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5 New Sun-Loving Annuals for Your Garden

By Heather Blackmore for Proven Winners
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners

Annuals are the unsung heroes of the sunny garden. From patio containers to window boxes, hanging baskets to borders, they have a way of knitting together a space with their non-stop flower power. Best of all, they can be incredibly low maintenance if you choose the right varieties for your space.

One of the perks of professional garden writing is that I often get a sneak peek at plants a year before they are introduced. It’s for this reason that I am able to vouch for these five new annuals. I grew all of them last year in my suburban Chicago garden (zone 6a) and they blew my mind!

The following five new annuals, all of which are available at garden centers now, are the best of the best in my book. You might just find a new favorite, too.

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Campfire® Marshmallow™ bidens

If I had to choose just one new annual as my must-have variety for the 2024 garden (and every garden after), it would be this sweet little bidens. Planted in my south-facing patio border, Campfire Marshmallow rose to the challenge in the hottest, driest part of my garden. Despite the lack of drip irrigation and the occasional drink offered by me and Mother Nature, it quickly became a densely mounded force at the front of the border.

Flowering non-stop all summer long, pollinators flocked to it. Rabbits, on the other hand, showed no interest. Its non-stop, pure white flowers are self-cleaning, so no deadheading is needed to keep the blooms coming. For the best show, plant this one en masse. If it outgrows the space, simply give it a light trim and a fresh flush of white flowers will fill right back in.

Standing 8 to 14 inches tall, Campfire Marshmallow bidens thrives in full sun to part sun and can handle some drought stress. For best flowering, mix Proven Winners Continuous Release Plant Food into the hole at planting time. Try it paired with Superbena® verbena, Rock ‘N Round® sedum and ColorBlaze® coleus in your landscape.

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Safari® Dusk™ South African phlox

While its blooms resemble phlox, this annual is actually a Jamesbrittenia which is a relative of bacopa. Native to South Africa, it is a workhorse that has excellent heat and humidity tolerance, performing well as a filler plant in container combinations. Despite its tough constitution, this plant has a soft, billowing growth habit and is covered in lilac purple flowers all summer long.

Having never grown Jamesbrittenia, I experimented with it in one of my AquaPots® Lite self-watering containers. The combination was simple with just two types of plants – one lavender-tinged Mangave surrounded by four Safari Dusk. Both plants thrived in full sun and weren’t especially thirsty, so they were compatible growing in a container together. The pointiness of the Mangave leaves paired with the softness of the South African phlox turned out to be a successful mix of shapes, colors and textures.

Safari Dusk grows best in full sun to part sun and reaches up to a foot tall and two feet wide. Since it requires well-drained soil, it grows best in containers with other sun-loving plants like Rockin® salvias, Supertunia® petunias and Angelface® summer snapdragons. For best performance, work some controlled release plant food into the soil at planting time.

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Supertunia® Saffron Finch™ petunia

Yellow has always been a favorite color of mine in the garden, but I’m particular about the shades of yellow I like. Sulphur yellows are out and so are muddy yellow tones. When Supertunia Saffron Finch arrived, I was instantly smitten. The color was just right! Non-stop, yellow blooms spilled across my flagstone path and continued all summer long without deadheading. Supertunias are natural rock stars in containers, too, where they have a mounded, then cascading shape.

Like other annuals, especially those planted in containers, an application of controlled release plant food at planting time will help them live their best lives. I find that a weekly application of water-soluble fertilizer beginning two months after planting is the secret sauce. To refresh leggy plants or those looking a bit tired, simply remove up to a third of the plant’s volume using clean, sharp scissors. Follow up with a dose of water-soluble fertilizer for a post-haircut boost.

Supertunia Saffron Finch thrives in full sun to part sun, growing up to a foot tall and two feet wide. Try pairing it with other colors of Supertunia® petunias, Superbells® calibrachoa and Superbena® verbena.

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Superbena® Pink Cashmere™ verbena

I have yet to find a Superbena that doesn’t grow like gangbusters in the garden. The newest variety, Superbena Pink Cashmere, is one of the biggest and best of the series. Pollinating bees and butterflies love it, but the rabbits in my garden turned their noses up at it. That’s a big deal in my rabbit-infested borders. While not technically rabbit resistant, I consider it to be based on my experience, and the deer don’t seem too interested either.

From the deep green, serrated foliage to the huge cloud-like umbels of soft pink blooms floating above it, everything about this low maintenance beauty pleases the eye. Over time, the plants formed a low dense carpet at the front of one of my borders. It’s a top performer in container recipes too, where it mounds at first and then trails as the plant grows.

Superbena Pink Cashmere verbena grows up to 12 inches tall and 30 inches wide in full sun to part sun. It pairs beautifully with other sun-loving plants like Angel Wings senecio, Luscious® lantana and Blue My Mind® XL dwarf morning glory.

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Supertunia® Hoopla® Vivid Orchid™ petunia

This petunia has fun splashed all over it! Large, vivid orchid-purple flowers with a white picotee edge cover this Supertunia all summer long and are quite an attention grabber. Ruby-throated hummingbirds staked their claim early in my garden, marking their territory and battling anyone who came too close.

Planted at the front of the border or in containers, it produces loads of flowers consistently all summer long without deadheading. The well-branched, mounded trailing plants grow up to 12 inches tall and two feet wide. Use it as a spiller in hanging baskets, window boxes or upright planters or mass it in the landscape. It tends to steal the show wherever it goes, but pairs well with Rockin’® salvias, Diamond Frost® euphorbia and Superbena® Whiteout™ verbena.

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Patent Information: Campfire® Marshmallow™ Bidens; Safari® Dusk™ Jamesbritennia USPPAF CanPBRAF; Supertunia® Saffron Finch™ Petunia USPP32448; Superbena® Pink Cashmere™ Verbena USPPAF CanPBRAF; Supertunia® Hoopla™ Vivid Orchid™ Petunia USPPAF CanPBRAF; Blue My Mind® XL Evolvulus USPP34052 Can6965; Diamond Frost® Euphorbia USPP17567 Can2830; Superbena® Whiteout™ Verbena USPP30897 Can6301

Heather Blackmore is a Chicago-area gardener, writer and speaker who hopes her passion will inspire others to find their way to a happier, healthier life in the garden.

All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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