Gardeners looking for unique, colorful annuals that produce fan-shaped blossoms might consider growing a relatively new plant, the Scaevola. The plants produce attractive fan-shaped flowers that bloom for weeks on end, making deadheading a minimal chore. The plants work well when grown in containers or planted in the ground for summer enjoyment.
The fan flower (Scaevola aemula), also known as fairy fan flower, comes from a large genus that includes plants native to tropical environments in the United States and Australia. The Australian variety, aemula, is a blue-flowering ornamental plant from which varieties most commonly used in gardens come from. In some tropical environments, the plant is considered an invasive weed. Fan flower varieties include Zig Zag with bi-colored violet and white flowers that bloom later than other varieties. White Charm and Whirlwind White are white varieties. White Charm is a variety that stays more compact and features yellow-based petals.
The arrangement of the petals on the flower gives fan flower its name. The flowers come in colors of blue, lilac or white with yellow throats. Each flower features five petals, all of which appear on a half circle on one side, resembling little fans. The flowers appears in clusters that reach up to 3 inches in width.
Fan flowers form spreading mounds up to 20 inches in height. The trailing plant spreads from 2 to 3 feet in width. The bright, coarsely-toothed leaves grow up to 2 inches in length and appear on trailing stems. Fan flower grows in American gardens as an annual, but in tropical climates, the plant grows as an evergreen perennial.
Choosing an area of the garden with full sun or light shade and well-drained soil makes up the requirements for planting fan flower. The plant grows in almost any soil, including loose, sandy types. The plant thrives in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11 as an evergreen plant. Since fan flower grows very fast in the summer, it can be planted as an annual in cooler climate gardens outside its normal hardiness zone.
Fan flower makes a good trailing plant to add to hanging baskets or containers used on patios or porches. The plant grows well in seaside gardens in tropical and subtropical regions, since it's tolerant of salt spray and sandy soil. The plants work well as groundcovers, too, with their trailing and spreading habit.