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Published April 20, 2015, 09:27 AM

Growing Together: Lesser-known annuals are an opportunity for adventure

If you're up for an adventure, skip petunias and marigolds and discover the world of lesser-known annuals. Many of the following types graced the flower beds of our grandparents. Not all are offered by every garden center, but enjoy a scavenger hunt to each of the region's growers. I've added the word "easy" behind descriptions of the most carefree.

By: Don Kinzler, Forum News Service

FARGO - Lest anyone think gardeners lack adventure, let me contradict. On our second date, I took my future wife, Mary, to the college greenhouses and we transplanted seedlings. No one can say I didn't know how to show a girl a good time. And long before that, I was a wild and crazy teenager in Lisbon, N.D., experimenting with godetia, schizanthus and gazania.

If you're up for an adventure, skip petunias and marigolds and discover the world of lesser-known annuals. Many of the following types graced the flower beds of our grandparents. Not all are offered by every garden center, but enjoy a scavenger hunt to each of the region's growers. I've added the word "easy" behind descriptions of the most carefree.

Amaranthus. The common name love-lies-bleeding describes this tall 30-inch flower bed accent that's drought and heat tolerant. Easy.

Angelonia. Branching 18-inch plants with snapdragon-like spikes are well-suited for combination planters in full sun. Easy.

Bacopa. Commonly called snowstorm, the trailing plant is perfect as a "spiller" in planters and window boxes. Easy.

Balsam. Old-fashioned annual for shade or part-shade prefers rich, moist soil. Rose-shaped blossoms are born along stems 18 inches tall.

Bidens. Star-shaped yellow flowers and ferny foliage cascade in combination planters. Loves sun and well-drained soil. Easy.

Brachycome. Violet, blue or white flowers on mounding plants make swan river daisy an easy addition to hanging baskets and containers.

Calibrachoa. Called million bells, flowers look like mini petunias. Great in hanging baskets and planters. Likes full sun and heat.

Celosia. Perfect in flower beds with full sun, heat and dry conditions.

Cleome. This head-turner deserves widespread use as a dramatic background specimen, 3 to 4 feet tall. Easy.

Coleus. Showy in shaded containers and flower beds. Remove the pale flowering spikes from these colorful foliage plants as they bloom.

Cosmos. An old-fashioned favorite, the cheery blossoms grace the background of flower beds. Easy.

Cuphea. Lavender flowers on clean foliage create a great filler for containers. Easy.

Dahlberg Daisy. Sunny flowers on 10-inch ferny mounds are great for pots and planters exposed to full sun and heat.

Dianthus. These frost-tolerant early bloomers grow 8 to 18 inches tall and are ideal for flower bed edging. Prefers cool locations.

Dusty Miller. The low-growing silver-foliaged plants provide accents in planters and flower bed edging. Easy.

Gazania. Striking daisy flowers on short plants for containers and flower beds. Loves sun, heat and dry conditions.

Godetia. Satiny pink, rose and white flowers grow to 18 inches. Locate in flower beds having cool, rich, organic soil.

Gomphrena. Ball-shaped flowers atop 8- to 24-inch plants are unique for flower beds in full sun and heat. Favorite varieties are Buddy and Strawberry Fields. Easy.

Helichrysum. Nicknamed licorice plant, the silver foliage and spreading habit create nice contrast in combination planters. Easy.

Heliotrope. Called cherry pie plant because of the wonderful fragrance. Locate the 18-inch purple-blue flowers where you can enjoy the aroma up close.

Larkspur. Old-fashioned pastel spikes grow 24 to 36 inches tall and prefer cool locations.

Lavatera. Visitors always ask its identity. Pink blossoms on 24- to 36-inch plants provide showy highlights in full-sun flower beds. Easy.

Lisianthus. Elegant and unusual, it's a must-try for flower beds having rich, well-drained soil.

Melampodium. Yellow flowers on neat 24-inch mounds for flower beds or large containers. Loves sun and heat. Easy.

Mimulus. Called monkey flower because of unique blossoms. The low plants grow best in filtered sun or bright shade.

Nemesia. Pretty little snapdragon-shaped flowers for sun or part shade. The 12-inch plants prefer cool locations.

Nicotiana. Flower bed favorite for attracting hummingbirds. Some types are very fragrant. Easy.

Nierembergia. Cup-shaped flowers on low mounded plants are ideal in planters or flower bed edges.

Nigella. Love-in-a-mist has intricate flowers on short plants useful for containers or beds.

Ornamental Cabbage and Kale. The eye-catching colorful foliage remains dramatic in flower beds until the snow flies. Easy.

Osteospermum. Cheery daisies brighten planters in sun or part shade.

Salpiglossis. Striking trumpet-shaped flowers with contrasting veins on 18-inch plants.

Salvia Victoria. Spikes of blue on tall accent plants for flower beds in full sun and heat. Easy.

Scaveola. Prolific blue-lavender bloomer for baskets and containers. Easy.

Schizanthus. Unique blooms on 18-inch plants prefer sun, but need rich, well-drained soil.

Statice. Papery-textured flowers dry right on the plant. Cut for everlasting bouquets.

Stocks. Fragrant spikes for flower beds in cool locations.

Sweet Pea. Plant seeds of this old-fashioned climber in April at the base of wire fencing or trellis. Extremely fragrant.

Thunbergia. Black-eyed Susan vine loves a trellised pot in sun and heat. Easy.

Torenia. Vividly marked flowers on low-growing plants prefer shaded planters or beds.

Vinca. Perfect for containers or beds in hot, sunny spots. Easy.

Feel the adrenaline rush? Who needs skydiving, when we can grow annuals like these? I rest my case.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Tune in to his weekly radio segment from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Fridays on WDAY Radio 970. Readers can reach him at forumgrowingtogether@hotmail.com.

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