Some seasonal annuals are really perennials.

Bedding plants that go into the garden in spring are generally warm season or summer annuals. They should perform through summer until the weather gets too cool for them the following autumn. Bedding plants that go into the garden in autumn are generally cool season or winter annuals. They should perform through winter until the weather gets too warm for them late the following spring.

That sounds simple enough. Each type of bedding plant performs best within a specified season. Since they are annuals, they complete their life cycles within a single season within a single year. Of course, it is not so simple here where seasons are as unique as they are. Winter is mild. Summer is arid. Some bedding plants that are annuals in harsher climates may survive as perennials.

For example, busy Lizzie and wax begonia are warm season annuals in most climates. They succumb to frost as weather cools in autumn. Locally, they can survive through winter if sheltered from mild frost. Any that survived through last winter can regenerate now. As bedding plants, they will not be as uniform as they were last year. However, their variability would be fine for mixed bedding.

If sheltered and warm enough, wax begonias may actually continue to perform right through winter. If they dislike the aridity of summer, they can even perform slightly better through winter than they do through summer. Their best performance is often about now and again in autumn, between the two extremes of summer and winter. They challenge their designation as a warm season annual.

Even some of the bedding plants that really are annuals may not behave as such. Alyssum and nasturtium can disperse seed to replace themselves before they finish. They are not true to type, so their progeny eventually revert. Nonetheless, simple yellow and orange nasturtium and white alyssum are splendid for many relaxed gardens. Nasturtium might perform better in summer or winter.

Bedding plants usually know more about what they should be doing than those who are managing and manipulating them.

6 thoughts on “Bedding Plants That Defy Seasons

  1. Something new for me: a tree that’s twice deciduous. Central Texas has Aesculus pavia in two varieties: pavia, with red flowers; and flavescens, with yellow flowers. Also in the Sapindaceae here is Mexican buckeye, Ungnadia speciosa.

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    1. Oh, someone just mentioned what seemed to be an Aesculus pavia in Mississippi. When he mentioned that it bloomed red, I assumed that it was a red horsechestnut, Aesculus X carnea, but I do not believe that produces seed like what was described. I really had no idea that there were so many species in North American until I just recently tried to identify an Ohio buckeye. I can see why they are so popular. I happen to like those that grow wild here, but would not recommend them for landscaping. I actually prefer to phase them out of the landscapes that I work in, just because, to those who are not familiar with them, they look dead through summer.


  2. Your last sentence is actually true for a lot more than just bedding plants! I feel frustration at best, and sorrow at worst, when I see instances of people forcing plants (flowering or otherwise), shrubs, &/or trees to behave/live in a way that isn’t natural for them. 😦 Are there still “fishsticked” redwoods at the corner of Harwood and Blossom Hill in Los Gatos?

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  3. One thing I learned this year about Sweet Alyssum. You can buy plants that will start blooming in mid-spring and they will keep going until it gets hot. If you sow seed outside in late winter it may not bloom until June. I’ll see how long they keep flowering.

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    1. You are more observant with them than I am. I notice that where they are naturalized, those that bloom through winter finish earlier like yours, but are just as quickly overwhelmed by new plants that grew later. In some spots, they replace themselves so regularly that they are never completely gone.

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