Annuals can be purchased at garden centers everywhere or started early from seed inside or sown directly into the garden. There are so many annuals available to the home gardener that it would be impossible to list them all here. This is a partial list of the most popular. I will update this page frequently until there is a more comprehensive list here.
Ageratum: (ag-er-A-tum) Floss Flower –
The flowers are usually blue, but there are white and pink varieties. The flowers are long-lived, and the plant is compact (less than 12″ tall), which make the plants good for edging. Ageratum are easy to start from seed or cuttings. Transplant young plants to the garden after danger of frost. Ageratum will bloom throughout the summer in sun or partial shade.
Sweet Allysum: Lobularia (lob-U-lair-E-a) –
Sweet Allysum is a low growing (less than 6″) plant with spreading habit (12″ wide). It is covered with hungdreds of tiny white, pink or purple flowers. It has a sweet fragrance, hence the name. The seeds are often sown in mass since the individual plants are quite small. Seeds can be sown directly in the garden during the spring or late summer. Sweet Allysum performs best during cooler weather, so it may cease to flower during the heat of summer, but will resume as it cools off. The plant requires good drainage, but is not particularly drought-tolerant.
Begonia: (ba-gOn-ya) –
Begonias are on old stand-by in the annual flower bed. Its clusters of white, pink or red single or double flowers are formed in the leaf axils. Begonias flower continuously all summer through early fall. Although they prefer shade, begonias will tolerate sunlight , provided they have enough water. The foliage comes in green or bronze. The plants are usually 6-18″ tall and wide and are ideal for residential or commercial landscapes. Flowering plants can be dug in the fall and used as house plants in the winter.
Centaurea: (sen-TOR-ee-ah) Cornflower, Bachelor Button, Knapweed –
This old garden favorite is easy to grow from seeds planted in the spring. It likes full sun and average moisture. Don’t plant too thickly so the plants don’t have to compete for nutrients and moisture. Bloom all summer in white, pink, blue, lavender and purple.
It’s a good cut flower. Let some of the blooms die on the plant and harvest the seeds for next year.
Cleome: (klE-O-mE) Spider Flower –
Cleome is a tall annual (3-4′) which is perfectly suited for a large display bed. Each stem has numerous white or pink flowers that continue to open throughout the summer. They should be used in the back of the flower bed, since the stems have thorns and the flowers have an undesirable odor. Some gardeners consider it to be a bit weedy, since the seeds will re-sow. Cleome grows in partial shade to full sun. This is a heat tolerant species, especially if well watered.
Coleus: (kO-lE-us) –
Coleus are grown for their lime, burgundy, green or pink multi-shaped leaves, rather than their flowers. Flower spikes are often removed to promote leaf growth. Usually planted in partial to full shade, Coleus will tolerate sunlight if given plenty of water. Started from seed or cuttings, Coleus will grow from 12-24″ tall and wide. Place small plants in the garden after danger of frost. Pinching back as it grows will help the plant to be fuller. It is a member of the mint family and therefor it has square stems.
Cosmos: (koz-mOz) –
Cosmos will grow 3-4′ tall (mine grew to 6′) and has delicate, finely dissected foliage and large white, pink and purple flowers. The seeds germinate easily. The long stems make them good to use as cut flowers. They bloom later in the summer and will bloom till very late in the season, till heavy frost. Excessive water and fertilizer produces abundant foliage with few flowers.
Dianthus: (dI-an-thus) Pinks –
Dianthus thrive in cool weather; therefore, they are usually planted in the fall, for spring flowering. The flowers are typically white, pink or red, while the plants are 6-12″ tall with a mounded growth habit. Dianthus are usually propagated by seed. The plants require some shade in the summer to reduce heat stress. Where Dianthus survives the summer temperatures, it is considered a short-lived perennial.
Dusty Miller: Senecio (se-nE-sE-O) –
Dusty Miller is grown for the accent that its foliage creates in the landscape. The leaves are thickly covered with silvery hairs. Plants generally grow to 12″ in height and are often used as a border edging or in containers. Flowers are usually removed if present. Dusty Miller grows best in full sun and will tolerated some drought. They can be planted a few weeds before the last frost and occasionally overwinter.
Geranium: Pelargonium (pel-rgO-nE-um) –
Garden geraniums are correctly called Pelargoniums, while the true Geranium is known as Hardy Geranium or Crane’s bill. Garden geraniums are amont the most traditional bedding plnats and plants for containers. They are propagated by two methods, seed and cuttings. Geraniums don’t always perform well in the summer heat and humidity. There are also scented geraniums, which are grown for their sweet scented foliage. They are susually grown in containers which can be brought indoors during the wither. Some of the scents include: lemon, rose, lemon-rose, coconut, green apple and many others. They have much smaller flowers than the garden geraniums.
Impatiens: (im-pA-shenz) –
Impatiens are the most popular bedding plant used for shade. The choice of flower color seems endless, (except for blue and yellow). They are very easy to grow from seed. Double flower types are propagated from cuttings. Impatiens will tolerate considerable sunlight, assuming that adequate water is provided. They respond strongly, sometimes too strongly, to excess water and fertilizer. They can also be grown in a sun room during the winter.
Marigold: Tagetes (ta-gE-tEz) –
There are French and African marigolds. The African marigold has large (2-5″) double flowers in yellow or orange. Plant height ranges from 12″ to 3′. The French marigold has a smaller appearance. The flowers are 1-2″ and can be single or double. Flower color ranges from yellow, orange to brown tones and it grows 6-18″ tall. Marigolds are as easy to grow from seeds as tomatoes. They prefer full sun and adequate moisture, though they will tolerate some drought. Deadheading can increase the number of blooms.
Nasturtium: Nicotiana (ni-kO-shE-A-na) Flowering Tobacco –
The old-fashioned varieties reach 5′ tall and produce many 1′ diameter flowers that are fragrant, especially at night. Newer varieties are shorter (1-2′) and less fragrant, but more prolific bloomers. Nicotiana are relatively heat tolerant and will flower all summer and late into fall. They prefer full sun. White is the most common color, but red, pink, lime green, lavender and maroon verieties are available.
Pansy: Viola (vI-O-la) Violets, Johnny Jump-Ups –
Pansies have become very popular in recent years. Many new varieties provide and endless palette of colors. Large flowers (1-3″) are produced profusely during cold weather. Fall-planted pansies will flower during warm spells throughout the winter and then put on a big show in the spring. Then, pansies are usually removed form=om the garden in late spring/early summer when the summer bedding plants are transplanted. If left in the garden, pansies will get leggy and may die in the summer heat. Johnny-Jump-Ups are more heat tolerant than pansies. The small flowers are typically white, yellow or purple. They are considered an annual or short-lived perennial; however, they will re-seed themselves and can become naturalized. Both Viola species are usually started from seed.
Petunia: (pe-too-nE-a) –
Petunias can be divided into several different categories. The Grandiflora varieties have huge blooms (3-5″) with ruffled or fringed petals. The Multiflora varieties have more numerous, but smaller (2-3″) flowers. Double-flowering varieties are available in both groups, although the doubles tend to be weak-stemmed, thus are most frequently used in containers where they are allowed to cascade. Petunias are best grown in full sun to partial shade. The list of varieties is endless and the flowers tend to be whites, pinks, purples and reds. Deadheading is necessary on most varieties to maintain a vibrant flowering plant. Petunias are usually started from seed. Recently, new vegetatively propagated varieties, have been introduced into the gardening trade. These are extremely vigorous and often require additional fertilizer. The vegetatively propagated petunias are sometimes referred to as supertunias.
Portulaca: ([pr-chU-lak-a) Moss Rose –
Portulaca is a prostrate-growing plant with narrow, succulent leaves. Individual plants will spread from 6-12″. The flowers (1″) are brightly colored red, yellow, orange and white and will close in the afternoon. Portulaca are very tolerant of hot, dry locations at which other plants falter. They are well suited for the rock garden. Often, many seeds are sown per pot since individual plants are rather small.
Salvia: (sal-vE-a) –
Salvia is often used as a bedding plant and is most often available in red, but thre are also purple and white varieties. Actually the colored portion of the flowers are bracts (modified leaves) not petals. The flowers/bracts are displayed on a terminal raceme which usually reaches 12-24″ tall. Salvia should be planted in full sun. Dead heading promotes new growth. In some climates salvia is considered a perennial. Plant height is usually 2-3′.
Snapdragon: Atirrhinum (an-tir-rI-num) –
Snapdragons are traditional garden plants that produce numerous individual flowers on a terminal raceme. Many shades of pink, white, red, orange and bronze flowers are available. Also, Snapdragons are available as dwarf (6-12″) or tall (3-4′) plants. Shorter plants are preferred for the flower bed, and taller ones are used for the cut flower garden. Tall varieties may require staking. Snapdragons are relatively cold tolerant and can be planted in early spring, They may even survive a a mild winter. Snapdragons are typically stared from seed.
Vinca: Catharanthus (kath-ar-ran-thus) –
Vinca has recently emerged as a top-selling bedding plant.. The main reason for its success is that it can not be beaten for heat tolerance. Vinca is a fantastic bedding plant throughout the summer. The glossy dark green foliage is covered with white, pink or purple flowers (1″). The plants reach 12-18″ high and wide. Vinca absolutely does not tolerate wet soils or cool temperatures, therefore, should be transplanted into a well-drained soil after the soil has sufficiently warmed up. Vinca is typically propagated from seed. The common name vinca causes some confusion, since Vinca minor, known as creeping myrtle or periwinkle, is a ground cover. There is also Vinca major, known as vinca vine, which is a variegated trailing vine used as an accent plant in containers and window baskets.
Zinnia: (zin-ya) –
Zinnias flower in many different colors. Dwarf varieties and tall cut flowers varieties provide a range of plants for many garden uses. Zinnia does best in hot, dry weather. High humidity conditions cause zinnias to readily succumb to fungal diseases. Zinnia grow very easily from seed and, like most annuals, their seeds can be gathered for sowing the next season.