Add Jewel-Like Color


Larkspurs are old fashioned flowers that look like delphiniums, only smaller. They come in dark blue to white shades.

Garden Adornment

What is your summer garden without annuals? Like a princess without her tiara and jewels, it is just not dressed for the part.

The non-stop blooms of annual flowers punctuate the border and rim the walk, they dangle from the porch pots and collar the shrubs. Cheerfully and gracefully they ornament plantings in a way perennials would be hard-put to duplicate.
So, what shall we choose? Look over the plant lists and then shop your garden stores and seed catalogs ( make plans to collect and save seeds for many annuals that are not listed as ‘hybrids’ -which won’t come true to form).

Zinnias, bright and easy

Many people start their own flats, which is very worthwhile in more ways than one. I, myself, never bother growing my own petunias, Ageratums, Lobelias, or Marigolds (Tagetes) that way. The flats available from the stores more than meet my needs, and I always grow my marigolds from seed ” in situ ” with better results. If you need large amounts of other types, or unusual varieties, then starting your own from seed is worth the experimentation. More of my opinion on the matter of economics involved.

If you are a newbie at this- the one important thing to pay attention to is: hardening off. That is the term for gradually introducing your little hothouse plants to the harsher elements of the real outdoors…gradually is the key word.


Dahlberg daisies

Annuals Defined

Why is a plant called an annual?It’s the life cycle description, an annual is a plant that grows, flowers, sets seed, and dies in the same season. What does this mean to you? That you must reseed the plant every year, and that the plant blooms longer in the garden when the seed setting is delayed (by dead-heading, etc)



My clay ground is most unforgiving when worked wet, so it seems inevitable, with all the scrambling around in the spring planting, that I don’t get to plant all the seeds I wanted. Even so, certain annuals are still worth effort well into June. Zinnias, marigolds, quick starters like Candytuft and Nigella, portulaca, even half-wilted Petunias will revive (if you lop their heads off and give their roots soft earth and moisture). Many of the mixed annual packets have quick starting plants that can be sown at a late date.
I would say the last week of June is the cut-off point, though.


Ideal for containers

Growing annuals in containers is one of the most adaptable ways to brighten up the garden. One of the plantings I’m repeating this year is a success of the past: two raised beds planted with small bulbs followed by tiny delicate annual flowers. Hanging baskets are favorites for porches, and they can be single profusions of just one type of flower or a combination of several chosen companions. Traditional containers such as window boxes have often decorated apartment windows and cottage windows alike. All planted with easy care annuals.

Quicklist: hints and tips

Uses for Annuals


  • Filling in spaces in the border
  • Any place needing full season color
  • Bordering shrubs
  • Filling in between new plantings
  • Containers of all types
  • Accentuating entries

How To Plant Annuals Successfully

For a garden calendar of seasonal tasks see Month by Month Garden Calendar

Prepare your flower beds:
Add organic matter (which could be peat moss, compost, or well-rotted manure), preferably the season before you desire to plant.

If you have established garden areas, add organic matter several weeks spring planting. Incorporate the additions with a spade or till into the top six – eight inches of soil.

Attention to soil preparation promotes faster and better seed germination -well worth the time taken.

Soil all ready? Good! Now how do you plant those flats of annuals you bought?

Seed Planting Tips

  • To start annuals in situ (seeding directly in the soil), level the bed and rake it after tilling.
  • Remove stones and clumps of hard earth, so that you have fine tilth and smooth soil surface.
  • If planting a bulb bed or under shrubs, dig lightly and shallowly.
  • Add a little soil amendment, but don’t damage the roots of plants already there.
  • Growing in containers means new potting soil each year, since the intensive growth wears out the fertility of the small amount of soil. I use the soil you buy in bags at the plant store, preferably with “moisture control”.
  • Be sure your containers are big enough. More about container planting, and photos.

Most of the annuals I mention are sown directly into the garden.

It pays in success to prepare the ground with these activities:

  • cultivating
  • raking
  • adding amendments
  • keeping consistent moisture during the germinating and early growth stages.

Once plants are given a good start, they are surprisingly adaptive.

One of the annuals I planted “in situ” one season many years ago has been a recurring joy each year: Shirley poppies in the “Fairy Wings” selection.

Every year I have beautiful, crepe paper  poppies delicately nodding in the early summer breezes.

They have the most charming colors of lavender gray, pink with white,whites powdered with other pastel shades, and the occasional scarlet brushed with a powdery sheen.

(I found a source for this same named selection: Poppy Fairy Wings 50 SeedsFairy Wings Poppies)

Annual Or Perennial? Or Biennial?

Yes, it can be very confusing. When you live in a cold climate many of the plants called, and sold as, annuals are actually tender perennials: begonias, geraniums, heliotrope, etc.

Shirley poppies are an easy annual.

To truly be an annuals a plant must live its life cycle in one season, but tender plants which are frost-killed behave that way. So they are sold as annuals and information on them group these plants as annuals in their lists, etc. It is impractical to make the difference.

And biennials? Those take two seasons to complete, as their label implies, but they are often sold as perennials. A foxglove (Digitalis) is a good example of that. Or Sweet Williams (Dianthus barbatus).

I know, it is confusing, but for garden purposes we play fast and loose with the botanical designations. Most gardeners just want to know how long the plant lasts in the garden, and thus we get “short-lived perennials” and tender perennials grown as annuals.

The list of plants I’ve grown in my annuals list would be longer if all those tender annuals were included.

Now that you have been introduced to the beauties of annuals, let me further your acquaintance with tips and techniques.

We primarily grow these flowers from either seed or transplants. Whole books are written about seed propagation, but for most of the common garden annuals it is as simple as putting seed in the ground and firming it.

If you buy transplants, my recommended method of planting merited a “how-to” page.

How To Plant Flats Of AnnualsMore on the subject…

Index of Annuals | Containers |  Plant Shirley Poppies |  A Cutting Garden |  Easy Plants To Grow From Seed

A selection of books:

Annuals I’ve Grown

Not a complete list

Ageratum houstonianum – Flossflower

Antirrhinum majus – Snapdragon

Annual Bidens

Browallia speciosa

Calendula officinalis

Celosia – Cockscomb

Clarkia amoena – Satin Flower

Cleome hasslerana – Spider Flower

Coreopsis tinctoria – Calliopsis

Cosmos bipinnatus – Mexican Aster

Cosmos sulphureus – Sulphur Cosmos

Dianthus chinensis – China Pinks

Eschscholzia californica – California Poppy

Gomphrena globosa – Globe Amaranth

Gypsophila elegans – Annual Baby’s Breath

Helianthus annuus – Common Sunflower

Helichrysum bracteatum – Strawflower

Impatiens – New Guinea Impatiens

Impatiens balsamina – Garden Balsam

Impatiens wallerana – Impatiens

Ipomoea -Morning Glory

Lantana camara – Lantana

Laurentia axillaris ‘Blue Stars’ – Isotoma

Lobelia erinus – Edging Lobelia

Lobularia maritima – Sweet Alyssum

Mirabilis jalapa – Four-O’Clocks

Nicotiana alata – Flowering Tobacco

Nigella damascena – Love-in-a-Mist


Portulaca grandiflora – Moss Rose

Rudbeckia hirta

Salvia coccinea – Scarlet Sage

Sanvitalia procumbens – Creeping Zinnia

Tagetes erecta – African Marigold

Tagetes patula – Dwarf French Marigold

Tagetes tenuifolia – Signet Marigold

Tithonia rotundifolia – Mexican Sunflower

Torenia fournieri – Wishbone Flower

Tropaeolum majus – Nasturtium

Verbena- Garden Verbena

Zinnia angustifolia – Narrowleaf Zinnia

Zinnia elegans – Zinnia

Annuals For Butterflies And Birds:

Plant these for wildlife:


Plant these:
Bachelor buttons
Consolida ambigua (Larkspur)
Garden Balsam,Impatiens balsamina
Malva alcea (Hollyhock)
Don’t Forget


I have two more pages on annuals: color schemes and design ideas and a list of my favorites with descriptions.

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