As a gardener, I’m always looking for new and exciting plants. And I know I’m not alone—many gardeners I meet are constantly on the lookout for what’s different and exciting. With spring now well underway and the planting season for flowers upon us, here are a few of my favorite unique annuals to enjoy all summer long.

The first of my favorite plants is a climber, ideal for pots situated in front of a post or trellis. Thunbergia, commonly referred to as black-eyed susan vine, is a gorgeous climbing annual that no garden should be without. Having grown it on my own patio, I’ve seen how this vine grows vigorously and blooms heavily all summer long and well into fall. Last year, even after the rest of the plants in my pots started looking tired, my black-eyed susan vines were continuing to look great—and that was in early November!

Most commonly found with bright yellow or orange blooms, thunbergia’s only resemblance to a black-eyed susan is its color; the flowers themselves actually look more like a petunia. With no deadheading needed and a six-month blooming season, black-eyed susan vine deserves a spot in your containers.

My second favorite annual is an entire species rather a single plant. With so many new introductions over the last five years, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but if you haven’t looked at coleus lately, look again. Traditionally considered a shade-lover, today’s varieties of coleus are much more versatile, with many varieties now well-suited for sun or shade.

Depending on the variety you choose, coleus may grow as tall as four feet, so choose a plant that will fit with the size of your container. Available in shades of pink, orange, green, yellow, red and near-black, coleus works well with any color scheme and can provide a much-needed neutral backdrop for the other flowers in your pots or beds. Check out the many varieties of coleus available now at Vander Giessen’s.

The third new plant I’m excited about is (I realize I’m cheating) actually two relatively new types of verbena, namely ‘Twister Red’ and ‘Twister Purple.’ Trailing verbena is a great ingredient for any mixed container of flowers, and the ‘Twister’ varieties are no exception. Both varieties boast two-tone flowers, the center of each flower head being a rich shade of red or purple and the outer ring of flowers tones of pale pink or lavender, respectively. On their own, ‘Twister’ verbenas are dramatic, but combined with other flowers, they really shine.

For all of these flowers and the rest of the annuals and hanging baskets you plant (or received for Mother’s Day!), they’ll bloom all summer long and well into fall, but only with proper care. In order to look their best, water your pots and baskets daily until water starts to drip out the bottom of the pot. If you miss a day or discover your pots wilted and overly dry, water twice with a five minute break between watering to allow the soil to start to swell and soak up water once again.

Annuals are hungry plants, so don’t forget to fertilize once a week with a high-quality water-soluble fertilizer like Jack’s Classic. This time of year, it’s most important to provide a balanced blend of nutrients such as Jack’s All Purpose 20-20-20 mix, but you’ll achieve the best results by alternating with Jack’s Blossom Booster 10-30-20 blend. This combination of fertilizers will keep your plants growing strong and keep flowers blooming even through cool, wet June days and the heat of July and August.

As you spend more time outside this spring and get underway with planting flowers, we invite you to stop in and check out the sea of summer-long color available now in our greenhouses. Oh, and don’t be afraid to try something new; who knows—you might find a new must-have flower for your garden!