Here in the south, we can't wait for the warm days of April when it's finally safe to plant our summer annuals. We have Spring Fever! Before you rush to the nursery to load up on colorful annuals, you need a plan for each area of your landscape so you don't end up planting something that prefers a little relief from afternoon shade in areas that absolutely bake in July and August.
These are my 5 top favorite annuals for those hot, sunny sites (more on sun vs shade and the definitions of each in another blog).
1. Pentas lanceolata
Also called Egyptian star flower, native from Yemen to East Africa. This gives us our first hint as to why it is a great summer annual for hot areas of the south.
This tropical plant is winter hardy in zones 10-11 only (southern Florida, southern California, Puerto Rico, etc). Though it can't take the cold, it can take all the heat that Georgia can give it and look fabulous doing it.
This wonderful annual isn't nearly as well known as it should be. It loves summer, has big blooms that attract hummingbirds & butterflies and is fabulous in containers OR flowerbeds. We suspect that the main reason that it isn't on our best-seller list is that it needs heat to start blooming and when you are shopping for your summer annuals in April, it often isn't blooming yet. It's just sitting there with its beautiful green foliage and not a flower bud in sight. But you shouldn't be shopping for plants based on the flowers they have while sitting on the bench at the garden centers, you should be shopping for plants based on their merits and desired characteristics and this is why Pentas are our number one choice for hot sunny flowerbeds.
Large clusters of individual flowers in red, pink and white are absolute magnets for hummingbirds and butterflies.
At 18-24" tall, Pentas are a versatile filler in large pots or the centerpiece "thriller" in smaller pots.
Doesn't demand much from you to look good in pots or flowerbeds. Just don't plant it in soil that stays wet from poor drainage. After all, its drought and heat tolerant nature is why it's on this list.
Available in red, pink and white.
North Carolina State University classifies Pentas as seldom damaged by deer, plants that deer will not eat unless all other options are gone.
2. Lantana camara
Native to Central and South America, Lantana has become a staple of southern gardens. The cultivars available at garden centers are hybrids produced by plant breeders and don't produce fertile seeds. This is a good thing because the wild Lantana has become an invasive nuisance in warm areas of the country. We grow dozens of varieties in different colors ranging in size from 18" tall to 4 ft. There's a Lantana suitable for every sunny area of your yard, whether it's in pots on the patio & deck, or the butterfly garden. Heat induces flowering, meaning that the hotter it gets, the more blooms Lantana produces.
Like the Pentas, Lantana has clusters of tiny flowers together on the stem. These type of flower clusters provide what we call a "landing pad" for butterflies and they will seek them out. They get a lot of bang for the buck, you could say because they can sip from multiple flowers without having to expend energy flying to each individual one.
Likes it hot, sunny & dry. Don't plant in wet areas
Most flowers are bi-color but a few are solid
Deer don't like it, in fact it is an irritant that would make them sick if they ate it
The hotter it gets, the more it blooms
The small sized varieties are perfect for pots
Annual in north Georgia except for a few varieties that are hardy to zone 7- 'Miss Huff' and 'Mozelle'
3. Mandevilla vine species
Tropical vine native to the Southwest United States, Mexico, the West Indies, and South America. Have you noticed a trend yet? The plants on this list like it hot because they are native to that type of geographical area.
Here at the nursery, we recommend Mandevilla to customers who want something with that "wow factor". Knowing that caring for it is easy as pie also puts it on my list of top 5. Many people are surprised to learn that Mandevilla absolutely thrives in the heat of summer and doesn't need constant watering. This vine is an evergreen in tropical climates, living for decades, but here in zone 7 it isn't winter hardy. But the non-stop blooms it gives you all season make it a gem in the landscape.
Does best in large pots or rich organic garden soil. Mandevilla vine is a heavy feeder and needs a nutrient rich soil to thrive but doesn't like "wet feet"
Plant at the mailbox for major curb appeal
Available in red, pink and white
4. Portulaca oleracea or Purslane
In the wild, Purslanes range extends from North Africa and southern Europe, into the Middle East and India. It is edible, having a very high content of Omega 3 fatty acids along with several vitamins and minerals. It is eaten in salads and stir fry throughout much of Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Mexico.
Purslane is always a best seller every year here at Full Bloom Nursery. If you tend to forget to water your plants, this one should definitely be on your list of must-haves. The hotter it gets in summer, the more Purslane blooms. Use it as a ground cover in well-drained flowerbeds or as a spiller in pots, baskets, and window boxes.
Available in many colors
The perfect "spiller" for mixed pots
Excellent choice for west facing hot areas where little else thrives
Water only when soil completely dries out
5. Angelonia angustifolia or Summer Snapdragon
Native to Mexico, West Indies and South America, Angelonia rounds out our top 5 summer annuals that can take the heat. In fact, Angelonia loves the heat and will bloom all summer without dead-heading.
Nicknamed Summer Snapdragon for the flowers resemblance to the cold loving snapdragon, Angelonia is perfect as a "thriller" in mixed pots when you want something that gets 18-24" tall. Or plant it at the mailbox for a no fuss drought-tolerant annual that will perform beautifully all season.
Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
Available in several colors, mix them up or plant your favorite color in a pot for a focal point
Stalks keep producing blooms all season without pinching
Versatile annual for flowerbeds or pots
Plant after all danger of frost is past, Angelonia is very sensitive to cold damage
And that is Kellie's top 5 favorite annuals that can take the heat.
Please leave a comment of your favorites and feedback on this list.