The Q&A Archives: Not Made in The Shade

Question: My wife and I bought a new home in September and we have just gotten to the point we want to plant flowers. I live in Dallas, and there is no shade at all in our new housing addition. None! We intend on creating a flower box around the small, small oak tree, and a flag pole in our front yard. What flowers will have blooms, but can take full sun all day long? We really like the idea of pansies. Will they work?

Answer: Sounds like you have a great plan for your landscape! When the Texas sun bears down, we gardeners run for the cool indoors. Fortunately, there's a host of heat-loving blooms that keep our gardens fresh during our temporary absence. Here are 10 low-demand favorite annuals for warm-season color:

Celosia (cockscomb)
This spring-fall bloomer not only varies in color from a subtle wheat to hot pink, it varies in form. Plumed celosias bring vivid, feathery, flame-shaped plumes to the garden. Crested celosia, often called cockscomb, has wrinkled, velvety, wide crests that are suggestive of brightly colored brains or narrow crests that are reminiscent of a rooster's comb. Spiked cockscomb is grown for its subdued, elongated spikes that resemble wheat. Heights vary from just inches to 4 feet. They all like sun and good drainage.

Cleome (spider flower)
Use these tall, branching bloomers for old-fashioned drama spring-fall. The curious flowers with extremely long, protruding stamens are followed by slender seed pods that offer a generous supply of offspring. All they need are sun and good drainage. Older varieties, available in white, pink, rose and violet, are thorny. The newer Seniorita Rosalita series makes a 3- to 5-foot mound, has smaller but numerous blooms and is thornless.

With dozens of varieties now available for sun or shade, coleus is a must in the summer garden for reliable foliage color. The striking leaf markings and size variations make for outstanding arrangements in well-draining beds and containers. Trim to encourage bushiness; root the cuttings.

Gomphrena (globe amaranth)
The papery orbs of this heat- and drought-tolerant summer bloomer come in intense purple, red, orange, lavender-pink and white. The 1-inch blooms are carried on stiff, 10- to 24-inch stems, depending on the variety. They're great cut flowers.

Mexican zinnias
Heat-, drought- and humidity-tolerant Mexican zinnias create billowy low-growing mounds of 2-inch white or tangerine pinwheel blooms spring until frost. Plant a mass of the narrow-leaf annuals in a sunny, well-draining spot, border a bed or use them in containers. Z. elegans offers other cheerful colors.

Periwinkle (vinca)
Need hot color for a hot bed? Periwinkles offer quarter-sized single blooms in deep rose, pink, red and white. The lush dark-green foliage creates drought-tolerant 6- to 14-inch mounds that can be used as groundcovers, borders and in containers. Look for newer selections such as Nirvana that are resistant to fungal diseases. Good drainage is a must.

Bright golden-yellow daisylike blooms cover these bushy 12- to 18-inch annuals spring to frost. Plant in a sunny, well-draining bed or your favorite container. Expect seedlings from this prolific bloomer.

Moss rose (portulaca)
A heat-defying spreading low-grower, this EarthKind succulent is covered in single or double blooms in brilliant pink, raspberry, orange, yellow, white or mixed colors. Plant on a sunny slope, in a rock garden or let it trail from a pretty pot. Look for varieties that remain open longer. P. oleracea, or purslane, is the similar relative with single, cupped flowers.

Wishbone flower (summer pansy)
A shade-tolerant charmer, this foot-tall bushy annual also comes in a spreading form. The deeply cupped small flowers are white edged with rose, purple or blue or blue edged in darker blue or purple. The stamens form a wishbone, therefore the common name. This spring-fall bloomer often reseeds. Don't forget to pick a fresh bundle each week to fill a small vase.

Impatiens (Sunpatiens)
There are newer shade-lovers such as rose pinecone plant on the market these days, but impatiens can't be beat for constant color spring to frost. The single, flat flowers or double forms shine in shades of red, pink, orange, lavender and sparkling white. They are especially show massed in beds but they can be used in mixed borders and in pots. Pinch the succulent stems to keep them compact; mature height can reach 3 feet. Note: Home Depot's SunPatiens are getting favorable reviews for those with little shade.

While you mentioned pansies, save that thought for planting in the fall. Pansies grow best in fall, winter and early spring.

Best wishes with your new landscape!

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