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For The Garden

Cold-Hardy Annuals for the Desert

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: January, 2012, Page 124


Type: Annual and perennial

Blooms: Fall through spring; blue, scarlet, rose, salmon, cream and bi-colors

Soil: Well-amended; quick-draining

Light: Full sun

Water needs: Water when top 2 inches of soil are dry; soil should be moist but not soggy.

Maintenance: Fertilize twice monthly; protect seedlings from birds; support vining varieties with string.

Tip: To hasten germination, soak seeds in water or scratch seed coats before planting.

Pair with: Alyssum, lobelia, nasturtium, snapdragon

Why we like it: Sweetly scented, the dainty blossoms make pretty cut flowers. Sweet peas reseed readily and are ideal for growing up trellises, over rocks or in containers.


Type: Annual

Blooms: Fall to spring; pale yellow to gold, orange to maroon

Soil: Well-drained

Light: Full sun with afternoon shade

Water needs: Irrigate when top inch of soil is dry.

Maintenance: Apply all-purpose fertilizer according to label instructions.

Tip: This pretty bloomer can easily be grown from seed.

Pair with: Alyssum, bachelor’s button, dianthus, lobelia 

Why we like it: An excellent border and container plant, it is a magnet for butterflies. Many marigold varieties are fragrant and produce double flower forms; most make long-lasting cut flowers. Attracts beneficial insects that prey on harmful insects.

(Viola tricolor)
(Viola tricolor)

Type: Annual

Blooms: Winter through spring; purple/blue-and-yellow

Soil: Rich, moist and well-drained

Light: Full sun to part shade

Water needs: Keep soil moist but not soggy.

Maintenance: Fertilize every two months; remove spent blooms (along with some foliage) to extend flowering.

Tip: Avoid buying plants with open flowers, as they may soon fall off. Plants can take weeks to recover and bloom after transplanting.

Pair with: Geranium, marigold, nasturtium, stock

Why we like it: A profuse bloomer, its edible flowers create a carpet of color. It is a good choice for beds, borders, window boxes and containers.

(Pelargonium x hortorum)
(Pelargonium x hortorum)

Type: Perennial, often grown as an annual

Blooms: Fall through spring; pink, red, orange, violet and white

Soil: Well-amended; fast-draining

Light: Full to filtered sun

Water needs: Water only when soil is dry to the touch.

Maintenance: Feed with well-balanced fertilizer; remove stems and faded flowers to encourage branching and new blooms.

Tip: Container plants flower best when roots are pot-bound (very tightly packed).

Pair with: Alyssum, johnny jump up, lobelia, petunia

Why we like it: With so many unusual varieties available—several with double flowers, variegated foliage and scented leaves—the common geranium isn’t so ordinary.
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