Summer Annuals For Containers In Sun

So the first weekend home after a long series of business trips came to an end was cold and intensely wet. I pretty much guaranteed this when I invested in a new set of soaker hoses, just as you increase the likelihood of rain when you remember to bring your umbrella. I am looking forward to high levels of precipitation for the rest of the year.

But never fear! There is garden stuff to do even when the ground is saturated with water. (I avoid gardening when the ground is really wet, leads to soil compaction). Specifically, the time had come to pull out the container tulips and replace them with summer annuals. Hurrah!

Summer Flowering Container
Newly completed summer container: Tall Ageratum, red Pentas, and orange Calibrachoa.

So I drove to two of my favorite local garden centers, Anton’s here in Evanston and Gethsemane in Chicago. Typically these places are mobbed on early June weekends. However, the cold and the intermittent thunderstorms did wonders for reducing the crowds, leading to a relaxed if excessively moist garden shopping experience. Here’s what I got:


  • Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’. This Salvia, known as Blue Anise Sage, is hardy to zone 8 but grown as an annual here in zone 5. ‘Black and Blue’ has black stems and gold/green foliage along with the tubular blue flowers. Grows rather upright, about 2-3′. I’ve seen this plant used frequently at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where I am constantly stealing ideas.
  • Cigar Plant (Cuphea ignea): This was the one plant I bought on impulse, but I wanted a tall plant that I hadn’t tried before. Another tropical plant, hardy to zone 9, with tubular flowers that do look like little red cigars or cigarettes. Supposed to be a great hummingbird plant. I’m not sure if I’ve seen this plant in garden centers before. Here’s a picture from the Missouri Botanic Garden.
  • Ageratum ‘High Tide Blue’ (Ageratum houstonianum). This variety grows about 24″ tall.
Cigar Plant
Cigar Plant. This picture is from the Missouri Botanic Garden because mine are not very big now.


  • Pentas ‘Graffiti Red Lace’ and ‘Red Star Cluster’ (Pentas lanceolata). I bought a lot of these. Grew it for the first time last year and love it. A real magnet for hummingbirds. Clusters of star shaped red flowers, about 18″ tall.


  • Million Bells ‘Celebration Sky Blue’ and ‘Crackling Fire’ (Calibrachoa varieties). Flowers sort of like mini-petunias in blue and orange.
  • Bacopa ‘Betty Blue’ (Sutera cordata). This plant is not dramatic, but very reliable. Small light blue flowers on trailing stems.
Summer Flowering Containers
Salvia, Pentas, and Million Bells.

The color scheme I ended up with was basically blue-red-orange, blue-red-blue, or red-red-blue. Looking forward to a lot of hummingbirds on the front porch. Actually, I’ve already seen my first hummingbird of the year, and it was feeding on the columbine, which I’ve never seen before. Sadly, I was not able to get a picture.

Naturally, I’ll post more pictures of these containers as they fill in.

Have you filled your containers with summer annuals yet?

41 Comments on “Summer Annuals For Containers In Sun

  1. The geraniums (pelargoniums) that I had as cuttings indoors went out some time ago, and a few other plants came out of their winter quarters too. Another couple of containers are yet to be filled…. I like the look of the cigar plant. I have never seen blue bacopa – I love it for its reliability too, but have only ever had the white ones. Pentas are also new to me. Nice to see what you plant for summer!

    • I gave up on geraniums after I found pentas. Bacopa is pretty common here in blue or pink, though they are very light shades.

  2. I have a lot of shade in the front yard so I use lots of impatiens. The neighbors like seeing them on their way to and from work. “Blue pearl” is my favorite but it’s hard to find because of its poor germination rate.

  3. I’m still trying to get plants planted in the ground, before it gets too hot and dry here for the plants (and for me). I have some annuals set aside on the front porch, but they haven’t been put in their final containers yet. I’m sure I’ll get to it eventually.

    • You’ll get to it, I’m sure. You definitely want to get your plants in the ground before it gets hot, as you say.

  4. Great combos of plants–some of which I’ve not used before (Cigar Plant and Million Bells). Thanks for the ideas! Most of my pots have been planted for a while, but I’m still working on a grouping of succulent plants that I’m really excited about. I skipped my old standby, Impatiens, this year because of Downy Mildew. But the alternative, New Guinea Impatiens, don’t appear to be doing well, either. I might have to replace them with Torenia or Fuchsia, which seem to be thriving in other pots this year…or maybe something entirely different. It’s always an experiment–which makes it so much fun!

    • I heard at a talk last night that Torenia does not bloom well in hot weather. New Guinea Impatiens don’t really appeal to me for some reason. Can your succulents take shade?

  5. I made my first foray into annuals this year: red petunias. I do want to learn more about annuals. I like how you mixed them toegther in your planters. Lovely!

  6. For sun: Dragonwing begonia, gold coin lysimachia, and diamond frost euphorbias

    For shade: variety of coleus, airplane plants, and fuschia

    I bedded out salvia black and blue this year, along with a variety of nicotiana, lauentia, moses in the boat, Blue Horizon ageratum, cleome, green dreadlocks amaranth, alyssum, and petunias.

    • I just looked up airplane plant. Seems like an excellent choice for hanging baskets. I didn’t realize dragonwing begonia would take sun. I’ve used Diamond Frost and like very much. I also like your bedding choices. I hope the alyssum is blooming during your garden walk – I love the scent.

  7. My favorite container plants have been the Mojave series of purslane (Portulaca grandiflora) and lantana. I also like angelonias quite well, and they attract the hummingbirds. I tried Pentas a couple years, but found it did not bloom constantly for me. Sweet potato vine is a nice spiller, and comes in so many different colors. One of our local nurseries always stocks Cigar Plant. I’ve never tried that one, but have, at my daughter’s insistence, grown Candy Corn vine, which looks quite similar, only orange and yellow. Container planting is on my agenda for Wednesday or Thursday this week.

    • I like the concept of candy corn vine, if only it were edible. I wonder why your pentas didn’t want to bloom, they do like a lot of heat and sun, but so does purslane. I have grown sweet potato vine in the past, it is always a winner. Lantana also, the butterflies love it.

  8. I really like the cigar plant. I have learned to embrace the tropicals for summer color. Hot colors for our hot climate!

  9. I’m really liking your container plantings! Great selections and wonderful assortments here! I have just got mine done on the back patio and hope to post about them soon! I always chuckle at my picks because they are all over the place! So wonderful to hear that the hummingbirds came for a visit!!!

  10. Nice! I can vouch for hummingbirds loving the cuphea. It truly is a hummingbird magnet.

    • I’m looking forward to that. Combined with the pentas and salvia, we should have a pretty good hummingbird presence.

  11. You made some very colourful picks in there. I like it. Looking forward to seeing the hummingbirds! I’ve planted some pots under the pergola more than a month ago and they are starting to filling their space now, except for a few basil plants I intended to have close to the kitchen door that have all died for too much chill and rain…

  12. Too many of my container annuals decided to live through the winter so the pots just got a haircut and some fertilizer.

  13. Jason I love this composition: Pentas, and Million Bells. I think all these with petunias are nice. I always plant petunias in containers, this year they are with gladioli and anemones.

  14. You have made a wonderful selection for your planter. I love watching the plants merge together as they grow, becoming even more beautiful 🙂

  15. I have not been buying annuals for the last few years for my garden because I have been doing so much traveling. I am debating this year too for the same reason. The annuals in the garden are the ones that reseed which I kinda like. One great thing about Million Bells is they are good in dry, hot places. I recommend them to clients that are not so great with potted plants.

    • I have planted cleome and cosoms but find that they don’t reseed, which is odd. I actually like million bells better than the similar and showier petunias.

  16. Hello Dear Jason!
    Your flower arrangements are very beautiful.
    Plants I love you very well grown and are beautiful.
    I send greetings from distant Polish.

  17. I am a huge fan of calibrachoa, although they fade a bit in the dead of summer. You’ll be showered with hummingbirds – lucky you. I still have yet to see one this year. Odd. Maybe they are hanging out at your house.

  18. I rarely have room for annuals any more…but I ALWAYS find room for a few Sweet Potato Vines…well, at least one! I’m trying to find a spot for some Gomphrena I saw at the nursery this weekend…I need a space distortion device of some sort!

  19. I grow annuals from seed because they are way too expensive to buy in stores (here at least); I would rather use that money to buy lots of perennials. That’s what I am doing this year :-).

    • Growing from seed is an excellent idea and definitely more affordable. I am sometimes horrified at how much I spend on annuals, even when I get good prices. Part of the problem is I am not home enough earlier in the year.

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