KENNEWICK -- I'm finally beginning to contemplate which colorful flowering annuals I want in my large patio pots this year.
There definitely will be some of my favorite Wave petunias, but I don't like to get into a rut, so I have been checking out some of the newest annuals on the market.
Last year was the first time I had success with calibrachoa, sometimes called mini-petunias or million bells. I tried calibrachoas when they first arrived on the gardening scene, but was not impressed with their performance. After last year's success, I'm want to try more.
One exciting new calibrachoa is Calibrachoa 'MiniFamous Double Pink evol.' from Selecta First Class. This is the newest member of their MiniFamous Double series. It produces beautiful double pink 1- to 2-inch flowers in abundance. It's easy to grow with a sem-trailing habit, reaching a height of 6 to 10 inches and a length of 2 feet. It's very pretty with bright pink double flowers, but it's also tough and should be able to tolerate our summer heat. No deadheading (removal of spent flowers) is needed to keep it blooming
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Blackberry Punch is the newest member of the Proven Winners calibrachoa Superbells line. I wonder if Superbells got their name because they stay bushy even under the stress of summer heat or because they are covered with blooms from early spring through fall? Blackberry Punch reaches a height of about 14 inches and a length of 36 inches. The flowers have a "blackberry" purple center that blends into the dark magenta petal edges. It doesn't require deadheading. Coralberry Punch is another new member of the Superbells line. It has interesting dark-throated intense coral colored flowers. Both are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Another plant I never had much success with in the past was lobelia. This pretty pot filler always faded out fast as soon as the summer heat came on. Last year I tried Proven Winners 'Lucia Lavender Blush' lobelia and was surprised that this new easy-to-grow lobelia stayed covered with light lavender-pink flowers until late summer. It grows about 6 to 8 inches tall and trails to 24 inches long. It's also attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. There are two other series of heat-tolerant lobelia, Techno Heat from Fischer and Waterfall from Ball Flora. These lobelia also make it through mid-summer without disappearing.
A new intriguing annual is Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime.' What makes this zinnia worthy of mention is its unique flower that had bright lime colored center petals that transition to mauve petals at the bloom's outer edge. As a Zinnia elegans variety, the blooms are produced on well-branched plants that reach a height of 24 to 30 inches. Combine it in a container with the chartreuse Zinnia 'Envy,' purple fountain grass and black (maroon) sweet potatoes for a showstopping planter.
Last but not least are Wave petunias. (I just couldn't leave them out.) One of the newest is Shock Wave Coconut with 1.5 to 2 inch creamy white flowers. As one of the Shock Wave series, it has earlier, more weather resistant, and self-cleaning flowers. The plants reach a height of 8 to 10 inches and a spread of 2 to 3 feet. Another newer Shock Wave is Denim. It produces flowers that start out a deep-blue violet that gradually fade to a lighter stonewashed denim silvery lavender.
Spring finally has arrived. It's time to check out the new flowers at your local garden store and get your planters started. Have fun!
* Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for the Washington State University Benton County Extension.