I will be the first to admit it -- I am opinionated. When I find a plant I love, I want everyone to plant it, so they can love it as much as I do. Sometimes, it's easy. Over the years, I have touted Salvia Black & Blue as the best hummingbird-attracting plant. Customers now return year after year for this wonderful plant, so they are ready to welcome these winged wonders back for the summer.
It is easy to fall into a gardening rut and purchase the same annuals year after year for your borders and containers. If your plants performed satisfactorily in the past, why take a chance on something new? But some of the best parts of gardening are learning about new plants, trying new designs and experimenting with new combinations in containers.
Everyone with a sun-baked spot in their landscape should grow Angelonia. These heat-loving plants are often overlooked at garden centers in spring, because they conceal their potential when temperatures are cool. Summer sun coaxes them into bushy plants with dark green foliage and spikes loaded with snapdragon-like flowers in shades of white, pink or purple.
It is best to wait to plant Angelonia until late spring, in well-drained soil rich with organic matter. Once plants have settled into your garden, they are fairly drought tolerant and will only need additional watering if rainfall is insufficient. Apply mulch around plants to help keep moisture in the soil, but be careful not to pile up mulch against the plant's stems.
Use a light potting mix if you are planting Angelonia in containers. Combine it with other sun lovers like lantana, petunias, vinca and zinnias.
Whether you are planting Angelonia in the ground or in a container, mix in a slow-release fertilizer when planting and feed additionally with a water-soluble fertilizer for blooming plants.
The AngelMist series offers plants with an upright, spreading habit with blooms in white, pink and lavender. The Archangel series features plants with large flowers and are excellent for cutting.
Zinnias are an old-fashioned favorite that should be included in everyone's garden or containers. They bloom in brilliant shades of colors all summer long; are easy to grow; provide an endless supply of cut flowers for arrangements; and attract lots of birds and butterflies to the landscape.
They are easy to grow from seed, or you can buy small plants ready to pop into your soil. Zinnias thrive in summer's sun and heat.
After all danger of frost has passed, press seeds ½ inch deep and 3 inches apart in fine-textured soil. Keep them moist until seeds germinate. As seedlings grow, thin so plants will be 8 to 12 inches apart.
Hot Crayon Colors is a mix of intense shades of orange, golden yellow and red. Cool Crayon Colors is a lovely blend of lavender, pink, rose and white.
Small plants are available at your local independent garden center. Loosen the soil in your garden and work in organic matter before nestling the plants into their new home. Plant them at the same depth as they were in their pots, and water them in. Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer around each plant.
The Profusion series is an outstanding performer with excellent heat and drought resistance. Profusion Cherry is smothered with cherry red daisy flowers with yellow centers.
Zahara zinnias feature large, nonstop blooms in a wide range of colors. Double Fire has fiery orange-red flowers that light up the landscape. Double Cherry boasts magenta blooms with centers that lighten as the flowers age. Starlight Rose sports white daisy flowers streaked with rose and yellow centers.
The Magellan series offers compact flowers packed with petals. Perfect for the front of the border, Magellan Orange displays large, fully double orange flowers. Plant a small grouping and enjoy the show!
Use a light potting mix when planting zinnias in containers and add a slow-release fertilizer. I always include zinnias in the containers on my deck, where I can enjoy the butterflies stopping by for a sip of nectar.
• Diana Stoll is a horticulturist and garden center manager at The Planter's Palette, 28W571 Roosevelt Road, Winfield. Call (630) 293-1040, ext. 2, or visit planterspalette.com.