8 Awesome Annuals that Love Hot and Dry Conditions
Native to Mexico, zinnias are easy to grow from seed. Sow them directly in the garden.
Zinnias thrive in heat and when the weather is cool, they don't grow or flower very well. If you are sowing indoors make sure they have good air circulation to prevent mildew.
Another way to prevent mildew is to soak the soil when watering instead of using a spray. Also be careful not to over-water these plants.
This pretty plant grows from a dwarf 10 inches to cutting types of 3 feet. Available in a wide range of colors from white, red and yellow to orange, pink and plum.
Blooms can be single or double, and they don't need to be pinched back or pruned.
They prefer hot, dry weather once they are established and make perfect cut flowers, and another great thing, the more you cut the more the plants produce.
Cutting: Cut right above a leaf joint; remove extra foliage; place ends in boiling water for twenty seconds and then place in warm water for several hours.
Interesting Tidbit: Zinnia were once called everybody's flower and poorhouse flower because they were so easily grown and common looking. The common name, garden Cinderella, alludes to the transformation that the zinnia underwent. In 1886 a French botanist produced the first double zinnia in bright colors, and in 1920 Luther Burbank produced the first dahlia-like zinnia.
Native to Africa and also known as vinca, this is one of the most heat tolerant of all annuals.
Thriving in full, hot sun, it blooms prolifically from early summer until frost.
It is particularly useful as a ground cover because it grows equally as well in sun or shade. Though blooming, which occurs in late spring, is much better in the sun.
Growing these flowers from seeds can be a bit taxing on the inexperienced gardener. They should be sown indoors in northern areas and they need total darkness to germinate.
Not only do the seeds need to be covered with dirt, they need to be covered in black plastic and placed in a closet. I always get mine from the local nursery, it makes things much easier.
The plants grow 10 to 20 inches tall and they spread almost 2 feet across. Periwinkle comes in colors of rose, white, red, orchid, pink, apricot and bluish, and often with a contrasting center. It has a waxy, lush foliage that grows rapidly in full sun.
Cutting: Either burn ends or dip in boiling water. Place in cool water overnight.
Interesting Tidbit: Rosy periwinkle, a tropical species, contains an alkaloid necessary to make the drug vincristine, which is used to treat many forms of cancer.
Native to South America, moss rose needs little water once it's established. It is heat and drought tolerant, and thrives during a long hot summer.
Sow the seeds in full sun in the garden after the last spring frost. Thin the plants to 10 to 12 inches apart.
Blooms should appear eight weeks after sowing. Do not water this plant too frequently, it blooms better when kept on the dry side.
This flower is also a hardy annual that can take some cold weather, so it won't be killed by a light frost and will bloom well into the fall.
Flower colors are yellow, orange, cream, white, red, scarlet, pink and fuchsia and you can usually find mixes of colors when you buy plants at the nursery.
The tissue paper-like petals close at night and they create colorful ground covers. These are also a great plant in hanging baskets.
Interesting Tidbit: A German legend tells the origin of portulaca - An angel walking through a forest became tired and sat underneath a rose tree to rest. When she awoke, the angel thanked the tree for its hospitality and offered to spread a carpet of moss underneath its branches to keep its roots cool. This moss we now call moss rose.
Native to Mexico, the cosmos is an airy and delicate flower that adds nice texture as well as color to the summer garden.
The leaves are finely dissected, the blossoms daisy-like. Once the seedlings are established, they can withstand long periods of heat and drought.
Planting from seed is very easy, just sow the seeds directly in your garden in the late spring. In eight to ten weeks the blooms will appear.
Cosmos need full or half-day sun and thrive in good, rich garden soil. But, If need be, they will adapt to less fertile conditions
They will seed themselves, so you'll often find seedlings, both later in the season and the next year.
Available in a wide variety of colors like yellow and white, scarlet, pink, rose and red, these plants range from a dwarf form up to 12 inches in height to a bushy 6 feet tall.
Cutting: Cut blooms when almost open; leave them in cool water overnight.
Interesting Tidbit: The word cosmos is from the Greek word meaning "ordered universe" and the name was given to this plant because of the simple balance of the blossoms. Spanish priests were said to have grown it in their gardens as a symbol of harmony.
Help Your Annuals Start Right
Healthy, ever-blooming plants will grow better and last longer if you get them off to a good start, delighting you with their blossoms all summer long.
- If you are growing your annuals from seed indoors, keep the soil moist until the seeds have germinated. Don't sow seeds too thickly; most annuals germinate readily, and you'll just have more work to do in thinning the seedlings to the correct spacing.
- When you buy young plants at the nursery, look for compact, bushy plants that have green foliage. They do not necessarily have to be in bloom, but it's okay if a few buds are showing. Beware of plants with yellowed leaves and plants with long stems that seem to be stretching.
- Don't take a plant out of it's pot before you have dug the hole, you don't want the roots to dry out. Tap the plant out of it's pot with as much soil as possible still clinging to the roots and place into the hole at the same level it was at in the pot. Cover with soil, pat down and water well.
- Water potted plants so they are damp before you take them out and put them in the ground. This will help keep the root ball intact.
- Don't fertilize the plant right away. If you have peat moss and/or fertilizer in the soil already you won't need to feed them again for a couple of months.
Originally native to South America, petunias are heat and drought tolerant and are a favorite summer bedding plant all over the country.
In late spring and summer you'll find a multitude of types and colors available at garden centers.
Relatively easy to grow from seed, start them indoors eight to ten weeks before you set the plants outside.
Wait until after all danger of frost has passed and place them in full sun in average soil.
The colors are a complete rainbow, including white, pink, lavender, yellow, red, blue, purple, and with the choice of some being solid and some being variegated.
As well, you have a choice of flower types with single or double blooms and large or small blooms.
These beautiful flowers have a habit of becoming lanky as the season progresses and do well when trimmed back. Even the ones in your hanging baskets will benefit, looking neater and putting out new shoots, if you prune some of the stems back.
Interesting Tidbit: Spanish explorer's first found petunias growing near the cost of Argentina in the early sixteenth century. That first species was a low-growing, trailing plant with a fragrant white flower and was not of any particular beauty. The Indians called it petun, or "worthless tobacco," and the plant was not thought to be worth sending it back to Spain. It took until breeders in the United States began extensive hybridization, resulting in the miraculous variety of plant types and colors that we see today, for them to become popular as a garden flower.
Native to North America and South America, sunflowers are extremely heat and drought tolerant.
Most sunflowers can easily exist under conditions unsuitable for growing many other garden flowers. They are also very popular as a cut flower.
Sow the seeds outdoors where you want them to grow and watch in amazement as they shoot for the sky.
Children love to watch this bright, beautiful flower grow and are especially excited when the flower seeds mature and they are able to eat them as a special treat.
These cheerful flowers sometimes seem to sprout in the most unexpected places the year after they are planted.
They can grow from 1 foot to as high as 10 feet tall and the flowers come in white, bronze, cream and the traditional yellow.
Shorter strains can handle poorer soil, but the taller varieties need moderately rich soil and regular watering, as well as staking.
Interesting Tidbit: These towering plants, beacons of light and warmth, have been loved and worshiped for many centuries. The Inca Indians of Peru considered this flower a symbol of the sun and worshiped it accordingly. Priestesses of the temple wore sunflower medallions made of gold.
Salvia is heat and drought tolerant and blooms prolifically in full-sun gardens.
The three petals of the salvia blossom are gently scalloped and beautifully colored.
Hybrids that were developed from two native North American species have resulted in flowers the shade of blue, pink, white and red.
The beautiful red spikes of the S. coccinea or "Lady in Red" attract butterflies and make wonderful fresh or dried flowers.
Sow seeds indoors six to eight weeks before setting them out after the danger of frost has passed.
Given sufficient moisture through the growing season, these plants can reach a height of 30 inches.
Both the annual and perennial forms of salvia need full sun and well-drained soil. But if your area is an especially a hot one, these plants might do a little better with some afternoon shade.
A tender perennial from the Southwest, this flower is treated as an annual in regions with cold, freezing winters, but it reseeds itself so you'll always have a supply.
One of the things I find great about this plant is that it is not an invasive plant. Another thing is that this plant has a very long blooming period, generally lasting from early summer until frost.
Blossoms close by midday, but new flowers appear early the next morning.
Interesting Tidbit: The salvia plant, also known as spiderwort, is extremely sensitive to varying levels of pollution and will quickly undergo mutations that change the color of the stamens. Recently it has been discovered that not only is it useful in indicating pollution from pesticides, herbicides, auto exhaust and sulphur dioxide, but it is also extremely sensitive to low levels of radiation.
These plants do not like cold, damp weather and for the best garden performance, grow the plants from seeds started indoors.
If you are going to purchase in a nursery, get the green plants, whose blooms haven't started yet.
Plant when both the soil and the air have warmed up in late spring. When transplanting seedlings, do not plant them too deeply.
The feathery plumes of C. plumosa and the very full cockscomb-like blooms of C. cristata range in color from cream to pink and red and crimson
Children are often attracted to these plants because the flowers don't look like ordinary flowers. The normally large, velvety blooms of crested celosia feel fake even when they are fresh, and they dry beautifully.
To dry them, simply cut them when they are fully open and hang them upside down in a dark, dry place for a couple of weeks. This plant also makes an outstanding fresh cut flower.
Interesting Tidbit: In Elizabethan England, this member of the Amaranth family was called 'floramor' or 'flower gentle,' presumably because it was considered tender and often was only grown in a greenhouse.
Other Hardy Blooms
Not minding less than perfect weather conditions, here are some more tough annuals you might want to add to your gardens for a beautiful show of color all summer long.
- Cleome, or spider plant, grows 5 to 6 feet tall and reseeds with abandon; flowers are violet, rose and white.
- Globe Amaranth is an everlasting flower. If you dry it, it looks wonderful in arrangements. Colors include lavender, rose, pink, strawberry and white.
- Begonias, fibrous root or wax, have green or bronze foliage and pink, rose, white and bi-color flowers.
- Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco, has bursts of tubular, star-shaped blooms above lush foliage. Flower colors range from pink, rose, red, white and lime. These plants can be dwarf or from four to six feet in height.
- Melampodium covers the soil with lush green growth dotted with small yellow daisy-like flowers. Plants tolerate heat and humidity.
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