Annuals for hot, dry spots

  • Article by: NANCY ROSE , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2009 - 10:04 AM
amaranth

Amaranth is a heat-tolerant, old-fashioned favorite.

Photo: Nancy Rose, Special To Star Tribune

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I have a strip close to the street where I'd like to plant annual flowers. The soil is not too bad but there's a lot of reflected heat. Can you recommend some annuals that will do OK in fairly hot, dry conditions?

There are a number of annual flowers that will grow well in your hot, dry site. Here are a few:

Low-growing annuals

(LESS THAN 12 INCHES)

Dahlberg daisy (Thymophylla tenuifolia): Small, bright yellow, daisylike flowers grow on low mounds of ferny foliage.

Rose moss (Portulaca grandiflora): Silky, double flowers in brilliant tropical colors and lighter pastels appear on sprawling mats of reddish stems with tiny succulent leaves. Flowers open only when the sun shines.

Hybrid portulaca (Portulaca oleracea cultivars): Look for colorfully flowered selections in the Fairytale Series or Yubi Series of this low, spreading, succulent plant.

Verbena (Verbena × hybrida): Clusters of small flowers in intense, pure shades of purple, pink, red, often with a small white eye, grow on sprawling stems clad with dark green or gray-green foliage.

Sanvitalia or Creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens): Produces masses of small daisylike flowers in bright yellow, gold, or orange with brown eyes on creeping stems. Tolerates abject neglect.

Gazania (Gazania rigens): A mounded plant with beautiful large flowers in bright, often two-toned shades of gold, bronze, pink, orange and white over a rosette of gray-green leaves.

Mid-height annuals

(1-2 FEET)

Zinnia (Zinnia hybrids): Try the Profusion or Star series for mounded plants loaded with white, bright pink or orange single flowers and foliage that is resistant to powdery mildew.

Dusty miller (Senecio cineraria): Grow this plant for its striking silvery foliage, a perfect companion to bright colored flowers.

Vinca or Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus): This tropical-looking annual sports large, rounded flowers in white and shades of pink and purple, nicely set off by glossy, deep green leaves.

California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica): A spreading, low- to mid-height wildflower with cup-shaped flowers in bright orange, gold, cream or pink that rise above finely cut gray-green foliage.

Calliopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria): Another showy wildflower with bright yellow or bi-color gold and mahogany flowers on slender, upright stems. Height varies with cultivars.

Tall annuals

(MORE THAN 2 FEET)

Amaranthus species: Includes A. tricolor, grown for its huge, showy, poinsettia-like leaf clusters in shades of red, yellow, bronze and green and love-lies-bleeding (A. caudatus), an old-fashioned favorite with unusual drooping flower clusters of bright purple-red.

Globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa): Bushy plants with many upright stems topped with papery, rounded flowers in shades of white, pink, purple and red-orange. Excellent for fresh or dried flower arrangements.

Sunflowers (Helianthus): A plethora of cultivars that range in height from 2 to 12 feet tall, with flowers in many sizes and colors, including yellow, gold, orange, red, mahogany and bicolors.

Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia): Zinnia-like bright orange flowers on tall plants.

Will mothballs placed around the garden keep rabbits out?

Because mothballs may be toxic if eaten by children, pets or birds, they should not be placed in gardens. Besides, there is no proof that mothballs are particularly effective in repelling rabbits.

Virtually every rabbit-repellent substance or technique used by gardeners (human hair, mothballs, predator urine, blood meal, rotten egg-based sprays, hot pepper sprays, to name a few) gets as many reports of failure as of success. You can certainly give these repellents a try, just don't expect them to eliminate rabbits from your garden.

The most effective way to prevent rabbit damage is to install fencing around garden areas. To create a barrier, wrap chicken wire (2 to 3 feet tall) around the garden bed. Be sure to bury the bottom of the wire 3 to 4 inches in the soil to prevent rabbits from tunneling under it.

I planted dormant asparagus and strawberry crowns this spring. Three weeks later no growth has emerged. Should I give up on them?

Depending on when you planted them, it might take as long as three weeks for the deeply planted asparagus crowns to send up new growth. (In warmer weather, it would take less time.) But the strawberry crowns, which are planted just at the soil line, should certainly have shown signs of life in less than three weeks.

Check with the nursery or catalog company where you purchased the plants to see if they will replace the crowns or refund your money. Before planting dormant stock, check the roots (they should be plump and flexible, not brown, stiff or shriveled). Also check the crowns for signs of mold or rot and discard any that look unhealthy.

Nancy Rose is a horticulturist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. To ask her a gardening question, call 612-673-9073 and leave a message. She will answer questions in this column only.

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