Caption: Sunflowers, like Suntastic Jaune Coeur Noir, are commonly started from seeds in the garden. Photo credit:photo courtesy of All-America Selections
by Melinda Myers
Don’t worry if you have already spent most of your plant budget for the year. Fill voids in your gardens and containers with heat tolerant annuals planted from seeds directly in the garden.
Zinnia and marigolds are traditional favorites often started from seeds planted directly in the garden. These germinate quickly and begin flowering in about eight weeks.
Zinnias are heat and drought tolerant once established. The Profusion series are compact, disease resistant, and produce flowers early and all season long. The Zahara series of zinnias are also heat and drought tolerant and resistant to leaf spot and mildew. Zinnias have excellent pollinator appeal and make great cut flowers.
Moss rose’s drought tolerance makes it an excellent choice for sandy, gravelly, and rocky areas. The fine seeds make it a bit more challenging to plant. Try mixing the seeds with sand to help distribute the seeds more evenly. Look for varieties like Afternoon Delight and the Happy Hour and Sundial series with flowers that open earlier or stay open later in the day, extending your enjoyment.
Cleome is a big annual that can easily fill the space between those small, newly planted shrubs. It prefers full sun and moist well-drained soil but will tolerate dry conditions. Thin seeds so the final spacing of plants is between 1 to 3 feet. The more space, the fuller and bushier the plant. These plants reseed readily so watch for volunteer plants in next year’s garden.
Sunflowers are commonly started from seeds in the garden. You will find single and double flowered varieties ranging in height from 18 inches to 12 feet or more. Stagger your planting to extend the bloom time. Plant seeds every two weeks, so you have lots of fresh flowers to enjoy. Just check the seed packet for the number of days from planting until flowering. Make sure your last planting has time to reach maturity and bloom before the end of your growing season.
Mexican sunflower is not as well known as the common sunflower but is just as welcome in the garden. The bright orange flowers combine nicely with yellow, blue, and purple flowers and attract butterflies and other pollinators to the garden. Grow these in a sunny area with well-drained soil. Avoid windy locations that may cause the brittle stems to break. Give this big plant plenty of room to reach its mature size. Mexican sunflower grows four to six feet tall and two to three feet wide. Fiesta del Sol and Goldfinger are shorter varieties that are a better fit for smaller spaces.
Check the seed packet for more details on planting seeds of these and other flowers directly in the garden. With proper planting and care you will have lots of flowers to enjoy this season.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including the recently released Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, 2nd Edition and Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her website is www.MelindaMyers.com.