I’m always on the lookout for high-impact, low-maintenance annuals to keep my pots and containers looking good all summer.
A couple of Saturdays ago my mom and I spent the afternoon on our favourite tour of local garden centres. It’s a bit early to actually plant anything yet, (the rule of thumb in Manitoba is to wait until after the May long weekend when you can be reasonably sure that the risk of frost has passed) but we’re both just itching to get started planning, if not planting, our containers.
Not all the stock had arrived yet, so we picked up a few basic pot stuffers to keep us satisfied while we plot out our colour schemes.
We actually got some beautiful sweet potato vine at Costco for a song! If you haven’t grown it before, sweet potato vine grows very quickly and looks wonderful spilling over the edge of a pot. We got both this dark leafed type as well as a bright lime.
Just like you have to decorate your home to suit your lifestyle and personality, so too your yard. I am finally accepting that I need low maintenance, virtually abuse-proof annuals, as I don’t usually have a lot of time to put into my yard once summer is in full swing.
That means anything that can’t handle getting a bit dry, or that needs constant dead-heading, won’t cut it.
My Top Five Workhorse Annuals
These standbys are some of the things that do best in my barely cared-for summer garden (well, containers mostly):
- Impatiens in the shadier corners and occasionally tucked into pots. I’m for the vibrant colours, not the pastels. These might need brushing off occasionally, but no real dead heading.
- New Guinea impatiens for the sunnier spots. I love the vibrant orange and deep lush pink best of all — and again, no real dead heading needed.
- Wave petunias and their kin. Yup. They grow profusely, cascade marvelously, fill in beds like nobody’s business, and are self cleaning. Lately, I’ve been liking the classic purple wave, though the blue wave and deep pinks are also very nice.
- Geraniums. Although they do tend to need some deadheading, they’re not producing dozens of blooms a day that I have to keep up with. As long as I don’t go overboard on the numbers, these are another reliable addition. I look for deep pink and magenta as a rule, although the classic red geranium does have a certain charm. My husband was admiring a gorgeous cherry pink one at a neighbourhood plant stand the other evening, so that might find its way home this year!
5. Sweet potato vine. As I said above, it fills in the gaps, spills over the edges, adding colour, texture and dimension to a container. (Swedish ivy is another vine I use from time to time that also grows quickly and cascades wonderfully out of a pot.)
And, just for fun, a bonus plant:
Cuban oregano is a fuzzy leafed, soft green beauty that grows quickly into a very tidy mound. It’s reasonably heat and drought tolerant, and it smells great. House and Garden identifies it as a house plant, but I have only ever bought it as an annual. Missed it the last couple of years, and jumped on it when I saw it in the garden centre the other day!
I’ll always add in a few new things that I want to try or that bring in great colours or textures that I don’t think I can live without, but these five tend to make up the base of my summer container garden (which is most of my garden, frankly).
Are you a gardener who pampers exotic and delicate plants, or a love ‘em and leave ‘em gal like me? What are your go-to annual plants and favourite combinations in your pots and containers?