Landscape professionals and horticulturists are raving about Angelonia’s heat and drought tolerance, extended bloom period and performance in the landscape. Better Homes and Gardens magazine listed it as one of the top 20 annuals of 2008 and it was a Georgia Gold Medal Winner in 2009.
Angelonia is an erect little perennial (in zones 8 – 11) with smooth stems and narrow 2-3 inch leaves with toothed margins and pointed tips. Some people say the foliage smells like apples. The flowers are rose lilac to violet to blue, almost an inch across and borne in slender upright spikes to 8 inches long. The flowers bloom over a long period in summer - 4-6 weeks in temperate climates and even longer in zones 8-11 -- the blooming season is May to October in North Texas. Angelonia is evergreen with soft (not woody) stems and a bushy habit, and gets 12-18 inches tall with a spread of about 12 inches.
'Angelmist' Angelonia is a vegetatively propagated offering from Ball Horticultural Company and is considered hardy in Zones 8 – 11. The ‘Serena’ Series cultivars are new introductions that are particularly noteworthy because they may be grown from seed -- Serena Series plants are slightly more compact than species plants, typically growing to 10-14 inches tall. Serena flowers have an impressive spring to early fall bloom period. Angelface® Blue is an offering from Proven Winners. It comes in six different colors and is extremely vigorous and showy, and gets about 2 feet tall. It is considered an annual except in zones 8 – 11 -- San Antonio is Zone 8b and it is usually root-hardy (top freezes down but it sprouts again from root system the following spring).
Angelonia is native to Mexico and the West Indies.
Culture - A slow-release fertilizer, such as Osmocote, incorporated into soil at planting time will ensure uniform growth. Supplement the granular fertilizer with liquid feed, as needed, to keep plants looking their best. Let the plants dry out between waterings but be prepared to provide supplemental irrigation during dry spells.
Light: Full sun but will tolerate light shade.
Moisture: Angelonia should have regular watering for best performance, but established plantings are moderately drought tolerant. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 11. Angelonia is a perennial in zones 8-11 -- in Zone 8 it is usually root-hardy (top freezes down but it sprouts again from root system the following spring). Elsewhere it is grown as an annual or in a container to be brought indoors in cold weather.
The foliage and flowers are hardy to 30 degrees F.
Propagation: Propagate Angelonia from tip cuttings, by division of the root mass, or by seed. For a head start, sow seed indoors at 70-75 degrees F., 6-8 weeks before the last expected frost. Of course, the patented cultivars should not be commercially propagated without a propagation license from the patent holder but home gardeners can experiment with a seedling population.
Usage: With their short stature and long lasting colorful blooms, Angelonias are perfect as summer bedding plants. For a massed effect, space plants 9-12 inches apart. They also make great container plants for porch planters and window boxes. In zones 9-11 use as flowering edging in front of perennial beds and borders. They're good for cut flowers too.
Maintenance: Blooms all season; heat and drought tolerant plants; scented foliage; low maintenance (Deadheading Is Not Necessary) but periodic cut-back is HIGHLY recommended – the plant will be twice as thick a week later if you can bring yourself to cut to the ground some or all of the tallest upright stems covered with snapdragon-like flowers. In a few days the plant will look every bit as bushy as before!
Angelonia is drought-tolerant and somewhat wet-tolerant as well but always remember: Even drought tolerant annual and perennial plants will need water for several weeks while they get established. After this, little or no supplemental water will be necessary when planted in the ground except in the complete absence of rainfall. No plant is truly drought tolerant in a container; regular watering is necessary for all plants in containers.
AND I HAVE SAVED THE BEST FOR LAST—Angelonia is DEER RESISTANT. Angelonia is listed as a deer resistant annual on many lists. However, we don’t believe it UNLESS we have done it in Texas. For several years, Forrest Appleton has tested this plant and found it to be truly deer-resistant. Images are attached showing Ruellia graecizans being eaten next to a 3-year-old ‘Serena’ Angelonia with no damage in July. But (and there is always a but) when planting ALL supposedly deer-resistant plants in areas where deer are active some defensive measures are called for at the time of planting. Deer are very curious creatures and are “duty bound” to taste test any new offerings. If you cannot (or prefer to not) physically exclude the deer by a method such as fencing, you should use one of the repellants that are on the market until the deer get used to the plant being in their forage area. This may take up to 6 months. A product called Liquid Fence has worked for us.