Easy Peasy Summer Annuals For the Garden

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When it comes to summer annuals, many gardeners want easy-care options. They want varieties that can be planted and then left alone for the rest of the season, aside from a little watering when the soil feels dry and  maybe the addition of a little fertilizer, according to label directions.

These annuals do not require snipping off spent flowers (called “deadheading”) to keep them blooming. The main job of an annual is to bloom, form seed and die in one season. In that transition, annuals bloom their heads off. Here are five annuals ready for spectacular summer shows.

Angelonia Adds Height

Looking for something to put in the middle or back of a container, or a beauty to decorate the landscape? Angelonia is a good candidate. This annual looks a bit like orchids on stalks. The Serena series of angelonias are in the 16- to 20-inch range, whereas Angelface angelonias range from 8 to 30 inches tall. The taller ones make nice cut flowers. There are lots of beautiful colors too – dark blue, light blue, pink, white, bi-color and more. Angelonias do best in full sun or light shade.

Begonia Beautifies

There are so many fantastic annual begonias available right now, and gardeners can pretty much be assured of success. Some are great for sun, some for shade and some for both. Many begonias, such as the orange Santa Cruz or Bonfire, gracefully cascade over the edges of window boxes, porch pots and hanging baskets. Dragon Wing, Angel Wing, Big, Whopper and Surefire are popular varieties that come with red, white or pink flowers. Other varieties have bronze leaves, while some have green.

Coleus Boasts Colorful Leaves

Gone are those spindly, short, shade-loving annuals our grandparents appreciated for the their lovely leaf colors. Today’s coleus retains many of its ancestors’ assets but enhances them, especially with their size and spectacular leaf colors. The new coleuses are hefty plants, some reaching up to 40 inches in height. Others trail over the sides of containers. Many do well in blaring hot sun, others thrive in shade, and some can handle both. Redhead, Dipt in Wine, Saturn, Henna and Sedona are popular, reliable varieties, but there are dozens to choose from. Wedding Train, Chocolate Drop and Strawberry Drop are trailing alternatives.

Salvias Reach Great Heights

Many of the salvias Hoosiers grow as annuals are technically tender perennials. These plants are more apt to survive winter in the southern part of the state and possibly in protected areas elsewhere. Among the most popular are Black and Blue as well as Black and Bloom. These sun lovers get up to 3 feet tall, making them dramatic additions to containers or the landscape. Bees, hummingbirds, hummingbird moths and butterflies are among salvias’ visitors. The flowers are also lovely in a vase for indoor enjoyment.

Mexican Sunflowers End the Season

This orange-flowered, late-summer annual is easy to start from seed. Migrating butterflies, such as monarchs, and other pollinators will reward your effort, which is as easy as sticking a seed in the ground in early summer, watering it as needed and letting it grow. Look for Fiesta del Sol, a 2000 All-America Selections winner in the 2- to 3-foot range. A sun lover with many branches, Mexican sunflowers are a popular cut flower for late-season bouquets.

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