Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Annuals Heart Heat . . . by guest blogger Jeanette Ankoma-Sey

Annuals are annuals for a reason, but there are those that can take the abuse of heat and neglect and still not break a sweat. These three are a few I like to add here and there to add some sauciness to the landscape.  These overlooked plants have such great qualities for those hot as Hades garden environs where many other plants can succomb to the heat and humidity.

First is Tithonia rotundifolia, Butterfly Torch, or sometimes called, Mexican Sunflower. If this flame can grow in the heat South of the Border it also shows itself to be a thrive-er in the glory of our D.C. metropolitan area summers. Looking similar to an overgrown version of the traditional marigold, this plant has beautiful soft green foliage and daisy orange-red flowers. Standing up to as tall as 6’ in height, Tithonia looks great in the middle to back of the planting bed and amongst perennials and other annuals, such as the previously mentioned Centaurea cyanus, blue and orange dreamy hues! The hotter and more miserable the climate, the happier and cherrier Tithonia is. Also, with ‘butterfly’ in the name this is a habitat winner and is a gracious host and an attractor of butterflies, Monarch and Swallotails to boot!! With its vibrant hues in the garden you cannot help but call out an ‘Ole!’ when you see Tithonia.

Next up is Ricinus communis, known as a Castor plant. Now this plant does summon all things questionable and is a poisonous plant, so it is best located far removed from direct interaction. The green, red/maroon/violet, massive palmate leaves tower over many other plants, and people, in the summer. This brings forth the lush tropical feel to any garden or container. The leaves even make a lovely cut plant for indoor arrangements. Pair it with blues, purples or deeper reds for a very mysterious yet mesmerizing combination. The flowers do not do much for me personally but the fruit seed heads are lovely little spikey orb clusters. Just one single plant can make a statement in a garden leaving people wondering always, ‘What’s that plant!?’ But why stop at one?

Last, a favorite that brings forth (plant) emotion always is Amaranthus caudatus, Love Lies Bleeding. If that name doesn’t send shivers down your spine then I don’t know what would! The drooping red spires of flowerlets make a big , heart-felt, romantic statement. If Snuffaluffagus were a flower, this would be the one! A trooper for all unkind conditions, LLB is a beauty in the garden and makes a great cut flower option too! There are orange, yellow and even chartreuse versions of the same plant and braid like flowers. Oh so delightful.
Jeanette Ankoma-Sey is a D.C. based landscape architect and a planting designer extraordinaire. She specializes in landscapes that provide sustenance, children's gardens, and school and botanical gardens.  She teaches planting design at the George Washington University's Landscape Design Program.


  1. How lovely you mentioned Tithonia, I adore this plant and have grown it both in the cutting garden and in pots for several years now. I especially like that it is a magnet for our yellow and scarlet finches, who positively mug them later in the season.

  2. Hey, Annette - great job. Next up for you - your own blog.

  3. Shesh, I call you annette? What was I drinking?
    Anyway, I'm trying to reach Jeanette about Potomac Chaptter of ASLA and Greenbelt needing their help. Please pass this along to her.


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