Sure-fire Summer Color

Flower bed. Sure fire summer color.

Now’s the time to plant for a long season of summer color. Here are two reliable favorites.

Few flowers offer such vibrant color and varied form as dahlias. They come in every color (including many combinations) except true blue, but it’s the diversity of flower and plant form that is really remarkable. Flowers, both big (more than 8 inches across) and small, come in singles and doubles, frilly cactus form, ball-shaped, pompons, daisy-like anemone and many more. They are wonderful cut flowers. Plants range from small and compact to more than 6 feet high and fill almost any garden role.

Dahlias are tuberous perennials that are planted after the last frost. They grow best with full sun, well-drained soil and regular watering. Taller types need staking. Watch out for snails and earwigs. In most areas, dahlias are best dug up in fall and stored until the following spring. For more information on dahlias, visit ,The American Dahlia Society.

If you love zinnias but hate the powdery mildew that usually comes with them, you might want to try disease-resistant varieties, especially selections of Mexican zinnia, (Zinnia angustifolia) and its hybrids. They look different than standard zinnias with smaller flowers (1 to 2 inches in diameter) produced on more compact, spreading plants, rarely growing over a foot high - perfect for edgings or pots. Star zinnias are varieties of Mexican zinnia with flowers in shades of white, gold and orange. ‘Crystal White’ is a fine Mexican zinnia with excellent disease resistance. Also look to hybrids like Starlight Rose, which is part of the Zahara series, and has gorgeous, small, white flowers with rose stripes. Profusion hybrids also come in a variety of colors, including some bicolors.

Zinnias are easy to grow from seed or transplants. Plant in full sun and fertilize every 4 to 6 weeks. Water regularly but do so early in the morning so that the foliage can dry off by nightfall.