When choosing color for your garden, make sure you have something blooming in every season. Annuals are plants we need to replant every year, so you don’t want a yard that is all annuals, or you have to replace the entire garden twice a year. We have warm season annuals for summer color and cool season annuals for fall and winter color. Perennials are plants that come back for more than one year, and often they come back larger each season, so give them room to grow.
Plant your seasonal color in a concentrated block of color to make the biggest impact in the garden. Consider entryways or other visible parts of the garden. Annuals and perennials do well in containers or planted in the ground. Group plants together that need the same conditions — sun, water and fertilizer
With annuals, fertilize frequently to keep them blooming. Water needs will vary from plant to plant, but all plants need water to get roots established. Perennials typically need less fertilizer than annuals, but more than trees and shrubs.
Some good choices for annual flowers include plants in the Arkansas Diamonds program — a partnership between the Arkansas Green Industry Association, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, local growers and independent garden centers with the goal to educate Arkansas gardeners about annual plants that consistently perform well in our state. For 2016, three new summer annuals have been added to the Arkansas Diamonds program. The plants chosen are two sun lovers – “Graffiti Red” pentas and “Sriracha Pink” cuphea, and the shade-loving “Velvet Elvis” plectranthus.
Some additional shade annuals include the wishbone flower, torenia, or begonias, impatiens and coleus. And don’t forget tropical flowering plants. Although some gardeners do overwinter them indoors to extend their life, they can also be planted in the garden and treated as summer annuals. From the pink-blooming mandevilla to a wide range of tropical hibiscus blooms, they thrive on heat and humidity, and provide plenty of seasonal color.
Perennial plants typically have a season of bloom and a season of green. Some bloom in the winter, some late winter to early spring, some for summer and others for fall. Choose a variety to extend the bloom periods in your garden. Some great summer choices include the milkweeds — Asclepias tuberosa is the showy orange butterfly weed that blooms for months in the summer and is a great host plant for monarch butterflies. Echinacea, or purple coneflower, now comes in a wide range of colors and is a long-season bloomer, provided the blooms are dead-headed after flowering. Hardy hibiscus love water and sunlight, and bloom from June through August, and gaillardia or blanket flower, gives you a sea of color all summer in the sun.
If you have shade, try some hardy geraniums; they look nothing like the annual flowering plants, or heuchera (coral bells), with foliage in almost every color of the rainbow. Woodland poppies provide bright yellow flowers, and while hostas are grown more for their foliage, they do produce flower spikes.
Janet B. Carson is an extension horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.