They’re barely of voting age, yet angelonias are rock stars. They’re native to Mexico and the West Indies, yet they didn’t make the big time of world gardens until the late 1990s. But make it they did! Today they’re some of the most popular providers of summertime color across America and far beyond. Let’s take a look at why.
Angelonias love sun, and because of their native homes, they’re not afraid of summer’s heat. Sure, they need a little supplemental water to help them get started, but once they’re established, occasional deep soakings will be all that is needed. Just give them normal care — no coddling required. We use them as annuals across all of Texas, and in South Texas even as tender perennials. They’re winter-hardy to Zones 9-11 and root-hardy in the southern half of Zone 8.
Angelonias are sometimes called “summer snapdragons” because of their resemblance to the popular flowers of late winter and spring, and due to the fact that angelonias bloom in the summer. However, their florets are much smaller than those of snapdragons. For that matter, so are the plants themselves. But the best news is that they’re a lot easier to grow than their popular counterparts and they remain in bloom for months longer as well.
Blues and purples predominate in the mix of angelonia colors, but plant breeders have also brought us bright whites and rich, rosy pinks. Two-toned flowers are also available, adding another option for the legions of fans of this wonderful plant.
You can grow angelonias in raised beds of well-prepared garden soil. Mix in several inches of organic matter, and rototill to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. Most of us in North Texas are amending heavy clay soils, so in addition to the organic matter, we’ll also want to include 1 inch of expanded shale soil conditioner. All of this is no different than you should use for all garden annuals.
The plants grow to be 12 to 18 inches tall, depending on the variety. Space your transplants 8 to 12 inches apart. They grow vertically, so that will allow them to fill in without being crowded. Look for vigorous, blooming transplants growing in 4-inch plastic pots.
If you’re interested in growing angelonias in patio pots, you’ll want three plants to a 10-inch pot and five plants in a 12-inch container. Or, you can combine them with other types of annuals, in which case they can play the part of the “filler” category of the “thrillers” (tall, bold plants), “spillers” (trailing plants that cascade over the edges of the pots) or “fillers” (fine-textured plants that add body to the arrangements).
To keep your angelonias growing vigorously, apply high-nitrogen products in granular forms to beds and in liquid and timed-release forms to the soil in pots. New flower stalks will be produced continuously, and the ongoing supply of nutrients will keep them coming clear until frost. No deadheading or removal of spent flower spikes will be required.
Angelonias were originally propagated vegetatively by cuttings or even division, but breeders have introduced several fine strains that are now grown from seed. The Serena series, listed as Texas SuperStar plants by Texas A&M, was one of the first, and it’s still very popular, growing to 12 to 15 inches tall. Serenitas are also short, while Angelface selections grow to 14 to 18 inches tall.
Few pests visit angelonias and none causes serious harm. Gardeners in the Texas Hill Country even report that the deer there don’t like them.
Truly new plants don’t come into the gardening marketplace very often. Gold Star esperanza was one. Blue Wonder fanflower was another. Those were plants with staying power in the Texas gardenscape. But as great as they are, those plants don’t hold a candle to this one.
One more neat thing about angelonias is that they’re not big and flashy on their own. They’re all about understated elegance, and it’s really cool that they’re recognized for being such great landscaping additions.