Annuals for the Heat

Why annuals?  Most people like some flowers in their landscape. Gardeners and landscape folks call this “color.” Lucky for us, “color” in most of the Southwest is a year ’round thing – with a little planning.

Plan for Color

The trees, shrubs, and perennial plants that grow in our area have various bloom times, early spring, late spring, summer, monsoon season, fall, even winter. Thus, you could have one or more plants in FGB (full glorious bloom) in any give week. All this color is great, but sometimes one part of the yard lacks blooms, and thus the whole landscape canvas appears off balance. Time for some annuals to come to the rescue!

Annuals can be Awesome

Annuals are plants that live only a season, or maybe two, but are generally finished with their life within a single year. This is opposed to perennials, which last many years. Annuals have only one goal in life – to flower, set seed, and go to the great compost heap in the sky. Perennials are cautious, they flower, but want to store energy for next year, so their blooming is generally not as showy (or if showy – not as long-lived).

Annuals are fairly easy to grow. Pop ’em in a pot. Stick ’em in flower beds. Tuck some in under other plants that are on the drip system. All annuals have shallow roots, so give them extra water, perhaps even daily water once temperatures are over 100 degrees.

Zinnia Profusion Double Hot Cherry. Photo courtesy of AAS.

Annuals for the Heat

Styles in annuals have fashion swings, just like hemlines. One year petunias predominate, another year marigolds are masters. It can be fun to try the latest and greatest, but tried and true are good too. With that in mind, I conducted an informal survey of Southwestern Garden writers – friends that live in our Southwest Zone.

The consensus is that we have to look at plants that grow here in the Southwest already. Plants that tolerate our soil and low humidity. We agreed that it doesn’t have to be just the summer wildflowers (although there are may beautiful ones) we can look at their cultivated cousins for inspiration. This gives us MANY options!


Ring Of Fire Sunflower. Photo courtesy of AAS.

Perfect for the land of sun! Sunflowers are ever popular and do well in the heat. I just did a post on them – here. And I am reminded that our friends at the National Garden Bureau (NGB) have declared 2021 the Year of the Sunflower. (More about NGB in this post.)

Multi-Tasking Amaranth

Amaranth cousin, Celosia Fresh Look Yellow. Photo courtesy of AAS.

Amaranth is a large genus with species that can be grown for flowers – as well as greens, and seeds (popped amaranth is yummy). I will have to do a fuller post on amaranth but the common flowering ones include: loves-lies-bleeding, princes feather, green tails, hot biscuits, and some selected for by Natives, like Hopi red dye. All tolerate our summers. If you want an edible landscape, consider amaranth! (Using edible amaranth on SavortheSW.)

Popular Portulaca

Better known as moss rose, Portulaca is an edible Southwest summer annual wildflower. It’s cultivated cousins, mostly originally from South America, can be stunning, and do well here.

Portulaca Margarita Rosita. Photo courtesy of AAS.

These durable and colorful flowering semi-succulents bloom all summer long in juicy shades of tangerine, pink, red, fuchsia, and yellow. What I love is that they continue to flower without deadheading. (removing spent flowers) Portulaca do best with afternoon shade in the Desert Zones.


When they bloom, zinnias can be truly lovely. And they will bloom for a long time if you remember to water them. Zinnias tolerate the heat, but generally not full sun in our area. You can buy these annuals as seed, or as growing plants.

Where to Buy

Zinnia Double Zahara Fire. Photo courtesy of AAS

I usually try to send people to local nurseries to help keep these plant loving and helpful people in business. (There’s a list of SW nurseries – here.) That said – the ones that I have written about today are also available at the big box places – because we are all human. When we run into the big box for a new ceiling fan we may be sorely tempted by the lovely pots of colorful annuals. Let your self be tempted! But try to stick to things with heat-loving genes that will help them survive in the Southwest.

As always, enjoy!

Peace, Jacqueline

Thanks! to All-America Selections for the images used in this post.  They have been helping North American gardeners select the best regional plants for their gardens since 1932.  More at

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More about overall care of your land and landscape in this book: Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico (Cool Springs Press).  This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there the Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute will get a few pennies – at no extra cost to you.

© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt – but you must give proper credit to Gardening With Soule. You must include a link to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.

Cover photo: All-American Selection winner Profusion Zinnia.  It’s a plant butterflies love.

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