Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' is a sun loving tender perennial that we treat as an annual and earns its keep by blooming all-summer long. It’s foxglove-like coral blooms and purple stems make it a showstopper and is a must-have this year in Seattle gardens. (Image credit: Skagit Gardens)
Tuberous Begonias are available in an array of stunning, saturated colors - sure to bring a tropical feel to your shade/part shade garden. Begonias are perfect for containers, where they best showoff their striking, multiple layered, rose-like blossoms, each one lasting for days on end. Their broad, luminescent leaves come in emerald green varieties as well as a rich deep mocha; creating interest with texture even when they are not in bloom. Tuberous begonias also come in a trailing habit, perfect for your hanging baskets.
Petunias are not your grandmothers flower anymore. Available in a kaleidoscope of eye-catching and unexpected hues, new varieties are touting gorgeous variegations and color combinations. Available in large double blossoms, as well as in moody, subtle tones. There is a petunia to suit all tastes. Their long lasting bloom cycle make them an essential component for your sun loving container gardens and baskets. Try Petunia ‘Crazytunia Sparky’ for a rich magenta and gold bicolor blossom; each bloom with a different color combination than the next. (Image Credit: Log House)
Mina Lobata (aka Ipomea lobata)
'Exotic Love Vine' is a fast growing annual vine that lives up to its dramatic name. With it's racemes of upward facing tubular multicolored flowers, it is sure to elicit gasps from visitors to your garden. A hummingbird favorite, its bright crimson-orange blossom atop creamy lower blooms are striking against its dark, sturdy vines. This well behaved sun/part shade loving vine is equally at home on your sweet pea tripods, or climbing through your Japanese maple, and will keep blooming until frost. (Image Credit: Annie's Annuals)
What list of top performing annuals would be complete without an honorable mention of an edible? With its bold, dark, crinkly leaves and hearty flavor, Kale lacinato is the workhorse of the beautiful, edible garden. Nutritious as it is lovely, just a few plants can feed your family delectable kale salads all season. Succession planting will ensure you can have your prized leaves all year long in NW gardens. Try ‘Black Magic’ for an especially productive, sweet, and insect damage-resistant variety.
Growing Tips for All Gardeners:
How often do I need to water? Baskets? Containers?
Water based on the individual needs of your plants. Sun loving plants need to be watered more frequently than shade lovers. Hot dry weather will also necessitate more water. The best way to know if your plants need water is by sticking your finger down into the soil, and if the soil feels dry, its time to water. Never water wet soil as this can promote rot. Baskets hanging in windy spots will likely need to be watered everyday and even several times a day when Seattle really heats up. Containers are similar, and should be checked on a daily basis in the warm months.
How do I get my containers/baskets to look like those in the magazines?
Those gorgeous containers have three elements that make them so eye catching: A thriller, a filler and a spiller. A thriller is any plant that grabs your attention. Its the lead role in your container. It can be a bright and cheerful dahlia or colorful coleus. It should be dramatic and the focus of the container. The filler is the supporting cast. It should be a complement to your thriller plant by creating interest with a contrasting texture, height, or color. The spiller is a cascading element that grows over the edge of your pot, utilizing that lower, vertical space. The spiller creates an opulent and full feel to your container.
How often should I fertilize? And What type of fertilizer should I use?
It’s helpful to use a good quality transplant fertilizer when you do your initial planting. As the plants become established, choose a fertilizer appropriate for what you're growing. For example, use a bloom promoting fertilizer for your flower gardens, and a veggie fertilizer for your edibles. Follow the directions on the packaging for frequency and amount of application. More is not better with fertilizer, you’ll end up burning leaves and roots, accomplishing the opposite of your intended purpose.
What is deadheading?
Deadheading is simply removing the old dried up blossoms on your plant. By picking off the spent blooms, you’re encouraging the plant to send out new blooms. Many flowering plants will bloom until frost when deadheaded regularly. Off with the old and on with the new!
How often do I need to deadhead?
You can deadhead whenever you notice a spent bloom or shoot for once a week.
How long should my annuals in baskets and containers last for?
Good quality plants given the proper care, should last through an entire season. For example, your spring planted pansies and violas should be beautiful all season, and begin to tire out as the weather heats up. Replace them with your heat loving geraniums and fuchsias for a summer season full of blooms. As the autumn approaches, its normal to expect to change out your summer annuals with fresh fall blooming plants.
Going into fall/winter what do I need to know about my containers?
If your containers are made from high fired Vietnamese pottery, no maintenance is required going into winter other than to make certain that the pot is draining well. Even the highest quality containers can crack or chip if soggy soil freezes inside it. Be sure that the drainage hole on the underside of the container remains unobstructed and that water escapes freely. If your containers are ceramic or terra cotta, it is best to store them in a protected, dry spot for the winter to prevent them from deteriorating.