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In my garden the sunflowers, zinnias, porter weed, milkweed, vinca, pentas and moss roses have all been very showy this summer, but the most spectacular plants have been the Whopper begonias.

Whoppers are a larger version in terms of foliage and flowers of semperfloren (wax leaf) begonias.

The semperfloren begonias grow to about 8 inches tall and 8 inches wide but their cousins, the Whopper grow to 2 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter with the leaves and blooms proportionately larger. In a normal summer you would choose between pink or red flowers with green or maroon foliage.

Whoppers have been one of the summer color plants that have been in high demand. Keep alert for their availability at area nurseries and if they appear, find a place to plant them. You will not be sorry!

Plant Whoppers in drifts of 14-inch containers in the shade in front of doors or on the patio. They also do well in beds adjacent to the driveway or sidewalks.

This year despite the heavy rains and winds, my Whoppers have not needed pruning back to make them more compact, but I expect they will benefit by such a trim by early August. The trim will prepare them to continue their show until after Thanksgiving. Some begonias, including Whoppers, survive the winter.

Pentas do well in the shade and are a favorite nectar plant of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Norman Winter /TNS

Pentas

Multi-colored moss roses

Multi-colored moss roses

D. Homer /Getty Images / iStockphoto

Pentas are another blooming plant that is performing well in the shade this summer. The main colors are versions of red, pink, lavender and white. Unlike Whoppers, pentas are available at area nurseries in full bloom with the expectation that they will not miss a day of bloom right up to the first freeze. They are a good choice for providing color in the shade.

In addition to the attractiveness of the bloom, penta are a favorite nectar source for pollinators. Hummingbirds, butterflies and bees make frequent visits to the flowers to utilize the available nectar.

For gardens or containers in the sun, consider vinca and moss roses. Like pentas, they are readily available at area nurseries.

Cora vincas

Vinca is one of the few annual flowers that is not eaten by the deer. Limit your purchases to the Cora selection because it is resistant to the fungal dieback that nearly eliminated vinca as a reasonable choice for summer blooms. Now that Cora is available, you can plant red, white, pink, lavender and mixed-color blooms — even when the season is wet like this year.

It is hard to match the impact of a drift of containers with red and white vinca prospering on the hottest part of your patio. Like penta, expect your vinca to bloom every day after you bring it home from the nursery.

Moss roses

Moss roses

Goaya /Getty Images / iStockphoto

Moss roses

Moss roses also prosper in full sun, producing blooms of many colors on low-growing plants that are excellent for small containers and hanging baskets.

Unlike the other plants we discussed in this article, moss roses only bloom for part of the day. There is a chance that if you have a long workday, you may leave before they start blooming in the morning, or you could get back after the quit blooming for the evening.

In addition to selecting from the many colors that are available, keep watch for moss roses that have the longest bloom periods.

Calvin Finch is a retired Texas A&M horticulturist. [email protected]

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