2020 Year in Review – Annual Color

Each year I love doing annual color plantings more and more. In the past, I used to hate annuals, but I have learned how much of an impact and statement they can make. With our ever-changing weather patterns, it can be difficult to choose annuals that will withstand heat, drought, flooding, and cool spells. However, I think I have put together a list of the best annuals for Northeast Kansas and Southeast Nebraska.

Salvia ‘Rockin Fuschia’FuschiaXXXXXX
Salvia ‘Saucy Red’RedXXXXXX
Salvia ‘Black and Blue’BlueXXXXXX
Gomphrena ‘Truffala Pink’PinkXXXXXX
Dusty Millern/aXXXXXXX
Begonia ‘Dragon Wing Red’RedXXXXXXX
Sweet Potato Vinen/aXXXXXXX
Petunia ‘Vista Bubblegum’PinkXXXXXX
Petunia ‘Vista Silverberry’LavenderXXXXX
Petunia ‘Vista Fuschia’FuschiaXXXXXX
Cuphea ‘Vermillionaire’ RedXXXXX
Tropical MilkweedRedXXXXXX
Helenium ‘Dakota Gold’YellowXXXXXX
Celosia ‘New Look Red’RedXXXXXX
Verbena ‘Meteor Shower’LavenderXXXXXX
Cyperus ‘Prince Tut’n/aXXXXXX
Fountain Grass ‘Fireworks’PinkXXXXXX
Coleus ‘Fishnet Stockings’n/aXXXXXX
Coleus ‘Alabama Sunset’n/aXXXXXX
Annual Planting at McDonalds Hiawatha

The above annual color bed really shows how well Salvia ‘Rockin Fuschia’ performs. I love using salvias as thrillers in landscape beds, especially those that can be seen from all sides. Petunia ‘Vista Fuschia’ is another top performer, while survivability of vinca depends on rain.

TIP #1 : If you can add drip irrigation to an annual bed or container, do it. Even if you only turn it on for a few weeks in autumn or late summer, it is worth it. Many customers do not water their annuals.

Annuals planted in a summer container

I do not usually use tropicals such as banana plant or elephant ears in my designs, but sometimes you want that big impact. Here, a banana plant shines in a container where other annuals disappoint.

TIP #2 : Water containers regularly. If you do not have drip irrigation in these, water them at least every other day through the summer, if not daily. Containers dry out quickly.

Shade annuals

If you have a place of deep shade, and access to drip irrigation, you can create something like this above. I mix different colors of impatiens and coleus together for this design. In the background are early iris, hostas, coral bells, bleeding heart, and Solomon’s seal.

TIP #3 : Fertilize your annual beds bi-weekly. As you water, nutrients leach from the soil and need to be replaced. I recommend Fertilome’s Rose and Flower Food plus Systemic. It fertilizes and kills insects such as whiteflies, aphids, scale, and spider mites.

Container of annuals

This container was done at the end of spring, when we were nearly out of annuals. The thriller really outshines the fillers and spillers here. However, the ‘Mahogany Splendor’ mallow can be pruned and will bush out.

TIP #4 : Match plants to the container colors. Try to use complimentary colors. Also be aware of the background of where the container is going. You want the annuals to stand out, show off, and compliment the location, not clash with it.


Watch out for the sweet potato vine! This stuff can really take over, especially if you are only on the jobsite every other week. Despite the full look of the bed, there was supposed to be more petunia power instead of sweet potato vine.

TIP #5 : Be sure to read the label for the size of the plant then add 10% to that. Most sizes are determined by the average growth rates over a series of years.

begonias are great annuals

Perhaps the happiest surprise of the summer and prolonged fall drought, was dragon wing begonias. The one above and one at my own house not only survived, but never stopped blooming. I actually never watered the one in my container at home, and it was beautiful from planting to frost.

TIP #6 : For small containers, 1 plant may be sufficient. Try to pick plants that will fill and bloom all summer and into fall, without needing deadheading.

annuals in raised beds

For big and bold statements, use only one annual in a large, raised container. Pick something that is tough and relatively pest free. This is where the use of a fertilizer plus insecticide is important. Monocultures are always in danger of pest outbreaks. This vinca stands up to heat and was an excellent choice planted by itself.

TIP #7 : Bright colors such as fuschia, orange, and red can give a tropical look to annual plantings without the tropical leaves of larger plants. Plant these colors in mass to achieve a warmer look.


Zinnias, seen here at my mother-in-law’s garden, are great for pollinators. I observed many hundreds of butterflies, bees, and other insects gathering nectar here. Zinnias are also great cut and/or dried flowers for arrangements. Plant them in massing, as a border, or mix them into pollinator gardens.

TIP #8 : Pick annuals that attract pollinators as well as look pretty and are tough. Examples include zinnias, helenium ‘Dakota Gold’, Brazilian verbena, lantana, tropical milkweed, and salvias.


Annuals play a big part of our landscape, even if we have a well-manicured landscape full of trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses. There is always room to tuck in some annuals to add dramatic color. Use tall urns or containers to add height. Most importantly, have fun!

2 thoughts on “2020 Year in Review – Annual Color

  1. i am trying to find some of the items listed in the tough annuals article. especially Truffula pink gomphrena…but you do not carry it. will you be adding more items in the future?

    1. Hi Terri,

      We will have Truffula Pink Gomphrena this year at the nursery. But we do not sell annuals online at this time. Our stores are located near Morrill, KS and in Nebraska City, NE.
      Thank you,
      Andrew Mitchell
      The Kansas Gardener/ Grimm’s Gardens Horticulturalist

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