We have finally gotten some cool, fall weather, and it’s time to start planting our cool-season color, but sometimes we need to enjoy the summer color that’s getting its second wind.
If you’re growing zinnias, you know they are rocking the landscape right now and almost saying, “Please don’t plant those pansies quite yet.”
These plants were stars at the recent Fall Flower and Garden Fest at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Crystal Springs. I fielded a multitude of questions about zinnias last week.
But there was a group of amazing sleeper plants that was really holding its own with the zinnias: the cosmos. If you’re looking for a colorful annual that will thrive in our hot and dry Mississippi weather into the fall, the bright and cheery cosmos certainly deserves a serious look.
There are quite a few cosmos series to choose from, but the Truck Crops Station has the Sonata series. The flowers of Sonata cosmos — and really all cosmos selections — are delicate and daisy-like, with petals surrounding a yellow center disk. Individual flowers sit on tall, slender stems and move in the slightest breeze.
These plants are reliable and long-lasting, which are great attributes for summer-color annuals.
Sonata cosmos is free-blooming and covered with sprays of buds that open and bloom nonstop all summer. Sonata colors range from clear white to soft-pastel pink and deep-magenta purple. Butterflies and other pollinators are drawn to visit these lovely flowers.
The foliage adds to the seemingly delicate appearance of these plants. The leaves are opposite and look frilly and feathery. Sonata offers excellent branching, a uniform habit and large, attractive blooms.
Grow in full sun for best performance. Cosmos is very tolerant of a variety of soil conditions. It can tolerate drought conditions and needs irrigation only during the driest of times.
In my opinion, you’ll get the most enjoyment from growing Sonata cosmos in raised beds. This allows you to maintain optimum soil moisture without worrying about overwatering a drought-loving plant.
It’s thought that, during the 1700s or 1800s, Spanish priests in Mexico who were fascinated with these plants named the flowers “cosmos” after the Greek word for orderly. It’s easy to see why, because of the evenly placed petals of the pretty little flowers.
In our hot garden universe, there’s always room for easy-care cosmos and its gorgeous color.
And one last tip: Cosmos plants are easy to grow from seed. Next spring, sprinkle some seed every two to three weeks in your planting beds. This way, you will enjoy these wonderful plants all summer and fall.
Gary Bachman is an Extension and research professor of horticulture at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi and hosts Southern Gardening television and radio programs. Contact him at email@example.com.
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