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A charming annual that blooms in shades of blue, pink, and purple, bachelor's button is a great choice for hot, dry sites. The flowers are perfect for cut- and dried-flower bouquets.
Starting Tips: Plant the seed about 1/8 inch deep; they typically sprout in one to three weeks. You can start it early indoors or sow it directly outdoors in the garden.
This plant will amaze your friends. A fast-growing, warm-weather-loving species, a single castor bean seed can grow into a 15-foot-tall specimen by the end of the season -- even in northern Zones.
Starting Tips: Plant the seeds about 1/2 inch deep; they usually sprout in one to three weeks. If you sow the seed directly outdoors, wait until the soil has warmed.
Note: All parts of the castor bean plant are extremely poisonous.
A perfect cottage-garden plant, cleome bears spikes of fragrant flowers in shades of white, pink, magenta, and purple. It's so easy, it practically starts itself -- in fact, in many gardens it self-seeds year after year.
Starting Tips: Spread seeds over the ground; they usually don't need to be covered. Cleome seeds typically sprout in one to two weeks.
Another must-have annual for sunny cottage gardens, cosmos offers ferny foliage and daisy-like flowers in shades of pink, magenta, white, yellow, and orange. The plants don't mind hot, dry locations, so they're ideal for low-maintenance gardens, too. And they often self-seed.
Starting Tips: Spread seeds over the ground and just barely cover them; seeds usually sprout in one to three weeks.
This spectacular but underused vine is a snap to start. Grow it in a sunny spot and be sure to give it a sturdy support on which to climb. Hyacinth bean can grow more than 10 feet by the end of the season.
Starting Tips: Because the seeds are protected by a tough coat, soak the seeds in water for 12 hours before sowing or file away or nick off a small piece of the coat before planting. Sow seed 1/4 inch deep; they sprout in one to two weeks.
Larkspur lights up the spring or fall garden with its spikes of blue, lavender, pink, or white flowers. This garden beauty often self-seeds, coming back each year all on its own.
Starting Tips: The easiest way to grow larkspur is to sprinkle the seeds in the garden in late winter or very early spring. The cool-season plants will sprout on their own. If you start seeds indoors, sow seed 1/8 inch deep. They sprout in three to four weeks.
It's hard not to love a marigold's bright yellow, orange, and red flowers. Happily, this is one of the easiest seeds to grow.
Starting Tips: You can sow marigolds directly into the garden. If you start seeds indoors, sow seed 1/8 inch deep. They usually sprout in less than a week.
One of the best annual vines, morning glory blooms in shades of blue, pink, white, and red. It's earned its common name because the flowers tend to close by noon, especially in hot weather.
Starting Tips: Morning glory seeds are protected by a tough coat. Soak the seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours before sowing or file away or nick off a small piece of the coat before planting. Sow seed 1/4 inch deep; they usually sprout in about a week.
Moss rose is a perfect little ground cover for hot, dry spots. It forms a mat of needle-like foliage and cup-shape flowers in bright shades of yellow, orange, pink, and white. Moss rose often self-seeds in the garden.
Starting Tips: Sow seed 1/8 inch deep; they usually sprout in two to three weeks.
Nasturtium offers tidy mounds of foliage and cheery blooms in shades of yellow, orange, red, and crimson.
Starting Tips: Nasturtium seeds have a tough coat. Soak the seeds in water for 12 to 24 hours before sowing or file away or nick off a small piece of the seed coat before planting. Sow seed 1/2 inch deep; they usually sprout in about a week.
What would summer be without cheery sunflowers? While the big yellow varieties with brown centers are the best known, today there's an array of choices that includes orange, red, brown, and bicolored blooms. They're not all giants, either; dwarf varieties fit in virtually any sunny spot.
Starting Tips: Sunflowers don't like to be transplanted, so it's best to start them directly in the garden. They usually sprout in about a week after planting.
Like many other warm-season annuals, zinnia is so fast-sprouting and easy to grow that you don't usually need to start them indoors. The plants offer a wide range of flower colors and forms, as well as heights.
Starting Tips: Sow zinnias about 1/8 inch deep. They usually sprout within a week.
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