Best 5 Annuals for Dry Western Gardens

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Lawn & Garden

Sunflowers are a popular annual flower in gardens throughout the West. See more pictures of annual flowers.

If you live in an arid climate with full sunlight and limited precipitation, you might think gardening is impossible. However, annuals can be the perfect solution for gardeners who want to conserve water, enjoy bright blossoms, and have more than maintenance on their minds. Annuals go into the ground each year, and they can thrive in hot areas if planted in the spring. This gives hardy annuals like Salvia, California Poppy, Lantana, Sunflowers, and Angelonia the chance to establish roots and find the water that’s down deep. In this article, we’ll explore these strong annuals that can bring color and beauty to any western garden.

When adding colors and plants to your yard, keep in mind that planting in the dead of summer isn’t ideal for establishing roots that will last for the entire season. Water becomes more important as the days grow longer, so giving your plants additional nutrients can make all the difference in the world. Adding mulch or using your veggie scraps or lawn clippings as compost can help parched land retain some of its moisture and ease the stress of hot days [source: Fosdick].

First, let’s take an in-depth look at Salvia.

5. Salvia

To grow Salvia, ensure it gets plenty of sun and water at least once a week after the roots have had a chance to establish themselves.
Cliff Parnell/Getty ImagesĀ­

This hardy plant has been around for millennia, and its many varieties blossom (and smell great) in full sun. Two of the most inspiring varieties are those with red and blue blossoms. Red salvia, also known as the “red hot Sally,” can be grown from New Orleans to New Mexico. Deadheading the dying blooms off the plant will allow it to keep flourishing. Cutting the plant down will force it to grow back, and with each cut, expect more blossoms for color throughout the season.

To grow this “sage” plant, ensure it has full sun and lots of water at least once a week after the roots have had a chance to establish themselves. Avoid overwatering. Salvia usually grows to about a foot high, but there are varieties that can reach 20 inches or more [source: Garden Guides].

4. Lantana

Lantana is a shrub that can tolerate drought and deer, making it an ideal plant for the western region of the United States. This plant blooms in various colors, attracts butterflies, and originates from subtropical regions of North and South America. Lantana is an excellent choice for adding color and filling up space in your yard or hedges. It is a relative of verbena and can grow into a big, bushy mound of blossoms and butterflies. With some plants reaching heights of 6 feet, there is a Lantana variety for every landscape. When planting Lantana, choose a well-draining and warm spot. This plant can also repel deer, making it a perfect border-patrol plant. However, it can develop mold when planted in shady areas, so be sure to plant it in well-drained and not over-watered habitats. Like salvia, Lantana grows vigorously after being cut back, and it can be trimmed down to a third of its size and still grow back rapidly. Citronella Grass, peppermint, lavender, and catnip are a few plants that can repel mosquitoes during summer months.

3. California Poppy

The “Golden Poppy,” California’s state flower, is a solid choice for homeowners with gravelly gardens due to its yellowy-orange color and strong roots. Although new varieties are in development, poppies are not yet available in multiple colors. The “Golden Poppy” has been the state flower of California for over a century due to its beauty and resilience to the harsh heat of the state. This plant is considered an annual but can also reappear as a perennial if seed pods from this year’s plants are saved and spread over the land for next year. California poppies require little maintenance and can grow in the worst of terrain.

The California Poppy is also known as the “flame flower” and is a great choice for adding instant, easy color to your yard. These flowers typically grow to be about a foot high, but hybrid species can grow almost as tall as a person. It’s important to remember that poppies prefer sandy rocky areas and don’t do well in shady spots. While some types of poppies can produce opium for heroin, this is not the same type that grows in the U.S.

Sunflowers are a popular annual in gardens throughout the West and can grow up to 15 feet high in red, white, and yellow colors. The traditional yellow “sun” of the sunflower is the best option for giant blossoms and saving seeds can lead to look-a-likes in the following year. To ensure the best growth, make sure sunflowers get six to eight hours of sun a day and are planted in a well-drained area with added nutrients and fertilizer. Sunflowers have been used for dye, oil, medicine, and food throughout history.

1. Angelonia

Angelonia, also known as snapdragon, is a popular plant that can be cut from your garden and used to create beautiful bouquets in your home. This snapdragon-like plant looks similar to an orchid but is hardier and comes in more than 30 different species.

The height of angelonia can vary depending on the species, with some reaching up to 2 feet or more with lots of heat. To ensure your plant grows properly, it needs plenty of sunlight and space. It’s recommended to keep it at least 16 inches away from other plants. Angelonia can be propagated through clippings, and with proper care, you can enjoy it all year long. However, it’s important to note that angelonia thrives in warm weather and may not do well in a greenhouse.

There are many different varieties of angelonia to choose from, including Angelface Blue or Pink Angelonia, Serena Purple Angelonia, and Angelonia Lavender or Pink.

When planning a hot-weather garden, it’s essential to know your terrain and what plants will thrive in your area. Understanding which plants prefer shade or soft soil can help you decide where to plant them. Checking out professionally done landscapes and gardens in your area can also provide inspiration.

Although some annuals may grow from seeds they’ve sown, most require planting and the right climate to thrive. To determine which plant types are best for your area, check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map.

Additional Information

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More Useful Links

  • U.S. EPA: Landscaping with Native Plants
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  • Caster, Shannon. No task too tall for the sunflower.” The Christian Science Monitor. 06/12/07. (09/17/09)
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      1. What are annuals?

      Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle within a year, from germination to seed production. They are usually grown for their beautiful blooms and come in a wide range of colors and sizes.

      2. Which annuals are best suited for the West?

      Some of the best annuals for the West include Zinnias, Marigolds, Petunias, Cosmos, and Sunflowers. These plants are drought-tolerant and can withstand high temperatures, which makes them perfect for the hot, dry climate of the West.

      3. How do I care for my annuals?

      Annuals require regular watering, especially during hot weather. They also need to be fertilized every month to ensure healthy growth and continuous blooming. Deadheading, or removing spent blooms, is also important to encourage new growth.

      4. When should I plant my annuals?

      Annuals should be planted after the last frost in spring. In the West, this is usually in late March or early April. However, some annuals, such as Zinnias and Sunflowers, can be planted later in the season and still produce beautiful blooms.

      5. Can annuals be grown in containers?

      Yes, annuals can be grown in containers, which makes them perfect for small spaces or adding color to patios or balconies. Make sure to choose a container with drainage holes and use a well-draining soil mix. Water and fertilize regularly, and deadhead as needed.

      6. Are annuals easy to grow?

      Yes, annuals are generally easy to grow and require minimal maintenance. They are a great choice for beginner gardeners or those with limited time and resources.

      7. Can annuals attract pollinators?

      Yes, many annuals, such as Zinnias and Cosmos, are excellent for attracting bees and butterflies to the garden. This not only adds beauty but also supports the ecosystem and helps with pollination of other plants.

      8. How long do annuals bloom?

      The blooming period for annuals varies depending on the plant, but most will bloom continuously from spring until the first frost in autumn. Deadheading and regular fertilization can help extend the blooming period.

      9. Can annuals be used as cut flowers?

      Yes, many annuals, such as Zinnias, Marigolds, and Cosmos, make excellent cut flowers. Cut them in the morning when the blooms are fully open and place them in water immediately. Refresh the water and re-cut the stems every few days to ensure long-lasting blooms.

      10. What are some common pests and diseases that affect annuals?

      Common pests that affect annuals include aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies. Diseases such as powdery mildew and bacterial leaf spot can also occur. Regular inspection and treatment with appropriate pesticides or fungicides can help prevent and control these issues.

      11. Can annuals be grown as perennials?

      No, annuals cannot be grown as perennials because they complete their life cycle within a year and do not have the ability to survive through winter. However, some annuals may self-seed and produce new plants the following year if allowed to do so.

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