Colorful summer annuals brighten any garden spot

Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Cherry Star,

Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Cherry Star,’ a miniature relative of the petunia, has a golden star in its center.
Published: Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 12:01 PM.

The weather keeps playing tricks on us but soon enough it will be time to plant colorful summer annuals. You can find annuals to suit any spot or brighten any corner. In fact, the selection of shade and sun loving annuals is larger than ever, with new varieties released every year. Visit the New Hanover Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive, during the New Hanover Extension Master Gardener plant sale, April 4 through 7, to shop for some of the latest releases and other great plants for our region.

Annuals versus perennials

When shopping for flowers, you will find both annuals and perennials for sale. The biggest differences between the two are how long they live and bloom. Annuals only live for one season, but will typically bloom all summer and into the fall. Perennials, on the other hand, typically only bloom for three to eight weeks but live for several years, returning from the same roots each year.

So why do we plant annuals when they only live from April to October? For continuous, high impact color! A good annual will have a uniform shape, hold up well in weather, be pest resistant, and provide reliable color all season without having to be deadheaded. In comparison, most perennials will only provide color for a few weeks or months.

Caring for annuals

Most annuals prefer well-drained soil amended with organic matter. Remember that summer annuals will die if exposed to 32 degrees or less and some varieties can even be damaged at temperatures below 50 degrees. Many tropical annuals are heat lovers and may be slow to get going in spring but will last till frost.

Most annual plantings are considered “high water zones”. In other words plan on watering these little beauties at least once a week. They also tend to be heavy feeders so do not forget to fertilize them. You can use a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote or an organic fertilizer such as Plant-tone, to feed up to 6 months. If you use liquid fertilizers such as Peters or MiracleGro, make sure you apply them every other week

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