Garden talk: 5 annual flowers that don’t need daily watering

There are some common, favorite annual flowers that can survive if you forget to water them for a few days, or if you have a weekend getaway where your plants might go unattended.

If you have ever lost flowers in front of your house due to lack of water, I’m here to help. The front of your house can have some beautiful summer color without the daily scurry to water everything before you leave for work. Also the water bills can be very high in some Michigan towns. This will help a little with the water used on your landscape.

Geraniums are an annual flower in Michigan that can survive a few days without being watered. (Mark Torregrossa | MLive)

The first tough mainstay of Michigan front-of-house flowers and planters is the geranium. The stems are thick and the leaves are thick and rigid. Geraniums can go several days without water before they start to look stressed.

Another added benefit of geraniums is they can live after a slight frost. So not only will they flourish on your porch through the summer, they will also last into November across southern Michigan and well into October across northern Michigan.

The only knock on geraniums is they do need dead-heading. That’s not the road trip you took in the 1980s to go to a Grateful Dead show; it’s the removal of dead flowers and stems. Geraniums will really respond with the next round of flowers after being dead-headed.

low water annuals

Begonias are an annual flower here in Michigan that can live with less frequent waterings. (Mark Torregrossa | MLive)

One annual flower that I had forgotten about showed its toughness to me a few years ago. I got a flat of begonias, which I hadn’t grown in some years. I neglected the flat of begonias, and they continued to look fine. I planted most of the begonias, and had some left in the flat. I neglected that flat badly for a few more weeks. The begonias actually looked like they were growing. I realized this is one tough annual flower. They bloom like crazy, and the leaves are pretty and contribute to the look of the begonias. The big leaf begonias, like the Dragon’s Wing begonias, are just as tough as the smaller leafed begonias.

Another tough annual flower, marigolds don’t seem to wilt down, or at least don’t show they are stressed with dry soil.

low water annuals

Moss roses are an annual flower here in Michigan that can live with less frequent waterings. (Photo provided by University of Wisconsin- Madison Extension)

Another annual flower that doesn’t get very thirsty is the moss rose. The University of Wisconsin Extension mentions that moss rose, or portulaca, is related to purslane. Purslane is the sedum-looking leafy weed in your yard. It’s very common in sidewalk cracks. It has to be tough to survive in our sidewalks in the heat of summer. The moss rose will give you a plant that will flow over the edge of a pot. It’s a nice mix with the more upright plants mentioned so far.

low water annuals

Cleome is an annual flower here in Michigan that can live with less frequent waterings. (photo provided by University of Wisconsin- Madison Extension)

The next annual flower gives you some height with the flowers. Cleome is very drought tolerant, and grows two feet to three feet tall. I got on a cleome kick for several years. Watch out, though: Cleome grows spines and can get you pretty bloody if you have to get in there and weed. It is a very different and interesting-looking plant and flower.

Some annual flowers to stay away from if you aren’t right on top of the daily watering: impatiens (especially New Guinea), calibrachoa, lobelia, verbena, bacopa and petunias. Petunias will wilt and turn brown quite quickly. They will grow back if you start watering them again, but it make take a week or two.


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