Fast-growing and ever-blooming, annual flowers are just the ticket for special-needs sites in your yard and garden. Varieties of annual flowers run the gamut, requiring a wide range of growing conditions. They also have the added bonus of lasting a single season; you can plant a different arrangement every year.
Native to tropical America, nicotiana (Nicotiana alata and N. sylvestris) is a tender perennial widely grown as an annual. It thrives in hot, dry sites, like a west-facing porch. Although the species varieties grow quite tall, newer hybrids grow less than 2 feet high, making them ideal for containers. Nicotianas' rather large, trumpet-shaped flowers open after dark and perfume the night with their intensely sweet fragrance, which will drift through any open windows near the porch.
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Indigenous to the hot, dry plains of South America, moss rose (Portacula grandiflora) is a low-growing, annual flower suitable for a ground cover or container. The waxy stems are reddish and the needle-like leaves are about an inch long. The 2- to 3-inch, rose-shaped flowers bloom in bright shades of red, rose-pink, orange, yellow and white, including bi-colors with spots or stripes. The flowers open in bright sunlight and close during darkness and on cloudy days. Although heat-loving and drought-tolerant, moss rose requires a lot of water, but will reward you with masses of flowers all season long.
Zonal geraniums (Pelargonium X hortorum) grown from seed thrive in hot, dry locations like a west-facing porch. Although the flowers will blow apart in rainstorms or high winds, they will flower continuously from spring through fall. The flowers are smaller in spring, but increase in size and quantity as the season progresses. They adopt a spreading habit when grown in containers or hanging baskets. Zonal geraniums come in a wide variety of hybridized series, in colors that include all shades of red, rose-pink, salmon-pink, pink, white and bi-colored. Some cultivars have double flowers; all hybrid cultivars perform very well both in the ground and in containers.
Native to Australia, fan flower (Scaevola aemula) is so-called because its five daisy-like petals cluster on one side of the flowers' centers, making them look like five-fingered fans. The flowers come in white, pink, various shades of blue and a purple- and white-striped variety. They usually grow only 8 to 10 inches high, but can grow to 24 inches high under ideal conditions. The leaves and stems are thick, helping it resist wilting in hot, dry conditions. Ensure it has good drainage to guard against root rot.