Best Summer Color Annuals

I’m a big fan of color, but it needs to hold up to the heat if I’m going to plant it. Here are my 10 favorites based on my years of growing them. (There are a lot of others that barely missed the cut!)

Angelonia This is one of the newest additions to my list. Also called “summer snapdragons” because their growth habit is spike-form and somewhat like a snap, this plant comes in shades of lavender, pink and white. It grows to 12 to 15 inches tall and is great in full or almost full sun.

Fanflower I was introduced to this as a hanging basket flower 30 years ago, but almost immediately I started growing it as a spreading annual flower. It does best for me in morning sun with afternoon shade. The blue ones always seem to bloom more heavily for me.

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• Copper plants There are many types, but I like the ones with coppery foliage best. They’re pretty in summer, but they become brilliant with fall’s cooler weather. Full, hot sun. They grow to be 30 inches tall if you pinch their growing tips out in early summer. Great for backdrops to flowering annuals.

• Crotons I’ve grown these in pots in our landscape for 30 years. Eventually they get so large I have to discard them or trim them severely and start with new plants. They show best color in morning sun with shade from the hot afternoon sun. There are many varieties in the nursery trade.

• Firebush Introduced to us by Greg Grant and Drs. Jerry Parsons and Steve George of Texas A&M 30 years ago it’s a superior plant for summer and fall color. Those leaves turn coppery orange in fall. Hummingbirds love this one. Grows to 24 to 30 inches tall. Perennial in South Texas.

• Pentas When I was a kid this plant was too tall for most gardens. Breeders have brought us wonderful types that stay much shorter (12 to 15 inches) and bloom in shades of pink, lavender, red and white. Another hummingbird favorite. Morning sun and a couple of hours of afternoon shade have been best in our landscape.

• Dragon Wing begonia I love this tall, lush hybrid begonia in both its pink and red forms. It’s great in a hanging basket or patio pot, and I’ve even seen it used in beds. It grows to be 15 to 20 inches tall. Shade or early morning sun.

• Purple fountaingrass Everyone seems to love this purple-leafed grass. It colors best in full sun. Grows to 24 to 30 inches when blooming. Perennial in South Texas, but annual in most of the rest of the state. Shown with Linearis zinnias, a nice color combination.

• Trailing lavender lantana This is a low-growing, groundcover form of lantana that is perennial in South Texas but best used as an annual in North Texas. A white form, as shown in the photo, is also occasionally available. They’re not as winter-hardy as other types of lantanas. Favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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