself. The steely purple bracts and leathery gray foliage of this annual seem extraterrestrial poking up among more conventional herbaceous plants. It is an annual from the Mediterranean region with leaves like a eucalyptus and flowers like a purple euphorbia. This plant produces large black seeds that drop to the ground in late summer and germinate in fall to start the cycle all over again if growing conditions are right.
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.
Feathery, almost fern-like leaves are mid- to dark green. In summer, larkspur bears delphinium-like open to densely packed spikes to 24 inches tall of pink, white, or violet-blue double flowers.
In spring, this biennial produces small yellow flowers, which are carried tightly over finely divided, sea green leaves. It self-sows freely.
This species produces copious purplish-blue flowers in spring and fall. It has light green ferny leaves with a mid-rib of silver.
This unique annual produces quilled blossoms of hollow, tube-shaped petals that radiate from the center in shades of white, pink, or carmine red. The flowers, which bloom all summer long, sometimes have bicolored interior and exterior tubes.
This series of annuals produces extra large, cup-shaped blossoms to 3-1/2 inches across in shades of white or pink all summer long.
This series produces compact plants 1 foot tall and about as wide with large blossoms in pure white and many shades of pink. These season-long performers make fine edging plants.
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.
The intense scarlet red blooms and yellow centers of this bedding plant will stop you in your tracks. ‘Cosmic Red’ blooms all summer and looks great at the front of the border and in containers. As with other cosmos cultivars, grow this plant in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. The already hypnotic color will intensify as light levels increase.
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.
Datura metel grows 3 to 4 feet tall with large dark green leaves that have a bad smell. However, the large trumpet-shaped flowers have a sweet fragrance that spreads throughout the garden in the morning and evening. Flowers may be single or double and range from white and yellow to pink and purple.
'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.
These modern hybrids bear salmon-pink blossoms ('Doris' has scarlet in the center) and bloom freely with moderate fragrance.
'Summer Sundae' Sweet William is a nice mix of red, pink, and white flowers held in rounded groups at the tops of stems. Plants bloom from late spring to early summer. The flowers are lightly fragrant. Use in a cottage garden or border, or in containers. It flowers the first year from seed.
Fringed flowers in shades of bright red with white centers open without fragrance in summer.
A captivating little plant for the front of the border, tassel flower produces small, scarlet-orange pompons which, when viewed from a distance, seem like they’re floating in air. The flowers cluster at the top of wiry stems that rise from a basal rosette of blue-green leaves. Plants occasionally self-sow when sited in a good location. With its small habit, tassel flower lends itself well to container gardens and fresh-cut flower arrangements, adding an element of whimsy. Its delicate and airy nature looks best with bold-leaved or showy plants in the background, creating a see-through effect. To magnify their magic, mass several plants together.
California poppies grow to about 12 inches tall, and their pretty foliage is ferny, like carrot tops. They come in a variety of colors, from the standard golden orange, to yellow, cream, and red. Grow them in a border or rock garden.
California poppies grow to about 12 inches tall, and their pretty foliage is ferny, like carrot tops. This cultivar has soft rose colored, double blooms with yellow centers.
Diamond Frost euphorbia is an absolute workhorse in the garden, blooming almost the entire planting season and with no deadheading needed. Don't let its delicate appearance fool you - it's exceptionally resistant to both heat and frost.
Blanket flower is a bushy annual that produces red or yellow (or red and yellow) flowers over a long season. The blooms are daisy-shaped with a dark purple central disk. Growing to about 18 inches tall, this native of central and southern U.S. and Mexico is nice in a meadow, cut flower garden, border, or rock garden.
A bushy, hairy-leaved annual, globe amaranth bears round purple flower bracts on thick stems in summer and early fall. This plant is useful as summer bedding or in a border or cutting garden. It is fairly drought tolerant and very heat tolerant. It grows to about 2 feet tall.
An upright, bushy annual with flowers (actually bracts) that resemble bright red strawberries with tiny yellow "seeds." Flowers are produced from summer to early fall and are great for cutting and drying. Leaves are hairy. Gomphrena is fairly drought tolerant and very heat tolerant. Use as bedding, in a border, or in a cut flower 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.
'Marine' heliotrope has a compact form with broadly oval to lance-shaped, wrinkled leaves tinged with purple. In summer, it bears a profusion of fragrant deep violet-blue flowerheads up to 6 inches across.
Heliotrope has a compact form with broadly oval to lance-shaped, wrinkled leaves tinged with purple. In summer, it bears a profusion of deep violet-blue or lavender-blue flowerheads up to 6 inches across. Cultivars vary in height as well as bloom fragrance and color.
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 plant has a sparsely branched form and narrow lance-shaped, pale green leaves. Cup-shaped hooded flowers 1-2 inches across, either singly or in clusters, are followed by explosive seed capsules. A variety of colors are available, including rose, lilac, and creamy yellow.
Cajun Series™ impatiens come in various colors, and their rich, saturated tints are a perfect choice for brightening shady borders. These impatiens grow to about a foot tall and bloom from summer to frost. -Julia Jones, Designing with annuals, Fine Gardening issue #120
Cardinal climber is a twining annual with deeply lobed mid-green leaves and 1-inch crimson blooms with white throats appearing in summer.
This unusual annual vine can add vertical interest to the garden. Its vivid blossoms (red tooth-like flowers that fade to orange and then yellow and white) are a hummingbird magnet. Firecracker vine can bloom year round in warm climates, but generally blooms from summer to fall. It is a native of Mexico and Central and South America. -Julia Jones, Designing with Annuals, Fine Gardening issue #120
This annual climber has winged stems and deliciously fragrant, ruffled blossoms. Many cultivars exist with varying bloom color (solid, mixed, or bicolor), size, and climbing habit.
A vigorous grower, this plant climbs by grasping tendrils, reaching 10 feet high. It has sweet-pea-like flowers and lacy foliage composed of pairs of leaflets.
Unlike most trailing lobelias, this cultivar does not falter in hot temperatures. Techno® Blue is covered in intense, cobalt blue flowers. Its semitrailing, mounding habit is a great addition to containers and hanging baskets.
The yellow-green trumpet-shaped flowers of 'Lime Green' flowering tobacco mix well with many other colors in the garden. Growing to 2 or 3 feet tall, this annual's flowers attract hummingbirds and are fragrant at night.
Broad, deep-green leaves nearly a foot long and panicles of flowers the color of a Granny Smith apple make this Nicotiana a great companion for many other garden plants. It looks especially handsome with dark-foliaged trees or shrubs like purple smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) or ‘Diabolo’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’). It is also good with grasses. N. langsdorffii comes into its own as a moderator wherever colors clash. That chameleon-like quality makes this nicotiana’s propensity to self-sow most welcome; no matter where its progeny appear, they look great.
This thick-stemmed annual or short-lived perennial reaches 5 to 6 feet tall, forming a large basal rosette of dark green leaves to 36 inches long. Lightly fragrant, long and tubular white flowers dangle in dense clusters from atop the tall stems. This plant starts blooming in late July or August. Flowers close in full sun.
Love-in-a-mist-bears delicate flowers 1.5 inches across in various shades of blue and white, surrounded by finely divided foliage. Blooms appear mainly in May and June, and sporadically throughout the summer, followed by attractive 1-inch-wide green seedpods that change to cream and burgundy over time.
This easy-going annual has 2- to 3-inch-wide blue flowers with black centers and wine-colored stamens, along with light green ferny foliage. Striking chalice-shaped seedpods form on sturdy stems and are green when they emerge, turning tan as they harden.
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.
In summer, beautiful brilliant red flowers top the branching stems with downy leaves of this 3-foot-tall poppy.
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 easy, fast-growing annual cascades 3 feet or more from window boxes or hanging baskets. It's a prolific bloomer, with nonstop, violet flowers approximately 1.5 inches wide blanketing the foliage. Plants bloom from May through the first frost.
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.
This biennial makes a superb, self-sown companion in a mixed border or wild garden. It reaches up to 5 feet tall and exhibits a long-lasting, airy spray of small, daisy-like blossoms in yellow with purple-black centers. The flowers are beautiful in late summer bouquets.
Long, narrow leaves grow in rosettes near the ground. Flower stems shoot upward to 2 feet with 3-inch-wide, petunia-like, purple, blue, or scarlet flowers marked with broad veins of gold. Cultivars include 'Splash,' 'Bolero,' and the more compact-growing 'Casino'.
From spring to summer, this annual produces multiple flower spikes with tiny flowers enclosed in showy bracts in shades of white, pink, or purple and marked with darker veins. Plants grow 18-20 inches tall and about half as wide. They are especially dramatic in large groupings. Salvia viridis is excellent as a long-lasting cut or dried flower.
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
This tuberous-rooted tender perennial is related to portulaca, but has fleshy green leaves and delicate, wiry flower stalks. Stalks have a fine, see-through texture. Minute hot pink flowers are followed by carmine-colored seed pods that are showier than the flowers. The variety 'Kingwood Gold' has chartreuse foliage. Plants can grow to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
This fragrant annual is covered with delicate, daisy-like yellow blossoms in July and August. It is best grown as a groundcover, between paving stones, or in a rock garden. It has needle-like, almost ferny leaves and grows to 1 foot tall and wide.
'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.
Wishbone flower is a small, bushy annual that is especially valuable because it blooms abundantly in shady conditions. The species has lilac-blue flowers with deep purple lower lips and a yellow-blotched throat. Cultivars are available in many colors including pink, rose, white, and burgundy. It's a great choice for edging and containers. Container plants may be brought indoors for winter bloom.
Golden Moon™ brightens up gardens with unique, saturated gold-and-maroon blooms. This vigorous, low-growing introduction is loaded with flowers all season long. It is beautiful in a container.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows 10-12 inches tall. In summer and early fall, it bears deep red and orange blossoms, which are offset by rounded leaves with white variegation. The leaves and flowers are edible.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows 12 inches tall and about as wide. In summer and fall, it bears cherry-red flowers. These annuals are native to South America. They are suitable for garden edges, herb gardens, covering banks, hanging baskets, and other containers.
This old-fashioned cultivar has a mounding habit and grows to a foot tall and wide. In summer and fall, it bears double, deep scarlet flowers. The rounded leaves and five-petaled flowers are edible.
This climbing, old-fashioned cultivar grows to 8 feet tall. In summer and fall, it bears flowers of maroon, yellow, cream, and orange, and in-between shades of peach, apricot, salmon, and scarlet. The leaves are marbled with white variegation. The leaves and flowers are edible.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows 12-18 inches tall and wide. In summer and fall, it bears mahogany red, single to semi-double flowers. The rounded leaves and spurred, five-petaled flowers are edible.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows to 12 inches tall and wide. In summer and fall, it bears pale yellow blossoms. The rounded leaves and spurred, five-petaled flowers are edible.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows 9-12 inches tall and wide. In summer and fall it bears creamy-yellow blossoms with orange blotches. The rounded leaves and spurred, five-petaled flowers are edible.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows to 12 inches tall and wide. In summer and fall, it bears creamy-yellow blossoms with red blotches. Both the rounded leaves and spurred, five-petaled flowers are edible.
This cultivar of the old-fashioned species has a mounding habit and grows to 12 inches tall. It bears cream blossoms with strawberry blotches.
This old-fashioned cultivar has a mounded habit and grows to 12 inches tall and about as wide. In summer and fall, it bears blossoms of tangerine to deep salmon. Both the rounded leaves and spurred flowers are edible.
This old-fashioned cultivar of the species has a mounding habit and grows up to 18 inches tall and a foot wide. From summer to frost, it bears blossoms in shades of yellow, red, and orange which are held clear above the foliage.
This outstanding hybrid blooms from spring until frost and has beautifully dissected foliage. Innumerable clusters of purple blossoms cover this plant and look fantastic cascading over the edges of a hanging basket. Verbenas are excellent for annual borders, containers—especially hanging baskets—and for the mixed herbaceous border.
This annual, biennial, or short-lived perennial is grown for its long season of pansy flowers in shades of purple, blue, yellow, and white. Viola tricolor is pretty in containers, as edging, or as a companion for bulbs. It self-seeds readily.
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.
This annual series is comprised of dwarf, compact plants, 10 to 12 inches tall and half as wide. They bloom all summer with fully double blossoms, to 4 inches wide, in apricot, ivory, red, yellow, pink, and many shades in between.
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
Don't Judge Peonies On Looks Alone
All three types offer something different, from shade tolerance to long bloom seasons
by Ann Stratton
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
Building Better Borders
Use plant combinations that focus on complementary colors, textures, and forms
Find out what all the buzz is about by planting these colorful perennials
by Sally Roth
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