May greetings, dear gardeners. It’s an exciting time to explore summer plant options. The garden nurseries are full of tempting plants to choose from. Before filling your basket with colorful specimens, consider a few things: Where are you planting your gems—sun or shade? Is the area large enough to accommodate the plant as it grows? Is that specific area irrigated? Should you amend the soil? Do your preparation first so your purchases don’t languish in their cramped pots.
Perennials are plants that live year after year. The splashes of color from reliable perennials enliven our gardens. Most garden flowers are herbaceous perennials, meaning the leaves, stems, and flowers die back to the ground with the first freeze. In the spring, new plants grow from the hardy roots. The sun-loving evergreen Penstemon species are considered perennial wildflowers with moderate growth and bright-colored spikes. A fast-growing, low-mound evergreen perennial, the Blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), is a colorful groundcover needing well-drained soil. The white daisy-like flowers bloom year-round. I have good results growing Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus).
Annual flowers live only one growing season. They grow, flower, and produce seed, thereby completing their life cycle. Summer bloomers produce instant color, and many attract butterflies. The following are low-water choices: Zinnia “Profusion” series grows 1 foot high and 2 feet wide with red, orange, and white flowers. Arizona poppy (Kallstroemia grandiflora) grows 1 foot high and 3 feet wide with orange flowers. Southwestern Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) grows 3 feet high and 3 feet wide and is a self-sowing annual with pink, white, or purple flowers that attract butterflies. I enjoy the constant bright colors of my Snapdragon plant (Antirrhinum majus).
Annuals allow us gardeners a chance to experiment with color, height, and texture. They fill in empty spaces and are an excellent edging. You can prolong bloom time by pinching off the faded blooms (deadheading) and occasionally pruning lightly to encourage new growth. Perennials and annuals grow best in well-drained soil rich in plant nutrients, but go easy with the fertilizer. Purchase those lovely summer bloomers and enjoy your efforts all season.