Our short Wisconsin growing season lends itself well to the exuberant color and lush abundance of annuals. These plants grow quickly and bloom prolifically all summer long, bringing a tropical feel to your outdoor living spaces. We asked our staff to select one favorite annual. A tough task indeed, with so many fabulous plants to choose from! Here’s the list:
(okay – she’s the boss so she gets to pick a couple of favorites)
Lantana Bandana® Cherry Sunrise
If you are looking for a tough plant it’s hard to beat lantana. Lantana is exceptionally heat and drought tolerant so is a great choice for hot, sunny locations. ‘Cherry Sunrise’ provides bright, multicolored flower clusters all summer long on mounding plants 12”-28” tall. Butterfly Magnet!
Verbena Meteor Shower®
A compact selection of the tall Verbena bonariensis, this one only grows 24”-30” tall. Balloon-like clusters of lavender-purple balls of flowers all summer long on strong, upright stems. Can be used in container plantings or in mixed borders. No deadheading is required for continuous bloom. Perhaps the very best annual for attracting butterflies. Hummingbirds love it, too! Sterile, so does not self-sow.
Superbells® Tropical Sunrise Million Bells
Million Bells are extremely popular for hanging baskets and container combinations. They produce prolific small funnel-shaped flowers in a mindboggling range of colors. Superbells® Tropical Sunrise is aptly named as the flowers are the color of a tropical sunrise! Million Bells benefit from regular feeding with high iron fertilizer and can be sheared mid-summer to tighten up growth if necessary.
Snapdragons are an old-fashioned cottage garden favorite. They produce flowers in every color imaginable on sturdy stems ranging in height from 6” to 36”. They perform best in cool weather so are ideal for color in the spring and autumn garden. Snaps are fantastic cut flowers.
Jewels-of-Opar is a great accent plant for combination container plantings. Its bright chartreuse, slightly succulent leaves provide a splash of bright foliage color. In summer small airy pink flowers appear on delicate dark-colored stems, followed by glossy bead-like red fruit. Prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Height 12”-24”. Self-seeds.
Dahlia Mystic Illusion
This Dahlia is a show stopper! Dark-colored, near-black foliage contrasts strikingly with the brilliant yellow flowers accented with a dark central disk. A single plant can grow to shrub-like proportions so it is best used as a specimen. Tuberous dahlias can be dug and stored from year to year. Zannah has had some of her dahlias for over a decade!
An upright, strongly branched shrub-like plant that bears classic yellow-centered daisy flowers in summer. At 18”-30” tall, it is suited for use as a specimen annual. Deadhead for continuous bloom.
Begonia Crackling Fire® series
There are seemingly countless varieties of Begonias, in a tremendous range of forms and colors. All are shade tolerant and lend themselves to either container, hanging basket, or in-ground culture. The ‘Crackling Fire’ series are semi-trailing, self-cleaning and bred for sturdy stems that resist breakage. They have arrow shaped foliage and bear abundant bell-shaped flowers all summer in a range of colors.
Slender spikes of small orchid-like flowers all summer long. This beauty is often overlooked during spring flower shopping because it doesn’t begin blooming until the temperatures get warm. Sometimes called “Summer Snapdragon” because the flowers are similar but this plants thrives in the heat of summer, unlike the cool season Snapdragon. Height 12”-18”. Full sun.