Extension Educator, Horticulture
Annuals- Only for the Summer, But What a Colorful Splash!
Jennifer Fishburn, Horticulture Educator
University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit
It's never to early to start planning for next year's garden. Annuals add a splash of color in the garden or in containers. They are generally inexpensive (especially if you start them from seed) and produce an abundance of flowers. When choosing annuals match them to the light conditions of your garden- sun or shade- and the desired height range, color scheme you have chosen. The one drawback to annuals is that they need to be planted each year.
By definition an annual is a plant that completes its lifecycle in one season, but many of the "annual" garden flowers we grow in central Illinois are actually perennials that do not survive our winter conditions. Most annuals are planted in the spring and are killed by frost in the fall.
Weeding, watering and fertilizing will keep most insect and disease problems at bay from your annuals—and if you plant them so mature plants will not be overcrowded. Most diseases can be avoided by not overcrowding plants.
Consider planting annuals to add warmth and color to your patio or landscape next year. I have listed a few noteworthy annuals that can be viewed on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Ageratum or Flossflower. Ageratum houstonianum. Clusters of small blue or white flowers top these 4 to 12 inch tall plants. Ageratums perform best in a sunny garden and look great along a garden border. Plants will perform better and look more attractive by removing faded flowers. Two cultivars that can be viewed on the fairgrounds include 'Blue Horizon' and 'White Bouquet'.
Cockscomb. Celosia cristata. Brightly colored-- red, orange, yellow, gold or pink --flowers top these 1 to 2 1/2 foot tall plants. These heat tolerant plants grow best in full to partial sun. Cockscombs not only add color to the garden but can be preserved and used in dried flower arrangements. Cockscomb cultivars on the fairgrounds include 'Chief Fire', 'New Look' and 'Apricot Brandy'.
Flowering Tobacco. Nicotiana alata. White, rose, red, scarlet or lime green fragrant tubular-shaped flowers appear on branched stems. The leaves which resemble commercial tobacco are large and sticky. Two tallerfragrant cultivars- 2 to 3 feet tall- on the fairgrounds are 'Heaven Scent Mix' and 'Grand ol' White'.
Salvia. Salvia splendens and Salvia farinacea. These spiked flowers come in red, white, purple, coral or blue and vary in heights from 1 to 3 feet. They perform best in full to part sun. A few of the more popular cultivars on the fairgrounds are 'Coral Nymph', 'Snow Nymph', 'Victoria Blue', and 'Lady in Red'.
Verbena. Verbena bonariensis. Violet flowers top this 3-foot tall plant that adds vertical interest to container gardens as well as flower gardens. Butterflies are attracted to the flowers, but deer tend to stay away.
For more information on planting, care and a list of common annual flowers for specific garden locations visit University of Illinois Extension Gardening with Annuals at www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/annuals.