Annuals for damp soil

March 10th, 2017 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

Mimulus 'Magic Blotch Mixed' enjoys moist soil.

Most annual flowers grow wild in the Mediterranean or in California and enjoy sunny sites, often in stony soils. They grow when it rains, make seed as it dries and are adapted to survive through the hot season as seeds.

Relatively few enjoy soil that is damp for long periods – but there are some. They still appreciate sun, though may be happy with a little less sun than many annuals, but they’ll flower well and self sow in damp soil. There are three that stand out.

Limnanthes
Sow in the spring, sow in the late summer and autumn (and it will self sow as well) this low, fleshy little plant spreads well, makes lush growth with masses of saucer shaped flowers standing up above the leaves and looking you in the eye.

In the old favourite, Limnanthes douglasii, the yellow flowers are tipped in white – hence the common name of poached egg plant. But in the variety ‘Scrambled Eggs’ you’ll also find plants with pure yellow flowers and with white flowers. They make a very pretty blend.

Mimulus
By far the brightest and most varied annuals for wet soil, and flowering very quickly from seed as well, the cheerful speckled and blotched flowers of ‘Magic Blotch Mixed’, come in a delightful, dizzying array of colour combinations. You get far more seeds for your money with ‘Extra Choice Mixed’, but they’re mainly straight unblotched colours.

Good in containers that are not more than 30cm deep, stand the pots in a saucer to keep the plants moist. Sow in spring and summer. They’ll self sow, but the results might be a little unpredictable.

Nemophila
This is one that will take a little shade as well as enjoying moisture. The classic blue-and-white of Nemophila menziesii soon makes fresh looking plants with upfacing white-eyed blue flowers for a long season. It has a relation called five spot, N. maculata, whose white flowers each have an inky spot at the tip of each petal.

Sow both in sown in spring or autumn and they’ll flower on neat little plants.

* Impatiens We always used to think of impatiens as good in damp conditions, but the downy mildew has put paid to that. My advice? Don’t risk it.

Nemophila maculata will self sow in damp places.

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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