A hybrid between petunia and calibrachoa, Supercal Neon Rose petchoa combines the best of both plants into one. The electric-pink blooms with yellow throats are intermediate in size between the parent species and cover the mounding plants all summer long. This annual flower has a finer texture than that of petunias, and blooms are rain-resistant, perking up immediately after summer storms.
So many new varieties of ornamental sweet potato vine have been introduced in recent years that it takes an exceptional one to stand out in the crowd. Sweet Caroline Bewitched fills the bill. When grown in the ground, it formed a compact mound about 15 inches tall and 2 to 3 feet wide. Its maple-shape deep burgundy foliage was unblemished all season long.
Sun-tolerant coleuses have changed how these nostalgic foliage plants are used in the landscape. In this photo, Henna coleus takes center stage, with Mahogany Splendor hibiscus and Zahara Double Fire zinnia in supporting roles. Henna easily stands up to full sun and drought conditions. Its leaves are deeply toothed, almost frilly. The undersides are a striking shade of mahogany purple, and the upper surface varies from chartreuse to lime green with tones of henna red.
A fun new twist on an old favorite, Zahara Double Fire zinnia perks up any sunny border with its intense red-orange color. The fully double blooms are showier than the single daisylike flowers of the original Zahara zinnias. Plants grow in compact mounds up to 15 inches tall. New growth covers fading flowers, so deadheading is unnecessary. And like its older cousins, Zahara Double Fire is resistant to powdery mildew and leaf spot.
It's hard to beat Vista Bubblegum petunia if you want large swaths covered with color all summer long. Individual plants spread up to 5 feet wide! Plant them 18 to 24 inches apart for a solid carpet of pink trumpet-shape blooms. Vista Bubblegum never needs deadheading. It blooms nonstop until hard freezes end the show in fall.
Common cleomes, also known as spider flowers, become tall and rangy, and they invariably self-seed to the point of becoming weedy. Senorita Rosalita changes all that. It grows 3 to 4 feet tall but never flops because it branches well. And because it is sterile, seeds never develop, prolonging bloom time and thwarting unwanted seedlings. Here, Senorita Rosalita forms a backdrop to Vista Fuchsia petunia, a darker pink cousin of Vista Bubblegum petunia.
Dryland-native penstemon is great for summer color in sunny sites. Mesa is a variety with masses of lavender-purple blooms in June and attractive deep green foliage. If you cut Mesa penstemon back after most of its flowers have faded, it bears a second smaller flush of blooms. Here, it echoes the pink panicles of Carolina phlox in the background.
The 4-inch-wide lavender-purple blooms of Honeysong Purple Stokes aster attract butterflies. The frilly flowers appear on tidy plants just 1 foot tall. Honeysong Purple is more floriferous than other Stokes asters, and it is resistant to deer and rabbit injury.
A hybrid garden sage with pinkish-purple flowers, Eveline salvia has a main bloom period from mid-spring to early summer. Remove spent flowers to encourage additional blooms later in the summer. Although it may self-seed, Eveline salvia doesn't become weedy. It makes a wonderful companion for Honeysong Purple Stokes aster, Rozanne geranium, and snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum).
What's not to love about Summer Storm hardy hibiscus? It emerges in spring with deep maroon foliage, which doesn't fade as temperatures rise in summer. The dark leaves provide a handsome backdrop for the dramatic pink-and-rose striped flowers that are 8 to 10 inches in diameter. And unlike many other hardy hibiscuses, Summer Storm blooms not only at stem tips, but also all along the stems, producing dependable flower color from July through October.
This hardy (to Zone 4) dianthus forms dense blue-green mounds of foliage with petite bloom spikes just 6 to 10 inches tall. The pink flowers bear a clove scent and raspberry centers; they're most abundant in spring, but occasional blooms may appear in all but the hottest weather of summer. It makes a great edging plant in a sunny, well-drained border.
Like all lobelias, Fan Burgundy likes moist soil. This hybrid is sometimes listed as hardy to Zone 4, but it is often short-lived, especially if grown in dry locations. Even if it only lives for one year, it blooms as much as any other annual, so it's worthy of consideration. The magenta-burgundy flowers attract hummingbirds from midsummer through fall when the plant is in bloom.
No paddy is necessary to grow Black Madras rice. But this ornamental annual grassy plant grows best in moist soil, making it a perfect companion for Fan Burgundy lobelia. The strongly upright burgundy-purple leaves grow 16 inches tall on plants that spread just 8 inches wide. In late summer, Black Madras develops spikes of green seeds that turn tan when ripe.
Princess Molly pennisetum shares its foliage coloration with Black Madras rice but is arching in form rather than upright. Also called napier grass, Princess Molly is hardy in Zones 8-11 but makes a spectacular annual elsewhere. It looks great in a container or as an accent in beds and borders. I pot up a clump of it to overwinter in my greenhouse, and then I plant it in the landscape the following year.
For a kaleidoscope of color in hot, dry, sunny areas, try Landmark Sunrise Rose Improved lantana. Flower clusters emerge rosy pink but transition to peach and yellow as individual florets age. Hummingbirds and butterflies love the blooms, and deer leave the plant untouched in my yard. The foliage has a pleasant lemon scent. It is hardy in Zones 8-11 and annual elsewhere.
Heat- and humidity-tolerant Georgia Peach coralbells prefers part shade but adapts well to full sun, too. The large peach-color leaves have a beautiful silvery sheen and look great from early spring through late fall in my garden. It sends up delicate white flowers in spring, but the foliage is this plant's main attraction. Georgia Peach grows well in Zones 4-9.
Among the dozens of recent hydrangea varieties, Little Lime stands out as one of the most floriferous and carefree varieties. The panicled hydrangea is fully flower hardy in Zones 3-9. It forms large panicles of white blooms tinged green in summer. As the blooms age, they gradually turn tan and remain on the shrub all winter. Topping out at 3 to 5 feet tall, this dwarf version of 'Limelight' hydrangea fits in almost any landscape.
Miss Molly is a redder version of Miss Ruby butterfly bush. In my Zone 5 garden, Miss Molly survived last winter while Miss Ruby, planted just a few feet away, succumbed to cold. Miss Molly buddleia grows 4 to 5 feet tall, making it a good choice for sunny small-space gardens. As its name suggests, Miss Molly butterfly bush is a butterfly magnet.
Growing under 3 feet in height, Candy Sensation dwarf snowberry is another shrub adapted to small-scale gardens. Although it blooms in spring, it's the late-summer and fall clusters of berries that make this a must-have shrub. The large pink fruits can reach almost 1/2 inch in diameter.
Peergold littleleaf boxwood, often sold as Golden Dream boxwood, is a slow-growing, maintenance-free evergreen shrub for Zones 5-7. The waxy green leaves edged in gold make the plant a stunning accent. In my Zone 5 garden, it suffered no winter browning while many solid-green varieties of boxwood did. Although Golden Dream needs little or no pruning to maintain its attractive mounded shape, it can be sheared to almost any shape desired.
Major Wheeler honeysuckle bears masses of tubular red-orange flowers from late spring through summer on a vine that spreads to a manageable 8 to 10 feet tall and wide. Hummingbirds love the blooms. Grow this vine on a trellis or fence in full sun.
The rich red color of Tutti Frutti Pomegranate yarrow blooms holds for a long time without fading. The plant's silvery green foliage is more upright than that of many other yarrows, so it is less likely to flop open in midsummer. However, it's best to cut back the plant after blooms begin to fade to encourage a second flush of bloom. This deer-resistant perennial is a great butterfly plant, too.
Welcome spring with the glowing orange-red blooms of Henry Hudson tulip. This dwarf variety tulip species grows less than a foot tall in bloom, but flowers rival those of full-size tulips. On sunny days, they open wide to reveal yellow and black markings at the base of each petal.
Sugar Tip rose of Sharon is delightful for its variegated foliage and pink double blooms borne from midsummer through fall freezes. It won't self-seed or become weedy, and it is more compact than the species, topping out at 6 to 10 feet in height.