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Diversify the Landscape: Annuals and Perennials

Landscape Diversity with Annuals and Perennials

Let us spice up our landscapes. Our landscapes our overrun with a limited plant palette. We must diversify the landscape. In this landscape series, “Diversify the Landscape”, we are exploring unique plants we could see more of and to diversify the landscape.

An important caveat is that the plants listed in this article are only recommendations. Under the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Program’s first principle, “Right Plant, Right Place” our only limitation is our environmental conditions, landscape functions, and invasive plant material. As an example, plant sun-loving plants in full-sun conditions.

For the series, we are working from the ground up. In our previous article, we explored some unique groundcovers, which included Sunshine Mimosa, Fogfruit, Twin Flower, and Blue Daze. Therefore this article will explore reliable annuals and perennials that could be used more in the landscape.

The annuals and perennials we will discuss in today’s article include Cardinal Flower, Forked Blue Curls, Lion’s Ear, Ornamental Sweet Potato, Purple Coneflower.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinals)

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) is a striking flowering perennial. Its erect, vibrant red flowers bloom during the summer and are showstoppers. This native plant prefers moist areas of the landscape and adapts to different sunlight conditions, although it prefers full to part sun conditions. Cardinal Flower depends on hummingbirds for pollination. Therefore, for any gardeners interested in attracting hummingbirds to their landscapes, mix small masses of Cardinal Flower with other shrubs and groundcovers. Intermix Cardinal Flower with some blue or yellow flower plant material to allow the colors to pop!

Demonstrate red flowers of Cardinal Flower

The Cardinal Flower has a vibrant red, erect flower. Therefore, this vibrant color could be paired with coarse-textured plants or yellow flowers to create landscape contrast.

Forked Bluecurls (Trischostema dichotomum)

Forked Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum) is an annual that gets approximately three feet tall and two feet wide. It produces showy blue flowers and emanates an incredibly pleasant fragrance. The bluecurls is a powerful self-seeder, making itself a powerhouse plant for your wildflower garden. While flowering during the late summer, be on the lookout for hummingbirds and butterflies. Consequently, utilize this plant as an accent plant within your garden. Its blue color and aromatic fragrance will be a talking piece of your garden.

Showing blue curl flower

The Blue Curl flower has a unique form and a beautiful blue/violet flower. Photo courtesy of Florida Native Plant Society, Mark Hutchinson, 2012.

Lion’s Ear (Leonotis leonurus)

Lion’s Ear (Leonotis leonurus) is a semi-woody perennial native to southern Africa’s rocky grasslands. The Lion’s Ear is surprisingly underutilized but is known for its bright orange, tubular flowers that light up a landscape in the late summer and early fall. While blooming you will notice it is covered with honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Plant your Lion’s Ear in full-sun but does well in part-shade conditions. Although, it will need well-drained soils; excessive water can lead to its death.

Vibrant orange flowers!

The Lions Ear produces a bright orange flower. This unique, yet wonderful flower form adds great character to a landscape.

Ornamental Sweet Potatoes

Ornamental Sweet Potatoes are not going to attract a bunch of pollinators to your garden, but this ornamental perennial is a wonderful groundcover that adds wonderful color to a landscape. These leafy plants do well in containers and landscape beds, but their chartreuse green to dark purple leaves fill landscapes with spectacular color. Plant your ornamental sweet potato in full sun and well-drained areas. Once planted, you will rarely after to bother them much. They are drought-tolerant and naturally spring back from frost or freeze. Plant as a low groundcover perennial along walkways or landscape edges. There is no doubt that you will quickly fall in love.

Show color variations of sweet potato vines

The ornamental sweet potato vine is also considered a groundcover, but adds great colorful variety to the landscape with chartreuse or purple leaves.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Lastly, I do not think I could write an article about perennials and annuals without mentioning Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Purple Coneflower is one of my favorites. Its low-growing stature and homey purple color is a welcome addition to any landscape. Although, there are many different cultivars of Purple Coneflower, giving many gardeners a slightly broader selection of color variation. Many gardeners stick with the native purple species to attract butterflies. The dead, brown flowers can still add a unique characteristic to a landscape too.

showcase purple coneflower

The Purple Coneflower is a landscape staple. This self-seeding annual creates a wonderful color for a landscape and provides continual form and structure to your garden throughout the majority of the year.


Although I introduced a few annuals and perennials, let us keep exploring ways to diversity the landscape around our homes and communities: our environment will thank you, the pollinators will thank you, and you will thank yourself. What type of annuals and perennials are in your landscape that is not mentioned in this article?

Other Articles in the Diversify the Landscape series

Unique Groundcovers

Interested in more gardening-related blogs or following Alachua County’s MGVs on Social Media? Check out the additional links from Dr. Clem.

Taylor’s Blog Homepage

UF/IFAS Alachua County Extension Master Gardeners, Facebook Page

UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County YouTube Page

2 Comments on “Diversify the Landscape: Annuals and Perennials

  1. Interested in plants that are easy, come up each year. attract butterflies and humming birds

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