I demand a lot of my container crops. I expect them to blossom with very little if any deadheading or to possess fabulous foliage — preferably both. I do not want to pinch them back, prop them up or do a whole lot more than water them frequently (and I do so with an automatic drip irrigation system to keep my hands free for that large, cold drink with a little umbrella in it). I don’t have any tolerance for wimpy crops. Only the best will do, and after personally analyzing each of them I can vouch for their celebrity status in the Pacific Northwest, although a lot of my horticulture colleagues will attest to their visibility from different fields of the United States too.

Have you tried these annuals? Many were new introductions for 2013 but are readily available in nurseries and on the internet.

1. Superbells Lemon Slice

I am not a petunia fan. In my Seattle climate, petunias go mushy with tacky and rain with aphids, and in addition, they have to be deadheaded regularly — way too much work for me.

Superbells Lemon Slice may look just like a miniature petunia, but thankfully that’s where the comparison ends. This new Calibrachoa hybrid is unfazed by summer rain and heat, and it blooms so prolifically that the foliage is hardly observable.

The dense, mounding habit means it hugs the sides of containers or baskets well, while trailing two feet approximately. This tidy habit makes it an 11 out of 10 from me.

Botanical name: Calibrachoa hybrid
Water requirement: Average
moderate requirement: Full sun

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Design thoughts: The multihued Luscious Berry Blend lantana displayed here is a perfect color partner, repeating the yellow while presenting hot pink and zesty orange. This lantana is vigorous enough to contend with Superbells too.

Lemon Slice would also make a vivid colorful ruffle beneath an arching purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’).

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2. Spitfire Coleus

There are hundreds of coleus hybrids. While all are colorful, some are spindly others need endless pinching back to keep the plants compact and a few assert they can take complete sun but actually can’t.

Spitfire is different. I analyzed it in harsh circumstances in 2012, and it came with style. Despite intense summer sun, it didn’t show any signs of scorching. It never wilted from the heat and even remained compact without pinching. The bronze foliage turns more cherry in full sunlight and can be accented with lotion.

Botanical name: Solenostemon scutellarioides
Water requirement: Average
Light requirement: Full sun

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Design thoughts: Emphasize the paler colors within Spitfire by mixing it with Orange King coleus (pictured here). The leaves of the 2 coleuses may differ in size and pattern, but their shared color palette creates a sense of unity.

I also planted Spitfire with Luscious Piña Colada lantana, which has a soft creamy yellow flower. This was shown to be a beautiful, fresh-looking combination.

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3. Bonfire Begonia

This sun-tolerant begonia is so dependable that I buy a dozen at a time once I see it look in nurseries. I use these tracking annuals in hanging baskets or at the advantages of containers, in which they not only tolerate full sun but thrive inside. Bonfire begonia is revealed here with Angelina sedum (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’).

The orange flowers, often mistaken for fuchsias are a hummingbird favorite, and I often find myself being heckled by these feisty little birds while I’m attempting to complete my planting.

No deadheading is required to maintain this beauty blooming. Just be careful not to overwater, but settle back and appreciate.

Botanical name: Begonia boliviensis hybrid
Water requirement: Average
moderate requirement: Full sun or partial shade

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Design thoughts: Permit Bonfire to ship out dozens of orange sparks out of a densely planted container.

This picture indicates the Arakawa Japanese walnut (Acer palmatum ‘Arakawa’)underplanted with deep red coleus, chartreuse and bronze sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), and Bonfire begonia. It also pairs well with purple or blue flowers and foliage, like the fanflower described next.

4. Whirlwind Blue Fanflower

This is one for the front of the pot. It is called a spiller, since it paths loosely, yet it ends flowering branches at a multitude of directions — making for some great, if unexpected, mixes. As opposed to making it look untidy, this feature is actually one of those I love most about fanflower; it is a filler plus a spiller all in one.

The pretty periwinkle-blue fan-shaped flowers cover this unassuming annual until a hard frost. It is really an outstanding performer.

Botanical name: Scaevola hybrid
Water requirement: Average
moderate requirement: Full sun to partial shade

Design thoughts: Plant a hanging basket exclusively with fanflower.

For more colour add the bold orange Bonfire begonia and trailing sweet potato vine — the black foliage of Blackie (Ipomoea batatas ‘Blackie’) would be dramatic.

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Or let fanflower to mingle with additional container crops, like this Superbells Apricot Punch. For foliage interest I’d add in one of those deep burgundy floor cover succulents like sedum ‘Blaze of Fulda’ (Sedum spurium ‘Fuldaglut’). The dark red rosettes would play off the similarly coloured neck of theSuperbells.

5. Beefsteak Plant

At first glance this looks like a coleus, yet it is sturdier than coleus and appears to be slug resistant. This leaves plant requires no return to look fabulous all season. It is going to typically reach two feet tall and one foot wide, making it convenient as a thriller in small pots or a filler in bigger ones.

I have used beefsteak plant just in a shade container, but I feel the coloring is much more intense in sunlight.

Botanical name: Perilla frutescens ‘Magilla’
Water requirement: Average to non
Light requirement: Partial shade to full sunlight

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Design thoughts: Utilize the bold dash of magenta as a springboard to your colour scheme. This foliage-focused container design has it paired with a white caladium (Caladium bicolor) that has striking pink veins and the leathery black leaves of a Calathea. This Calathea cultivar, ‘Dottie’, has an interesting pink stripe around the perimeter, which also plays into the theme perfectly.

6. Diamond Frost

This frothy white blooming annual is not nearly as delicate as it appears. It is demonstrated to be heat tolerant and drought tolerant, it’s a well mounded habit, and it does not require deadheading, therefore this pretty annual is firmly on my favorites list.

Expect Diamond Frost to grow to 12 inches tall and up to 18 inches across. It could be set in the middle or at the border of a container, in which it will mound daintily over the border.

Botanical name: Euphorbia graminea
Water requirement: Average to non
Light requirement: Full sun

Design thoughts: Plant some pretty party favors with white impatiens and Diamond Frost in vibrant tabletop pots. Use these as place settings or set a trio onto a table to decorate a buffet.

Notice: in view of the fungal disease affecting impatiens in many regions of the United States, you may prefer to use this disease-resistant New Guinea impatiens.

More: The Key Formula for Grouping Plants at a Pot

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