A short, fragrant mass of tiny flowers, often white or purple, sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) takes partial shade to full sun. Plant it anywhere you want a frothy, low-growing carpet to edge flowerbeds, ramble around rocks, or fill in around other plants.
Good to Know: Sweet alyssum does best in cool weather. It may stop blooming in the heat of summer, so surround it with heat-loving companions such as petunias or heliotrope to keep the show going until cooler temperatures return.
These upright, bushy annuals bloom nonstop from summer into fall. The globe-shape flowerheads reach 12 to 32 inches high, depending on cultivar. They are sometimes used in dried flower arrangements. Colors include pink, purple, white, and red. Globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa) prefers full sun.
Good to Know: The small globular flowers are best seen against a backdrop. Consider planting globe amaranth against a colorful wall or in front of dark-colored companion plants.
A perennial in the warmer climates of Zones 9-10, angelonia is an up-and-coming annual in other areas. Gardeners can’t resist the bright spires of flowers, which appear all summer. Also called summer snapdragon, angelonia features purple, white, or pink flowers -- some of which are fragrant. It grows 1 to 2 feet tall and prefers full sun.
Good to Know: These drought-tolerant flowers can be used in beds, borders, and containers. Pair the purple-flowered varieties with silver-leafed plants such as dusty miller or lamb’s ears to intensify the color.
This old garden mainstay is finding renewed interest among gardeners anxious for an alternative to disease-stricken impatiens. Begonias grow 6-18 inches tall and bloom all summer in colors ranging from red, pink, and white to apricot and orange. Although they take more sun than most impatiens, begonias do best with light shade and a rich, well-drained soil.
Good to Know: Perfect for containers because of their compact shape, begonias also look great when massed in beds. Keep them well watered and fertilized for the most luxuriant look.
Celosia doesn’t just depend on a roster of bright red, yellow, and orange colors to get attention. It also boasts uniquely shaped blooms that look like feather dusters, bottle brushes, or cauliflower heads, depending on species. Heights range from 6 inches to 4 feet, and all celosia are easy to grow if given full sun and a well-drained soil.
Good to Know: Enjoy the diminutive cauliflower-type celosia close up in tabletop planters. Use the taller plume-type celosia in large containers or to edge a bed; they will sparkle even from a distance.
Diamond Frost Euphorbia
Clouds of wispy white flowers decorate this plant all summer long. This heat- and drought-tolerant annual grows about 1 foot tall but can trail twice as much. It loves sun but takes a surprising amount of shade.
Good to Know: Diamond Frost looks great spilling out of a container or window box. Its airy flowers go well with companions offering bold foliage or large flowers.
Growing 1–3 feet tall, heliotrope loves the heat and does best in full sun with ample moisture. It features big clusters of deep purple, blue, or white flowers that attract butterflies.
Good to Know: Heliotrope has a wonderful scent, said to be reminiscent of anything from cherry pie to grape popsicle to vanilla. Plant it by a window or door to take full advantage of the fragrance.
Although always popular, marigolds were sometimes underappreciated by those seeking something more unique. That is changing as gardeners realize a tough plant with eye-popping color can make a truly great friend in the garden. Marigold (Tagetes) makes the best of hot, dry weather and marginal soils. Bright blooms come in yellow, orange, cream, and bicolored patterns until the first hard frost.
Good to Know: Although drought-tolerant, marigolds look their best if given regular watering. Pluck dead blooms between your thumbnail and forefinger to keep marigolds blooming with abandon. Leave the last flower heads of fall to dry in place and produce seed for next year.
‘Victoria Blue’ Salvia
These lacy, upright wands of regal blue add a unique hue to the garden. Hardy in Zones 8–10, ‘Victoria Blue’ is grown as an annual elsewhere. The 18-inch plants take heat and drought. They’re adaptable to various conditions but do best in full sun.
Good to Know: Plant ‘Victoria Blue’ at the back or middle of a bed to give shorter plants a handsome backdrop. Or pair it with plants that have large flower heads, such as petunias or zinnias.
The large 3-inch-wide flowers offer an unusual chartreuse hue and make a gorgeous foil alongside blues, purples, or magentas. Most zinnias need full sun but this one can take a little less of it.
Good to Know: Like other zinnias, ‘Envy’ grows easily from seed. For a striking color combo, try planting it with deep-purple petunias, heliotrope, or verbena.