What to Plant Now: Heat-Loving Summer Annuals

We all hunger for color in the garden in summer, and even the best-planned perennial beds can benefit from the second-string support of a few annuals. Here, we offer a selection of colorful, easy-to-plant options that’ll bring on the vibrancy and can take the heat, too.


NOTE: Heat-tolerance is not necessarily the same as drought-tolerance! Annuals typically need lots of consistent watering to grow and bloom successfully. For example, most commercially available window boxes should be drenched a minimum of every other day, and daily for some. Larger planters will afford more time between watering.


Pentas

Image by Funwithfood courtesy iStock

Known for being one of the best annuals for attracting pollinators, pentas form sweet clusters of star-shaped flowers that bloom from spring through fall. Somewhat bushy and compact, this is a great annual for the front or middle of a sunny border. It's also ideal for enlivening a mixed container or a window box.


Zinnia

A pink mix of zinnia, likely of the "Benary's Giant" variety. Image by Bgwalker courtesy iStock
Zinnia Zahara. Image by igaguri_1 courtesy iStock

If you missed the spring window for sowing seed this year, no worries. Zinnias are typically available as young plants at most retail nurseries. If you’re looking to add height, choose from varieties like Benary's Giant (pictured), State Fair, or Sun. For something lower, try Zahara (shown) or Profusion. These sun- and heat-loving flowers will bring you tons of color until the first frost. Frequent pruning renders more blossoms, so treat yourself freely to some fresh-cut flowers.


Coleus

A mix of ruby-hued coleus breaks up a sea of mid-toned green ferns within a border at the New York Botanical Garden. Image by Kat Aul Cervoni 

If you’re looking to plant annuals in a shady spot, try any type of coleus. The Kong coleus delivers a great combination of wild and funky colors plus jumbo leaves. The Wizard Rainbow series is ideal if you want less green and more velvety burgundies.


Salvia

Salvia Indigo Spires. Image by ksushachmeister courtesy iStock
Salvia Hot Lips. Image by ksushachmeister courtesy iStock

For an annual that looks like a perennial, go with salvia. Available in numerous colors, with varying shapes and sizes, we love that some varieties, such as Indigo Spires (shown), closely resemble their perennial cousins Caradonna or May Night while others, like Hot Lips from the salvia microphylla variety (shown), have the airy, delicate quality of gaura, but with more color options.


Wave Petunia

Lush, colorful wave petunias create a gorgeous cascading effect to these window boxes. Image courtesy Deborah Silver

It’s official: Wave petunia is the ultimate best supporting actress of the summer container. Because of its cascading form, it's misplaced in a garden bed. But for containers and window boxes, nothing beats the nonstop profusion of vibrant color that this plant offers, even without deadheading! Perfect for hot, sunny locales.