20 Annuals that Beat the Heat
No matter where in the US you're gardening, summer heat and periods of dry weather can present a challenge to even the most seasoned gardeners. The good news is that there are a wealth of annuals that not only bloom for months, but thrive even during the dog days of summer. There are types for both sun and shade, including those with brilliant blooms and striking foliage.
Whether you grow them as bedding plants, mix them in with your perennials or create colorful combinations for containers, annuals give you a lot of bang for your buck. Because they are annuals, meaning that their life cycle is completed in one growing season, you can experiment with colors and textures in a way that you might hesitate to do with more permanent plantings of perennials, shrubs and trees.
Tips for caring for your annuals
- Start with healthy plants.
- Use a potting soil that drains easily but also holds moisture.
- Water appropriately. Plants in the ground will survive for longer periods without water than container plantings.
- Water thoroughly. For containers: Water until the water rushes out the holes in the bottom of the pot. Repeat several times; then wait for the soil to become dry to the touch before watering again.
- Fertilize on a regular basis using a liquid fertilizer, but don't overdo it.
- Dead head flowers: Remove spent blossoms to encourage the production of more flowers over a long period of time.
Annuals for sun
- Angelonia: "Serena" series has white, purple, lavender and pink spikes.
- Euphorbia: "Diamond Frost" looks like baby’s breath, but is more resilient.
- Gomphrena globosa: "Fireworks" has pink flowers; is heat and drought tolerant; good for drying.
- Lantana species and hybrids: Lantana is a flower of many colors, spreads easily and is long blooming.
- Melampodium paludosum: "Blackfoot Daisy" boasts non-stop small yellow daisies.
- Pentas lanceolata: "Egyptian Star Flower" comes in many colors and attracts butterflies.
- Portulaca grandiflora: "Moss Rose" comes in many colors; is low-growing and spreading; has great heat and drought tolerance.
- Rudbeckia hirta: "Denver Daisy" is a black-eyed Susan with 4-6” golden blooms that holds up during extreme weather, including rain and winds.
- Scaevola aemula: "Fan Flower" has blue blooms; is 10-14” tall; and grows well in hanging baskets, containers, or in the ground.
- Zinnia linearis: "Narrow Leaf Zinnia." The "Profusion" series comes in orange, yellow and white. Great for the front of a border or in containers, it grows about 12” tall. The "Zahara" series is also a good performer.
Annuals for shade
- Ageratum houstonianum: Ageratum or "Floss Flower" grows to 6 to 30 inches tall and has soft-blue to violet-purple flowers. Afternoon shade is ideal.
- Alternanthera species and hybrids: "Calico Plant" has colorful foliage.
- Begonia hybrida: "Gryphon" boasts striking foliage with silver markings.
- Begonia species and cultivars: "Dragon Wing Red" has bright red flowers and is heat-tolerant.
- Browallia species and hybrids: "Amethyst Flower" has blue or purple flowers and likes partial shade.
- Caladium: A wide range of cultivars; fancy leaf type; best for shade.
- Ferns: Many different selections include "Rita’s Gold," a cultivar of Boston fern with chartreuse foliage.
- Impatiens walleriana: "Impatiens" come in many colors.
- Solenostemon scutellarioides: There are many types of "Coleus" with colorful foliage for sun and shade, which grow from 12 inches to over 3 feet tall.
- Torenia: "Summer Wave," also known as "Wishbone" or "Clown Flower," produces flowers for months. It's great for containers or bedding plants.
Consult a landscaper near you to find the best annuals for your local climate.
Updated October 16, 2018.
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