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Learning to Grow: Annuals you must try this summer

Published: Friday, July 5, 2013 2:57 p.m. CST
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(Provided photo)
Celosia plants love sun and heat and can grow colorful plumes of flowers.

There are so many spectacular annuals that are not planted nearly enough - the plants that need hot sunshine for best growth. When people shop for their summer flowers around Mother’s Day, they miss these beauties still growing in greenhouses waiting to burst into beauty with longer and warmer days.

Angelonia – Angelonia is commonly called summer snapdragon because its flowers resemble those of the snapdragon. Flower spikes in shades of pink, rose, purple or white rise from bushy dark green mounds. There are shorter types – about a foot tall – and taller varieties up to three feet tall. I love the Archangel series. They are shorter in stature but have larger flowers.

Whichever kind you choose, they flower heavily from early summer to frost. Angelonia plants love the sun and perform beautifully in the garden or containers through the hottest summer weather.

Celosia – Another sun and heat lover, celosia boasts large plumes of flowers in shades of yellow, gold, orange, red and pink. Showy in the garden or in containers, the flowers can be cut for bouquets and also dried.

I fell in love with a new variety this year – Tornado Red. Instead of flower plumes, it blooms in loose, large, velvety magenta cockscombs with lots of side shoots. Stunning!

Pentas –  Hummingbirds and butterflies will love pentas as much as you do. Small, star-shaped flowers form large colorful clusters that bloom all summer long at the top of small mounds. Plant these in containers or at the edge of your patio where you can enjoy all the winged visitors.

Ornamental Millet –  Ornamental Millet is an annual grass that can grow from two to five feet tall with wide leaf blades. Very large bottlebrush fuzzy spikes of brownish purple to maroon begin in mid summer and continue into fall.  

These bold foliage accents highlight any flowering annual both in beds and mixed together in containers.

My favorite is Jade Princess. Wide, chartreuse leaves highlight any other flowering annual in containers or in the garden. I planted it in a large container with purple fountain grass, Inky Fingers coleus, bright yellow and magenta flowers, and sweet potato vines.

Vinca – Flowering vinca has been around a long time for good reason. It is drought-tolerant and doesn’t need deadheading. The foliage is glossy and dark green with a leathery appearance. The flowers are in just about every shade of red, rose, lavender, pink and white – some with a contrasting eye. It blooms profusely all summer long.

Visit your local garden center and check out what’s blooming now. It may offer a new palette of plants to add to your landscape.

• Diana Stoll is a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for information.

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