It may seem strange to talk about annuals that love Ohio heat while we are waiting for the most recent snowfall to melt but summer will be upon us before we know it.
I’m a huge fan of mixing all types of plants but I am not a lover of bedding annuals like the Victorians were. I do love distinctive ones that seed, however, for a more naturalized look and my favorites are Nicotiana sylvestris and Nicotiana langsdorfii. Both are called Flowering Tobacco, have large leaves, grow five feet tall, and bear sprays of elongated trumpet-type flowers. While they appreciate moisture, they are also somewhat drought tolerant.
The flowers of Nicotiana sylvestris are white while those of Nicotiana langsdorfii are chartreuse and smaller. Unfortunately, Nicotiana langsdorfii is very difficult to find. Needing long days of sun and heat, neither will bloom until late summer but will continue well into fall. I am grateful that they are self-sowers and always allow them to seed so that they fill gaps left by earlier bloomers.
Verbena bonariensis (Brazilian Vervain) is another tall, self-seeding annual. This one is tolerant of both drought and moist soils and will grow easily three to four feet tall. The square stems and sparse foliage are topped with small clusters of lavender flowers that bloom from midsummer until frost and look as though they are almost dried. A mass of them is nevertheless very airy and nearly see-through. There is also a smaller cultivar named ‘Lollipop’ that only grows twenty-four inches high.
At the other end of the height spectrum is Portulaca grandiflora (Moss Rock, Purslane). It is generally grown in flats but can be spaced 8-12” apart. Only 4” high, this annual comes in an array of bright, cheerful colors. Give it full sun and water sparingly. I’ve been using it my front porch containers that receive full sun all day, mixing it with succulents, some hardy and some annual.
Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon) can be dwarf or tall depending on the cultivar, varying in height from twelve inches to twenty-four inches to the Rockets that are three feet tall. While they appreciate moisture, they are amazingly drought tolerant. I also find that they often survive our winters quite well and need only be cut back to the base in early spring. The color range is quite wide including some bicolors.
Cleome hasslerana (Spider Flower) looks like a pastel explosion ball. The Queen Series is three feet high with very little foliage so do hide the stems behind other plants. If you need a shorter plant at eighteen to twenty-four inches, you can buy one of the Sparklers series in white or pink. They self sow sometimes although I have not been the recipient of such largesse. This annual is another drought lover.
Horticultural heat lovers abound for Ohio gardens. The dilemma is choosing between them.