Angelonia, Angelonia angustifolia; “Summer Snapdragon”
For those of us who labor endlessly in our gardens, the idea of the backyard as a place of repose can seem like a lunatic’s delusion. If we do manage to take a break from the endless weeding and pruning to mop our sweaty brows and view our handy work, we often end up ignoring the beauty and focusing only on the chores that remain. Far too often for the caretaker, the garden is less a restful haven than a three-dimensional to-do list. However, help is on the way. Hybridizers, those patient horticulture worker bees, are laboring in their greenhouses to create plants that require less care while providing more satisfying results.
A perfect example of this phenomenon is Angelonia. Until sometime in the 1990s this was a rather drab little flower that was mainly grown in areas of the south which shared a similar climate with this plant’s native habitats in Mexico and the West Indies. Drab no more, thanks to a plethora of gorgeous cultivars, Angelonia has become a landscapers’ darling and an overworked gardener’s dream come true. Once hard to find at the garden center, this plant is now widely available in a selection of vibrant colors from white to blue to purple to mauve and, recently, even a pinkish red.
Ellen Reznick, owner of the Manhattan design and maintenance firm Lush Life Gardening, is an enthusiastic fan of Angelonia and reports it is a vigorous and continuous full season bloomer, even thriving in the harsh conditions of high winds and withering sun on her clients’ terraces and roofs. As for maintenance, Reznick confirms that this plant does not need deadheading or staking even though, she says, it can grow quite tall.
- Angelonia looks delicate with its small orchid-shaped flowers on upright spikes, but it can tolerate blistering heat with or without high humidity.
- Most cultivars are two feet tall or less and quite bushy, which makes them perfect to put beside walkways and in swaths along the front edges of borders.
- Cut Angelonia and bring it indoors for a long-lasting flower display.
- This plant thrives in containers and window boxes and grows full enough to use alone, although it combines well with other colorful annuals.
Ellen Reznick says she likes to use Angelonia in planters with calibrachoa, creeping jenny, and bocopa. This works especially well with Archangel Purple, one of her favorite varieties, with its rich purple petals set off dramatically by dainty white centers. For a client who wanted a display of pink annuals, Reznick mixed pink Angelonia with pink pentas and rosebud impatiens. Because the range of cultivars is so extensive, the possible combinations are really endless.
Keep It Alive
- For most of us, Angelonia is an annual that will succumb to frost. But for gardeners in USDA zones 9 to 11 it can survive all year round especially if it is dressed with a layer of organic mulch.
- 6 to 8 hours of direct sun is required for maximum flowering.
- These annuals will tolerate almost any soil, including clay, but they prefer loose soil amended with organic matter.
- Water Angelonia two or three times a week until it develops a strong root system. At that point it will become fairly drought tolerant and require watering only when the soil has dried out.
Until recently, Angelonias tended to be rather expensive because they could only be propagated vegetatively through cuttings. However, just a few years ago, the Serena series, which is the first type of commercially available Angelonia capable of being grown from seed, was introduced. Serenas, as well as the somewhat smaller Seneritas, are a boon to the home gardener because they can either be started from seed or purchased as plugs for affordable multiple plantings.