Perennials, shrubs and trees are the undisputed stars of landscape design, providing structure, texture, longevity and nourishment for pollinators (especially native plants). But annuals, too, can play a valuable role for their ability to fill out a maturing garden and infuse color when perennials have finished blooming. Design-wise, these “one season wonders” offer a chance to change things up from year to year. For the short-term renter or impatient gardener, annuals offer speedy gratification.
If you’re thinking “petunias, geraniums, marigolds – been there, done that,” keep reading. Here are five other easy to grow annuals for sunny locations which will thrive when planted among plants with the same moisture needs.
Cleome, or spider flower, is the tall kid in the back row. Intricate, long-lived blossoms (6+ inches across) in shades of white, purple or pink will attract hummingbirds and pollinators. Seed pods create interesting tendrils. Xeric once established, plants can reach 5′ tall by the end of the summer. Let some seed drop and they may return next year.
RUBY MOON HYACINTH BEAN (Dolichos lab lab)
Move over wisteria and clematis, this Plant Select vine is a show stopper. Burgundy tinged foliage with dark stems which support abundant amethyst flowers. In late summer, this vigorous vine is covered with large dark purple bean pods. Grow it on a trellis, let it climb a fence or freely mound in the full to partial sun garden. Learn more about Ruby Moon here.
LOVE-IN-A-MIST (Nigella damascena )
Love-In-A-Mist sounds like the title of a romance novel, doesn’t it? This delicate, tough plant bears 1″ blue, white, lavender or bicolor flowers which bloom atop 8″ to 12″ finely cut “misty” foliage. It is best grown from seed but occasionally available as seedlings. The bloom morphs into an oval, burgundy striped seed pod which rivals the flower in beauty. Let it reseed for next year, but also treat yourself to some flower and seed pod cuttings.
COSMOS (Cosmos bipinnatus)
Single 2″ to 3″ daisy-like flowers seem to dance above 24″ finely cut foliage. Popular varieties come in pastel/white mixtures; a newly introduced dwarf cultivar is available too. Cosmos can be started from seed or purchased in 4 packs. Don’t let their delicate appearance fool you, they prefer low water conditions and strive in the summer heat. One caution – over fertilizing results in lush foliage and far fewer flowers. Cosmos are a long-lived cut flower, excellent planted in mass and attractive to birds. Will reseed easily, occasional deadheading keeps them at their best.
Big and little kids alike delight in watching sunflowers grow. Sow some seeds in the spring and you’ll thank yourself later – so will the birds. If you prefer, keep your eyes out for sunflower transplants at the garden center. Visit Smart, Smiley Sunflowers for information on the wide variety of cultivars, including shorter and multi-branching options.
Written by Linda McDonnell, a Denver County Master Gardener
Ruby Moon Hyacinth Bean: Plant Select
Sunflower: Jodi Torpey, Denver County Master Gardener
Cosmos, Cleome and Love-In-A-Mist: Pixabay.com, a source of royalty free images