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For many gardeners, annuals are a go-to solution for many garden needs. Annual flowers are a quick way to fill empty spots in flowerbeds, and early-blooming spring annuals make great additions to container gardens. A mix of annual plants can offer a colorful solution for windowbox plantings. However, for any garden, there are dozens of annuals that might work for particular sun/shade situations, soil conditions, and color/plant preferences. The Plant Encyclopedia is a sortable plant database that helps you narrow down the best annuals for your growing conditions, as well as the annual flowers that offer the color and growing habit you prefer. In addition, detailed information on how to plant and grow annuals as well as color, foliage and texture combos will help you create your most beautiful flower groupings yet.
African daisy has a bold, graphic look that's hard to find in more common daisies. Flowers are big, up to 4 inches across, often with interesting, eyelike markings around the flower's center.
This cool-season plant hails from South Africa. In areas where summers aren't hot, such as the Northern regions of the U.S. and the Pacific Northwest, it will bloom constantly until frost. In warm-summer areas, it often takes a break during the peak of summer, but reblooms in fall. Many types have silvery-green leaves that remain attractive when the plant isn't in bloom. It's usually grown as an annual but is a perennial in frost-free climates.
There's nothing subtle about an African marigold, and thank goodness for that! It's a big, flamboyant, colorful punch of color for the sunny bed, border, or large container. Most are yellow, orange, or cream. Plants get up to 3 feet tall and produce huge 3-inch puffball blooms while dwarf varieties get just 1 foot tall. The mounded dark green foliage is always clean, fresh, and tidy. Grow them in a warm, sunny spot with moist, well-drained soil all summer long.
Ageratum is such a little workhorse that nearly every garden should have some. This annual is an easy-to-grow, old-fashioned favorite that produces a steady show of colorful powder-pufflike flowers from late spring through frost. It's also rarely bothered by pests, so you count on it to look good. Plus, it provides some of the truest blues you can find in flowers -- a rare thing.
Plant in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Plant in groups of a dozen or more for best show. Deadhead and fertilize regularly for best blooms.
Love-lies-bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus) is probably the best-known amaranth and for good reason -- it's a showstopper. The plant can hit up to 5 feet, but what's amazing is its dripping, tassellike red flowers, which look like no other.
Another type of amaranth, Joseph's coat, has showy, almost gaudily marked leaves in greens, golds, purples, and pinks.
It can be difficult to find love-lies-bleeding in garden centers as established seedlings, so start them from seed directly in the soil. Joseph's coat is usually easier to find as an established plant.
Angel's trumpet is a heat-loving tropical or subtropical shrub that likes warm (80 -85 degrees F) days and cool nights. In cold-winter regions, you can grow it in a container and take it indoors over winter or simply treat it as an exotic, amazing annual. Grow it in moist, well-drained soil. Its fragrant, trumpet-shape flowers dangle from upright stems and appear in shades of white, yellow, pink, orange, and cream.
Note: All parts of the plant are poisonous if eaten, and the plant has been banned in some communities. Check local restrictions before planting it.
Angelonia is also called summer snapdragon, and once you get a good look at it, you'll know why. It has salvia-like flower spires that reach a foot or 2 high, but they're studded with fascinating snapdragon-like flowers with beautiful colorations in purple, white, or pink. It's the perfect plant for adding bright color to hot, sunny spaces. This tough plant blooms all summer long with spirelike spikes of blooms. While all varieties are beautiful, keep an eye out for the sweetly scented selections.
While most gardeners treat angelonia as an annual, it is a tough perennial in Zones 9-10. Or, if you have a bright, sunny spot indoors, you can even keep it flowering all winter.
Annual phlox is a native wildflower in areas of Texas. As such, you can guess it's a wonderfully heat- and drought-tolerant variety. In late spring and summer, it shows off clusters of red, pink, lavender, or white flowers.
Because it's easy to grow and puts on such a great display, it's a good choice for beginning gardeners who have to tackle a hot, dry spot. Remove the flower clusters as they fade to encourage more blooms and pinch the plants back in summer if they start to get leggy.
Old-fashioned annual statice is found more often dried in crafts stores than growing in gardens. But this easy-to-grow plant is a great pick for containers or the middle of a border, especially if you want to harvest it for everlasting bouquets indoors.
Statice bears papery flowers in a wide variety of colors. The flowers dry well -- so much so they practically dry on the plant. The plant is also very drought-tolerant, so you can enjoy its blooms even if you forget to water it from time to time. In fact, statice thrives in hot, sunny spots with well-drained soil. Plant them outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Resembling a miniature snapdragon, toadflax is a great choice to bring color to the garden early in the season when you're most starved for it. In areas with cool summers, annual toadflax blooms from spring to fall. In warmer areas, the blooms fade come hot weather. Shear them back by about half. If the weather isn't too hot, they may rebloom in fall.
Toadflax grows well in the ground, but also try it in containers, especially with pansies, bulbs, and other early-season stars.
You've gotta love annual vinca -- it really delivers. It will tolerate a wide variety of conditions and still keep it up with almost unreal-looking, glossy green flowers and pretty pink, lavender, or red flowers that look like tiny parasols.
Whether the summer is dry or wet, hot or cold, vinca plugs along unfazed. It makes a great container plant. Or plant it in a bed or border, grouping at least eight or more together for best effect.
Plant established seedlings in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Vinca withstands drought but does best with moderate moisture. Fertilize occasionally. Like impatiens, this plant tends to be "self-cleaning" and needs little deadheading.
Shown above: Pretty in Pink vinca
This subtropical relative of edible garden asparagus is in the lily family, but its needlelike foliage give it an appearance resembling a fern. Its stems shoot up and outward, making it an excellent plant for hanging baskets. Give asparagus fern medium to bright indoor light and keep the soil uniformly moist. Plants sometimes develop small red berries, which are poisonous, so keep the berries away from children and pets.
With exquisite little blue-and-white flowers, this charming California wildflower is one of the prettiest cool-season annuals around. It can be hard to find in garden centers, but if you do, give it a try. Plant it in early spring, a few to several weeks before your region's first-frost date. It will add much to your garden until summer's heat hits. This plant likes cool and moist conditions and stops blooming once temperatures rise.
Bachelor's button is a sweet little flower, reseeding freely here and there in your garden, adding a bright touch of true, clear blue wherever it chooses to sprout. This easy-growing annual produces papery flowers atop tall stems; the blooms are great for cutting and drying.
The plant is happiest in sandy loam. It doesn't need much, if any fertilizer, and tolerates drought, but prefers moderate moisture. Plant from seed directly in the garden after the last frost in your region. Space to 6-12 inches apart. Deadhead after the first flush of bloom to encourage a second flush. But if you want lots of reseeding next year, allow some flowers at some point to ripen on the plant and go to seed.
Bacopa was once an unusual flower, but in recent years it's become very popular in garden centers. And why not? It's adorable! This plant has long, cascading stems that smother themselves in tiny, perfect, five-petal flowers. It's become a favorite for selling in hanging baskets where its pretty trailing habit can be shown off. Also try in pots, planters, and window boxes.
Unlike many plants, bacopa doesn't tend to wilt when it gets dried out. Instead, it loses its flowers and may take two or three weeks to begin blooming again. Keep it evenly watered for continuous bloom.
Once a favorite of Victorian gardens, this old-fashioned annual adds an exotic, almost gaudy touch to the garden. It offers interesting, trumpet-shape blooms, mostly in shades of pink. Many selections have bicolor flowers. Balsam often self-seeds in the garden and is very easy to grow.
Plant established plants outdoors in spring after all danger of frost has passed. Balsam needs rich, well-drained soil to do best, so work in plenty of compost. (It's ideal in containers as long as you don't let the plants dry out for even a second.) Fertilize lightly but regularly.
Basil dishes up classic Italian flavor in eye-catching bushy plants suitable for garden beds or containers. Grow this tasty beauty in a sunny spot, and you'll reap rewards of flavorful foliage in shades of green, purple, or bronze. Basil lends a distinctive taste to salads, pizza, and pasta dishes. Use small leaves whole; chop larger leaves. Add leaves to dishes just before serving for greatest taste and aroma. Basil plants are exceedingly sensitive to cold; start seeds indoors or sow outside after all danger of frost has passed.
Add bold, tropical notes to your yard with beefsteak plant. Don't let its common name fool you -- the plant offers beautifully variegated foliage and is incredibly adaptable, as many varieties do well in both sun and shade. It's a great pick for containers or adding a bit of drama to beds and borders.
Talk about foolproof: Annual begonia is about as easy as it gets. It does well in a variety of conditions, but to keep it its most luxuriant best, give it light shade; rich, well-drained soil; and ample water. It also loves plenty of fertilizer, so be generous.
Plant annual begonias in spring after all danger of frost has passed. No need to deadhead this flower unless you want to, it's "self-cleaning!"
One of the most distinctive flowers in the garden, bells of Ireland has gorgeous, slightly fragrant blooms that are a striking yellow-green. You can use it almost like a foliage plant to set off more standard greens as well as yellow or white flowers.
Bells of Ireland is highly prized for bouquets, so consider it in a cutting garden. It also dries well. Plant it outdoors after all danger of frost has passed.
Bidens is a perfect container plant. It spills down the edges of windowboxes, large pots, and planters with starry, yellow flowers and ferny, green foliage. Some varieties are fragrant so plant them where you can enjoy their sweet scent. Bidens likes rich, well-drained but moist soil. While it's a perennial in Zones 8-10, it's usually grown as an annual.
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