Published: May 18, 2013
Summer days bring intense sunlight and drying winds followed by cool nights - all of which can hinder success for a gardener. But with the proper planning, there are ways to combat such conditions.
Because they're not as hardy as perennials, annuals struggle to thrive in this diverse climate and altitude. So choosing the right ones can make the difference in realizing a lush, vibrant flower garden.
Susan Spencer, co-owner of Spencer's Lawn and Garden Centers, recommends petunias.
"Petunias are bright and colorful and do well in Colorado because they are most profuse in dry conditions," she said. "They can easily handle the cool nights, and they tend to last longer into the fall."
A wide array of colors and varieties make petunias even more appealing. You can choose from single or double blooms, ruffled or smooth petals, striped, veined or solid colors, as well as mounding and cascading petunias.
"They really are one of the best annuals for Colorado," Spencer said. "There are a lot of new varieties this year - both small and large - so there is a petunia for everyone.
Wave petunias grow quickly and are loaded with blooms that never need deadheading - they self-clean efficiently. Although they only grow to be about 6 inches tall, they can spread to 4 feet, making wonderful ground covers and trailers for containers.
Geraniums are another trendy and stylish choice for Colorado gardeners. Julie McIntyre with Summerland Gardens says besides adding beauty to any landscape, "they are very drought tolerant along with bearing cool nights well, and they come in some really cool new colors."
Geraniums produce an abundance of blooms in colors including lilac, pink, red or white. Ivy geraniums adapt well to the hot days and cool nights in the region and bloom with vivid green leaves and clusters of flowers. They're ideally suited to growing in hanging baskets, containers or mixed-plant borders.
Once established, they're capable of surviving short periods of drought and don't require frequent repotting. In fact, the more root-bound, the more lavishly they will flower.
For this year's gardens, McIntyre is particularly optimistic about calibrachoa (sometimes referred to as mini-petunias or million bells). "They handle the heat here very well and cascade beautifully," she said.
Calibrachoa grow and flower at an amazing rate, offering unique and dazzling color choices.
"Lemon Slice flowers are part yellow and part white and the Cherry Star blooms are both pink and yellow," McIntyre said.
"They make a great choice for hanging baskets and add a burst of color to a window or porch."
Because they are bred for their striking colors, flower beds of annuals will enhance any home's appearance for an entire season. They usually will continue blooming until the first frost of the fall.