Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ovenproof Annuals

California Poppies are bullet-proof in my garden. I scatter seed. They reseed themselves where they want to grow. The borders had to be extended into the lawn to accommodate many of them. It was hard not to show you the very first, single orange blossom. Today several plants had a bloom so it's time to show and tell. They last well into summer's heat, longer than somniferum and corn poppies which have a short life here.

I pulled out my pink notebook of sketches, clippings and articles concerning summer annuals that are virtually ovenproof to plan for annuals to fill out beds of perennials, bulbs and shrubs. It may be early to plant but not too early to plan. Here is the short list of some of the favs planted here every year.

Melampodium, 2008.

Yellow melampodium self sows but isn't a thug. Seedlings transplant easily and literally come up blooming. It isn't attractive to butterflies. It doesn't have to be deadheaded. It generally lasts to frost. Sometimes I pull the leggier ones to make more room for late fall blooming perennials to come to the front.

July 31, 2009. on far right: Chartreuse alternanthera and the larger red, still green, at edge of a bed.
Alternanthera, commonly called Joseph's Coat is not really an annual but a tender perennial. I keep cuttings over the winter in a cup of water. Leaf colors vary. The flowers are usually seen in winter in the greenhouse, rarely in the garden. Flowers are shaped like clover, much smaller than a clover blossom and fairly insignificant.
The biggest alternanthera cultivar is purple and showy. The red is intermediate and prone to get eaten back mid-summer by insects while it is green. Come fall, it puts out again and turns bright red. Chartreuse is my very favorite despite its small size.

Madagascar periwinkle on right from 2010.
Perennial Brazilian ruellia on left.
I've already planted out the ruellia for this year.
It has two blossoms.

Madagascar periwinkle, Catharanthus roseus. Another reseeder, it requires warm weather to sprout and thrive. Requiring light to germinate, it is encouraged by gently stirring the soil where periwinkles grew the previous year.

If you are planting trays of nursery-grown plants, wait for hot weather to plant them out. Periwinkles come in various shades of red, pink, purple and white, with or without an eye.

Wax begonia with bronze foliage on the right in 2009.
Small pieces of Chartreuse alternanthera.

Wax Begonia
In dry conditions, wax begonias are more forgiving where impatiens might faint and fall over when water is scant. Begonias will grow in sun or shade. They perform better for me with some shade.

Begonia semperflorens are frequently sold as annual plants. The seed, fine as dust is not something I've tried to grow. A  couple of pots kept inside through the winter will provide plenty of cuttings that are easy to grow.

Dwarf, intermediate or giant Marigolds? All have a role to plan in annual beds. I like to start some seed toward the end of summer to plant where I might otherwise plant mums.

Zinnias from a previous year, popular with butterflies.

Who doesn't know zinnias? Mixed colors or groups of all one color?

Laura Bush Petunias have already seeded themselves into cracks along the driveway planters. I hope to see them elsewhere. The only thing about petunias is that planted near the house, they smell like a wet dog when it rains.

I'll wait to see if Tithonia reseeds this year. Butterflies love it.

Nicotiana is self planted and transplanted from the lawn to suitable locations. It tends to play out early and I cut it back or pull the leggy plants.

What are your favorite annuals for summer's heat?

Back in the winter when it was time to plant pansies, I failed to buy any. Little violas have replanted themselves both in beds where they were last winter and in the lawn. What a wonderful Spring treat!
These are not ovenproof but will last well into May.

Self-seeded Violas, 2011. Blooming today. Too cute.


  1. I love poppies, but they do not love our soil types. So wish they would be successful here.

  2. Wish I could grow poppies. My sister wanted to send me seeds but we decided against it just in case over zealous custom officials think its the drug specie and we rather avoid sticky situations. Its an offence punishable by death.

  3. I have tried twice now to get Ca. poppies started. I want them out in the front ditch.

    Did you just broadcast seeds in the beginning or start inside and use plants?

    The somniferums are short lived, but how I love the various shapes and colors each year as they cross.

  4. I forgot to mention what I use.

    I have melampodium seeds; they have never reseeded for me.
    I love vinca...trying a different variety this year. Some do reseed here, but it is too early to know yet this year.
    I also grow nicotiana, the shorter colored variety that should self seed.
    Zinnias, yes and they do self seed, but I buy new seeds each year.
    Marigolds yes. Trying a new variety this year.
    Snaps, sometimes the mother plant stays with me for several years.

  5. Love this post with the tips and ideas...very informative, thanks.

  6. I have tried California poppies with no success. I have pink and white periwinkles that pop up everywhere, and I'm learning to love them as they are just to dang easy to grow. DH laughs and calls them 'weeds'. :-)

    Great post Nell.

    Happy Spring and Happy Gardening,


    P.S. Thank you for the bday wishes.

  7. I may have a few other varieties self-sown from previous years, but the California poppy is now the only one that I want to keep going. I sowed seeds in the fall and again in February. Looks like I'm going to have a successful display this year of mass plantings. I will definitely let those self-sow for next year. The California poppy looks good longer, even the foliage and I get so many more blooms over time. It's a keeper.

    I'm going to attempt Tithonia again this year. I set out plants a few years ago, and they couldn't handle the humidity. This time, I got the seeds for the tall variety.

    You got me started on seeds and it's now a strategic part of my gardening. Like you, I need plants that can take the heat -- like the 90+ days of 90+ degrees here last summer!

  8. I haven't had much luck with poppies. But yours are so pretty, I may have to try again! Lovely flower beds.

  9. My favorite "ovenproof" ( I love this term for plants!) annuals:
    Tithonia - just can't go wrong with these and the butterflies will thank you. I'm trying the shorter variety this year. The tall ones reseed readily for me in Louisiana.

    Moonflower - a vine, but it does so well in the heat and looks gorgeous on a clothesline pole.
    Also vinca, zinnias, and portulaca.

  10. I love yoir California Poppies!

  11. Thank you all for your kind comments.

    I broadcasted seeds of California poppies that first fall and they've reseeded since. I always throw out more seeds that I 've saved, just in case.

    Melampodium always reseeds here. I save a few seeds every year or so, just in case.

    I love the ritual of saving seeds, sieving out the trash, packing them up in little envelopes. Then I forget to plant them timely.

  12. Thanks for your post! It's inspired me to get all poppy in my garden! Anything that self sows and looks great is a bonus. Love the flowers you've chosen.

  13. Excellent post, with memories of a hot dry summer still fresh, it's good to plan for the drought with plants that can adapt - love that melampodium especially!


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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