If there is still room remaining in the flowerbed, consider filling the space with summer annuals that have striking or unusual foliage. Not only will this add more color and texture to the garden, it will leave less room for competing weeds to grow.
Alternanthera can provide a season of color and diversity, and depending on the species it may return. Some species are annuals and some perennials. Some are only perennials in Zones 9-11. Alternanthera dentata is sometimes called Joseph’s Coat because of different splashes of color in various cultivars.
The purple leafed, low-growing hybrid ‘Gail’s Choice’ is one of many that can add interest to the summer garden display. Leaves vary from green to dark purple depending on the sun exposure. Known as the Calico plant, it is easily propagated from cuttings. If brought inside for the winter one may experience an unusual, clover-type bloom on the specimen.
Alternanthera is a large genus, available in 200 or more species. Colors range from green and white to burgundy and reddish purple. Many species do well in partial shade, other require full sun and are somewhat drought tolerant when established.
Another interesting plant grown for its foliage is Dusty Miller. The silvery-gray, coarse texture of this specimen affords an excellent background for low growing, frilly bedding plants such as the Wave Petunia or the short, spiky blooms of Angelonia or Salvia.
Dusty Miller prefers a full sun location and rich, moist, well-drained soil. Plants may be spaced close together, which helps control growth of those pesky weeds. Most specimens reach 10″ – 18″, mature plants are multi-branched. Pinching back top growth will encourage a bushier plant. Insignificant, yellow flowers may be removed to avoid distraction in the display.
Research the cultivars you have chosen and locate in an appropriate area. Water well until the plants have established a good root system. If specimens appear leggy, clip the offending branches, treat with rooting compound and plant in a container or prepared area of the garden. Remember, repeating plant material throughout the landscape gives your garden a sense of continuity.