Ideas & Inspiration

Plant Colorful Annuals for Easy Summer Blooms

Salvia in a summer flower border

Salvia is a pollinator magnet and your best friend in the garden in the oppressive heat of summer. You’ve seen the bright red spikes of salvia for years, and there will always be a place for them. This year, try a new variety, like Proven Winners’ Rockin’ Fuchsia Salvia, and wait for the hummingbirds and butterflies to arrive.

Salvia grows about 24 to 36 inches high and is self-cleaning, so it doesn’t need deadheading. If deer are a problem in your garden, note that salvia plants are deer-resistant, too. Learn more about deer-resistant plants

Orange lantana in a flower border

Lantana packs a lot of punch with bright clusters of flowers and crisp green foliage. Give it good garden soil with adequate drainage, then let it show off in citrus-y hues of lemon, orange and red. Plant this performer in full sun and give it room to grow. Some will get up to 18 inches high and three feet wide. Note that lantana leaves may be toxic to pets.

Lantana, like Proven Winners’ Citrus Blend, are drought tolerant and do not need deadheading. Although usually treated as an annual, there are some cultivars that may come back in your zone 9 or even zone 8 garden, depending on your microclimate. Check plant tags for zone-stretching cultivars.

Blue evolvulus in a flower bed

Evolvulus (dwarf morning glory) has a true blue bloom and, the hotter it gets, the better this plant performs. Look for Proven Winners’ Blue My Mind online. Dwarf morning glory makes a grand groundcover, but look to it, too, to perform in containers. With white pentas (see below) and red calibrachoas, you’ll have a star-spangled 4th of July display.

Red, orange and yellow celosia in a flower bed

Celosia is a showy annual known for its feathery plumes or crests in candy colors. Seedlings will give instant color to your flower beds, but celosia is also easy to grow from seed — just begin four to eight weeks before you’re ready to plant. Give celosia nutrient-rich garden soil amended with organic compost.

White euphorbia in a container on a patio

Euphorbia’s clouds of white blooms are the perfect filler for your containers or garden bed, making whatever is around them even more special. Look for Proven Winners’ Diamond Frost euphorbia and plant in partial to full sun, in average soil with good drainage. It can handle heat and drought, and grows to about 18 inches tall.

Pink cuphea in a container on a patio

Cuphea (firecracker plant) deserves a place in your summer garden, either as a statement flower in containers, or a jubilant mass planting. Proven Winners’ Vermillionaire cuphea is loaded with orange blooms that are a siren song for hummingbirds. Cuphea thrives in full sun and average soil. It’s also hardy to zone 8, good news for Southern gardeners.

Pink portulaca in a summer garden border

Portulaca, moss rose, is a classic for a reason. It offers brightly colored, low-growing flowers and needle-like foliage on the hottest days of summer. In the afternoons, blooms will fold up, but open again the next morning. Moss rose can handle summer’s hottest days and even a bit of neglect from the watering hose. It doesn’t need deadheading, either. Try it in terra cotta containers, even strawberry jars, on a patio this summer.

Pentas bloom in a summer flower border

Pentas thrives in summer heat and humidity. The flower clusters bloom in shades of pink, white and red. The red and white blooms are tailor-made for an Independence Day container, just add a blue morning glory like Blue My Mind.

Pink impatiens in a hanging basket

Impatiens are that rare plant that can handle sun or shade and keep putting out vibrant color all summer long. Plant them early in the season, feed them regularly with an all-purpose liquid fertilizer, and enjoy a rainbow of blooms from pink to coral, red, white and purple right up until frost. Look for the new Beacon impatiens that are resistant to downy mildew. 

Butterflies and hummingbirds are impatiens fans, too. Plant extra just for them.

New Guinea Impatiens
Pink impatiens in a terra cotta container

New Guinea impatiens have all the benefits of impatiens, but with the added bonus of stylish foliage to offset the vibrant pink, purple and red blooms. New Guinea impatiens can handle sun or shade, but you'll have to water less if you keep them out of the sun. They also have a nice mounding habit that's lovely in containers and on the edges of garden borders. 

Caladiums in a border

There's so much to love about caladiums, beginning with their large heart-shaped leaves in bold combinations of pink and green. These beauties can handle lots of sun as long you're willing to water, and shade if you're too content in your deck chair to get up and water. 

Caladiums are grown from tubers (similar to bulbs) and in areas with real winter, can be dug up every fall and stored and planted again in spring, so in that way, they're a little like perennials. Learn more about growing caladiums.

Begonias and ferns in a summer garden

Begonias are low-maintenance annuals that come in a stunning range of bloom and, increasingly, foliage options. Plant begonias in the front of a border, in window boxes or containers, full sun to part shade, and then sit back and relax with the knowledge that your work is done. Well, almost done. Begonias, like all annuals in summer, need water every few days unless there's rainfall, and they perform best with a bi-weekly dose of liquid fertilizer.

Carefree begonias can get a little leggy in late summer, particularly if you've had a lot of rain. Come August, trim them back by a third so they can finish the season the way they started, with tons of color and minimal effort on your part.

Pink and red geraniums in a border

When it comes to geraniums, don't confuse old-fashioned with classic. These may be your grandmother's favorite plant, but that's because you can count on geraniums for colorful blooms from spring to first frost. The clusters of blooms in shades of pink, red, coral and white are set off by scalloped edge foliage that's notable even when the plant isn't in full bloom.

Keep geraniums in full sun or part shade. They perform better if protected from rain that can cause the flowers to turn mushy. Put geraniums in a terra cotta pot for a classic taste of grandmother's garden.  Learn more about growing geraniums.

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