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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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This exotic-looking beauty has a fantastic bold form and strong appeal. Its pendulous leaves sit on tall, upright stems. King Tut® is a rapid grower that makes an impressive centerpiece in the landscape. It likes wet places like water gardens or waterside and is perfect for containers without drainage holes. This papyrus is easy to grow and untroubled by pests or diseases.
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.
'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.
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.
'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.
Yellow blooms resembling orchids and large, glossy leaves makes 'Jungle Gold' an interesting addition to containers, where it will bloom more profusely than if it were in the ground. It performs well in shade.
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
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 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 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.
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'.
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.
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
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These survivors can stay in pots for years, lending consistency to your designs
by Muffin Evander
Celebrate Spring with Cool-Season Containers
Fill your pots with colorful plants that don't mind chilly weather
by Dennis Schrader
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Spring Containers for Every Style
Whether you want a traditional tapestry or a more modern motif, these designs will kick your season off right
by Jennifer Brennan and Tony Fulmer
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
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