Annuals for Sun
Annuals add bright splashes of color to a garden and are great plants to experiment with. Annuals bloom, set seed, and die within a one-year cycle, though some re-seeders such as cleome and larkspur come back so faithfully they seem to be perennials. Sun-loving annuals usually require at least five or six hours of direct sunlight, some preferring protection from the hot afternoon sun. Some of the more popular and more easily grown annuals that flourish in this area include such old standbys as marigolds (Tagetes), either the French or African varieties, and petunias. Recent petunia varieties such as ‘pink wave’ or ‘purple wave’ may spread several feet.
Other easy sun annuals to try that do well in this area include:
- Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum) This old favorite has small blue flowers and makes an excellent low-growing plant for the front of the garden.
- Cockscomb (Celosia cristata) So-named for its deep red, ruffled shape, cockscomb can vary in height from approximately one to four feet. It is easily dried for flower arrangements.
- Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus and C. sulphureous) Coming in either pink-rose-lavender or yellow-orange tones, cosmos, with its daisy-like appearance, is a good plant for cutting.
- Flowering tobacco (Nicotiana alata) Flowering tobacco is a somewhat tougher relative of the petunia. Plants may grow from one to three feet tall. Colors include pink, lavender, yellow, white, and even green.
- Geranium (Pelargonium species) This old favorite comes in an array of colors, from white to salmon to deep red. The newer cascading varieties make good choices for hanging baskets.
- Rose moss (Portulaca grandiflora) Rose moss is a drought tolerant, low-growing succulent that comes in a rainbow of colors. Blossoms resemble tiny roses.
- Periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus) A beautiful, adaptable plant, periwinkle is very heat tolerant. Periwinkle grows to 18 inches or higher, depending on the variety, and comes in whites, pinks, and rose or variegated shades. It offers attractive, glossy foliage as well.
- Salvia (Salvia splendens) Salvia (or scarlet sage) has a showy, bright red blossom that blooms summer to fall.
- Spider plant (Cleome hasslerana) Tall and airy, this beautiful rose or pink plant may easily reach three to four feet, appearing in late summer.
- Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) Zinnias, with their multi-petaled blossom, can come in a huge variety of colors. Size and height may also vary greatly. Look for mildew-resistant varieties.
Other sun-loving annuals that work well in the greater Kansas City area include: alyssum, dusty miller, lobelia, nasturtium, pansy, pinks, snapdragon, verbena and some varieties of begonias and coleus.
Author: Pat Lawson
Wyandotte County Extension Master Gardener
Lynn Loughary, LLoughar@oznet.ksu.edu
County Extension Agent, Horticulture
Wyandotte County, Kansas
Kansas State University Research and Extension