It’s time to make the transition from cool season annuals to ones that love the heat.
The first days that reach temperatures in the 90s signal the change, and it doesn’t take much to complete the demise of cool weather annuals. There are options to changing plants twice a year, and an understanding of what plants can tolerate will facilitate that.
An annual is a plant that completes its entire life cycle in less than a year, starting from a seed, growing into a plant, flowering and setting seed for the next generation in a fairly short period of time. In most climates, winter is usually the end of the plant’s life because they are too tender to live through the freezes. In our climate, winter is mild enough that many plants enjoy the cool for their season. Others love the heat so that gives us the advantage of year- round ability to grow annuals.
So if annuals die within a year, why in the world would anyone want to plant them? The fact is that they have glorious bloom cycles. Because blooming is the object of their reason to be, there is more bloom than on a plant that has multiple reasons for existence.
A perennial is a permanent plant that grows, blooms, sets seeds or makes offsets, then grows some more in a continuing cycle. Perennials may bloom more than once a season. Perennials are either woody or herbaceous. This tells us more about how they grow rather than how they bloom.
A woody plant develops a branching structure that is in constant existence and may not lose its leaves in the winter. An herbaceous perennial is one that finishes a cycle of growth and blooming and then grows an entirely new plant at the base, usually referred to as a basal rosette.
So now that you know all the technical differences, how does this help you make a decision about what to plant.
What is the most important part of the question? Do you want to plant once and keep the same plants for years? Is it important to have something green even when the plant is not blooming? If that is the case – use perennials. The wonderful “Proven Winner” selections have exuberant enough displays to mistake them for annuals.
If the most important thing is to have absolute perfection in flowering at a given time – use annuals. If you choose annuals, your best bet for full sun all summer is vinca (Catharanthus roseus), blue salvia (Salvia farinacea), portulaca and Golden Fleece (Dyssodia pentechata). These plants promise to last through the worst heat loaded with flowers and looking great!
Cathy Bishop, co-owner of Mesquite Valley Growers Nursery, has more than 30 years of gardening experience. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.