Annuals bring color to your garden

Part of the excitement of a new gardening season is to see what new plants will be offered at the local garden centers.

While you may have your favorite container plants and faithful standbys it’s always fun to try something new — today we’ll look at annuals.

Annuals live just one growing season, going from seed to flower to seed. These are the plants that give us nonstop blooms for our containers.

You may also find tropical or semi-tropical plants in the annual section. While they may be perennial where they originated from, they can’t take our cold winter weather.

Some can spend the winter inside as a houseplant.

Here are just a few of the new offerings for 2021. When shopping for new plant introductions, be aware that they may not be widely available the first year on the market.

n If you are looking for a unique Celosia (Celosia spicata), that comes in hot, hot pink, try Kelos ‘Candela Pink.’

The shocking pink flowers bloom on long stalks above burgundy-green foliage. They look like 15-inch neon wands waving in the wind. Plant in a sunny garden or container.

It would make a great vertical accent in a mixed container. It tolerates wind, heat, humidity, and rain. Plus, the deer tend to leave it alone.

Celosia is tolerant of poor, dry soils.

‘Candela Pink’ is a 2021 AAS winner. One AAS judge called it the “Energizer Bunny” that just keeps blooming.

Another bonus — it can be cut and used as a dried flower.

n Zinnias are a super popular annual.

“Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor” is a winner. It is a 2021 AAS winner and the recipient of the European Fleuroselect Gold Medal award.

This gorgeous zinnia starts the season with a bold red center surrounded by golden-yellow outer petals.

The aging flowers morph into soft shades of dusty rose, salmon, and apricot bringing a surplus of color to the garden.

You get three different effects based on flower age.

During AAS trials the plant continued to bloom new flowers over old so there was never a decline in color or blooms. No deadheading needed.

Growing 8 to 14 inches tall this zinnia is suitable for containers or the front of the garden.

n I love petunias. I’m always on the lookout for new ones to try.

“Crystal Sky” petunia is the latest in the Headliner series. The single lavender blooms have long lasting white spots and dark purple veins in the throat of the bloom.

At 10 to 16 inches tall and with a 20-to-30-inch spread, it’s a great choice for medium sized baskets or pots.

If magenta is more your color, look for “Electric Purple Sky.” Magenta blooms with white dots and a dark purple throat are an out of this world combination.

Looking for a new trailing petunia? Check out Main Stage “Glacier Sky” petunia.

The dark purple blooms have white speckles and a white rim that gives it a picotee look. “Glacier Sky” will make a bold statement in your hanging baskets or garden.

n Do you need a drought tolerant annual and one that the pollinators will flock to?

“Lancelot” salvia (Salvia canariensis) can come to the rescue. The silvery-white, felted leaves are a great contrast to the rosy-lavender bracts.

Lavender flowers appear mid-summer. Dead-head flowers to ensure blooms throughout the season.

It even has a pleasant sage fragrance.

Grow in a sunny spot in well-drained soil. At 36 to 42 inches tall it can be at the back of the border or a thriller for a large container.

n Here are some new begonias that are low maintenance, have abundant blooms, don’t require deadheading and are slightly fragrant.

Double Delight “Primrose” has a cheery, canary yellow bloom and Double Delight “Blush Rose” has flowers that are shades of pink with just a touch of yellow.

Grow in part sun to full sun in well-draining soil. Keep the soil moist but not wet.

Their mature size is 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide. The corms can be dug up in the fall, stored for the winter, and replanted next spring.

n Foliage plants are becoming increasingly popular, so plant breeders are adding to our selections.

Foliage Celosia Sol “Gekko Green” is a sun-lover. It would make a great container accent plant or grow it on its own.

The foliage is a mix of emerald-green and burgundy. The colors will be more intense under higher light levels.

It’s a great alternative to coleus (in spots where you can’t grow coleus) and no downy mildew issues.

You might get small hot-pink flowers later in the season. The plant is a winner of the 2021 Fleuroselect Gold Medal award.

n Ornamental sweet potato vines are frequently used as foliage accents in containers.

Sweet Caroline Medusa Green (Ipomoea batatas) is different as it has a more mounding shape rather than trailing. It also has a unique leaf shape — leaves are fan shaped with deeply cut fingers.

The new growth displays a light purple flush and matures to a chartreuse green. If grown in full sun the color will be a brighter chartreuse while it will be a deeper green in the shade.

Growing 6 to 12 inches tall and spreading 18 to 30 inches long, it can be used in containers, hanging baskets, containers, or planted in the garden. Sweet potato vines love the heat and humidity.

All annuals can use regular fertilization throughout the summer for the best possible performance. They need that food to continue blooming and growing.

Container plants are likely to need daily watering.

Don’t be afraid to give your annuals a haircut mid-summer. This can renew some plants that have gotten too leggy.

Don’t get ahead of the weather. Bring annuals in or cover them if the weather takes a turn toward chilly temperatures this spring.

Have a gardening question? The Master Gardener office is open.

Please wear a mask when visiting the Cornell Cooperative Extension office and check in at the reception window.

Master Gardener volunteers are normally in the office Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. until noon. You can stop in at the CCE office at 420 E. Main St. in Batavia, call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127, or e-mail it at: geneseemg@hotmail.com.

Our next Garden Talk will be at noon on April 1 via Zoom. Join Master Gardener Dar H. for “What is Lasagna Gardening?”

If you are looking for a relatively easy way to create a new vegetable garden or flower bed this may be for you. It gets its name from the layers used to create it — no digging needed.

Registration is required. Visit the events page of our website, http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/events.

The Genesee County Master Gardeners will be hosting a special Earth Day program on April 22 titled, “How to Create a Backyard (or front yard) Habitat. The program will take place at noon via Zoom.

Natural habitat in this country is disappearing at a rapid rate. We will talk about ways that you can create the right conditions in your yard to encourage a host of birds, bees, and butterflies.

This will be an overview of the basics requirements necessary to create your very own living landscape.

If you aren’t sure where to start, we’ll offer a variety of suggestions for all sized yards.

Registration is required. Visit http://genesee.cce.cornell.edu/events.

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