The difference between an annual and a perennial comes down to more than just longevity. A perennial is planted for color that is stunning for a few weeks. The challenge in perennials is find the right combination that will give you some colorful interest throughout the summer. If ever I am asked for a wow factor plant that blooms, and blooms, and blooms, I go straight to annuals. No perennial will give the pop of color that an annual will give all summer long. If you’ve ever seen a mass planting of Purple Wave Petunias in the middle of the summer you know what I mean. The challenge with annuals is often the expense and chore of planting every year and the care to maintain a watering regime. I love the look of annuals in a plant bed, but there are so many unique things to do with annuals in a container and the time and expense for care is minimal.
The above picture is an example of using a monochromatic theme of all pinks and purples. There are no strong contrasting flowers in this display. The look is more sophisticated. A more formal design is completed with trailing Ivy and the classic urn design of the planter.
Here is an example of cool and hot colors together. There is more energy and movement in the hotter colors like reds, and oranges.
Annual grasses such as Annual Purple Fountain Grass are tried and true performers in planters as shown above, as are the Wave Petunias.
If you want to try some different ideas here are a few of my favorites…
The Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’ is crazy corkscrew of grass-like blades. A great way to spice up any planter.
Another favorite of mine, if only because I rock this hairdo daily, is the Ponytail Grass. It is a great cascading plant and has a very soft texture.
For some awesome foliage try any one of the coleus varieties. There are too many to count, but one of my favorites is Kong Coleus.
Another coleus worth trying is Wizard Coleus (several varieties). Usually a shade plant, there are many sun coleus on the market and more every year.
I also like the wispy look of Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’. This is a tender perennial in the Chicago area, meaning that in mild winters it could overwinter in the ground.
For larger planters try the annual Rudbeckia ‘Indian Summer’. The flowers are gigantic.
It has become increasingly popular to use some perennials in planter with annuals especially those with interesting foliage colors like Hostas, Ferns, and Coralbells. These are all great for the shadier planters that have fewer options for color combinations.
Because you can never have too many Wave Petunias, check out this parting picture.