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Southern California Gardening: Some Favorite Spring Flowers

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Wondering what spring annuals and perennials to plant in your Southern California garden? Lowe’s regional contributor Bonnie Manion shares some ideas.

Dwarf French marigolds attract beneficial insects.

Bonnie Manion's Favorite Spring Annuals and Perennials

By Bonnie Manion

Spring is such an exciting time, with the garden suddenly bursting with color. I wait with anticipation for spring, and one day—all of a sudden—it is here in full glory. I’d like to share with you some of my favorite spring annuals and perennials.

Every garden should have the annual marigold planted in it. I picked up a dwarf French marigold (Tagetes patula) at Lowe’s in a half flat for my vegetable garden. Marigolds add vibrant seasonal color and attract beneficial insects to your vegetable garden. For a look at how I planted marigolds in my vegetable garden and more spring-blooming annuals and perennials close by, click on my video link.

Spring wouldn’t be spring without lots of intoxicating fragrant sweet peas. I have an heirloom sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) called ‘Painted Lady’, which reseeds each year. ‘Painted Lady’ dates to 1737 and is distinct in appearance, with bicolor rose-and-white blooms. In Southern California sweet peas should be sown in the fall with lots of organic material. These vining annuals need a fence or structure for support.

Besides sweet peas I have nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), which also reseeds year after year. This is an old-fashioned annual that heralds spring with its big, bright-green leaves and bright-yellow and orange flowers. Nasturtium’s insect-repellent properties benefit a spring garden.

Purple violas can be planted in tiny spots.

I use violas for extra color at the base of large pots. They add flare and interest as my fig tree awakens from its winter dormancy. Because of their size, violas can be planted in tiny spots, or massed together for more punch. The wide variety of colors makes them so much fun to use. Pinch spent viola blooms to prolong spring blooms.

Lobelia is another of my spring favorites. Lobelia comes in many striking colors and forms such as mounding or trailing. I use lobelia as pretty spring/summer mounding centerpieces to brighten an outdoor table.

azaleas in bloom

At Lowe’s I recently picked up ‘Alaska’ azalea (Rhododendron), one of my favorite shrubs because of its outstanding flowering blossoms and ability to survive in shade. It likes to be fertilized in the spring and summer, and pruned after it has finished blooming. Allow for ample space in your garden, as it can reach as high as 8 ft x 6 in wide.

Trailing purple bacopa needs to be kept in moist soil.

Last but not least among my spring favorites is bacopa (Sutera cordata), a sweet perennial usually seen with white flowers. A new variety, Scopia Great Purple Bacopa, sports lovely purple flowers. Its trailing habit works well in a container. The secret to bacopa is keeping the soil moist. Once it dries out, it will never recover.

I hope you will share some of your favorite spring flowers.