Some new and old annuals to brighten your garden

Rob Zimmer, Leader Columnist

Photo by Rob Zimmer The new salvia in salmon is a breathtaking plant that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies with its tube-shaped blooms.

Photo by Rob Zimmer Nemesia, fragrant, light and airy makes a perfect container filler in potted planters and hanging baskets.

Every year, plant growers and breeders introduce dozens of new annuals into the marketplace, vying for the attention of gardeners and yard decorators everywhere.

Year after year, the tastes of gardeners themselves change, as well. What one gardener may like one year may not catch their eye the next.

Many amazing new annuals have captured my attention this year, along with some old favorites I always love to include. Here are some of my favorites that I hope you’ll try in your containers, garden beds and displays.

Annuals are those flowers and decorative plants that complete their blooming cycle and die in one growing season. The plant does not return year after year, unless it is a self-seeder. These plants normally do not survive our winters.

Perennials are those plants that return, often bigger and bigger, with each new spring. They are cold hardy in Wisconsin and will survive our winters to return year after year.

Petunia Starry Sky

The petunia that exploded into popularity last year should really make an impact in 2017. A deep, rich, blackish purple overlaid with white speckles or stars, this petunia is one of a kind.

Salvia Salmon

Salvia in salmon. A gorgeous, salmon colored version of the popular annual salvia. Salmon and peach are becoming quite popular among annuals and this beauty, adored by hummingbirds, add to the collection of these pale beauties.


I love verbenas in all colors and growth forms. Sprawling, loaded with rich blooms that attract butterflies and hummingbirds, verbenas come in every color of the rainbow from near black to white. Bi-colored blooms in pink, white, red, purple, yellow and more are fun to grow, along with the new peach colored varieties.


Growing 12 to 18 inches tall, the incredibly beautiful and elegant blooms of this flower rival roses for their incredible flower form and structure. Available in pink, white and several shades of purple, these beautiful blooms unfurl like rosebuds in the summer garden.


Sunflowers are often underused in the annual garden bed, a shame considering there are so many incredible new varieties. Chocolate Cherry, Cinnamon Sun and the spectacular Mexican sunflower are a few of my favorites, along with the furry, dwarf Teddy Bear sunflowers and the refreshing, near white, Vanilla Ice.

Persian Shield

A favorite foliage plant, Persian Shield grows 2 to 4 feet high and wide, with breathtaking, metallic silver and purple leaves. A must for annual beds and containers, especially suited for shady locations. Combine with lime green or orange foliage and blooms for an unforgettable show.


The nemesias, dainty and elegant in bloom, come in a variety of colors from bright yellow to pale lavender and deeper, richer wine and blue. In addition to their lacy beauty, the nemesias provide the most beautiful fragrance of just about any annual bloomer you’ll find. Enjoy the sweet, delicate perfume of these explosive flowering beauties.

Fountain Grass Fireworks

One of the most spectacular ornamental grasses, Fireworks features stunning foliage striped in red, pink, white and green, along with traditional fountain grass plumes later in summer into fall.


Superbells, sometimes called million bells, are miniature petunias that contain dozens, if not hundreds, of plants per bloom. Available in an increasing number of varieties every year, this prolific bloomers add much to container planters, hanging baskets and garden beds, where they bloom with explosive beauty all summer long. There are solid colors, bicolored blooms, as well as streaked varieties that become more and more complex with each season.

Find Rob Zimmer online at, or on Facebook at Listen to Outdoors with Rob Zimmer from 7-8 a.m. Saturdays on WHBY.