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. View a list of annuals by common name or scientific name below.
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garden plans for annuals
A fairly infrequently used annual, arctotis (or African daisy) is a tough plant native to South Africa. These plants have beautiful silver/grey foliage that lays the groundwork for a stunning floral display. The blooms of this plant come in a wide array of colors that can put on quite the show for an extended period of time in mild climates.
African marigolds are sure to brighten up a garden space, thanks to their large pom-pom blooms in bright colors. Despite their common name of African marigolds, these plants are actually native to the Americas. These classic annuals are easily grown from seed and are much taller than their cousins, the French marigolds, and have some of the largest blooms of the marigold family.
An old-fashioned favorite annual for any garden, ageratum are tough plants that can even handle a bit of shade. Not to mention, ageratum are some of the truest blue annuals you can find! Characterized by their powder-puff blooms, these plants begin to bloom in late spring and keep the show going until the first frost. These are some rugged plants that can withstand tough soil conditions and even deer! However, take caution when planning your garden, as all parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested, so site ageratum carefully.
An easy-to-grow annual with a big garden presence, amaranthus is tricky to find in the garden center but can be grown from seed. It is commonly called love-lies-bleeding or tassel flower. Amaranthus gets its unusual common name from the ropelike deep magenta flower stalks. The flower stalks emerge midsummer and lengthen until the first frost. The flowers stalks hold their color as they extend 12 inches or more toward the ground.
Another type of amaranthus has the common name Joseph’s coat. Unlike love-lies-bleeding, Joseph’s coat doesn’t produce ropes of flowers. Instead, Joseph’s coat is prized for its colorful foliage. Its brightly colored leaves come in shades of red, orange, and green—or all of the above when it comes to tricolor amaranthus!
A showstopping shrub that transforms any space into a tropical getaway, angel's trumpet boasts huge, pendulous blooms that perfume the air after sunset. And with its unique trumpet-shape flowers and quick-growing nature, this exotic beauty offers a multitude of reasons to give it a try in your own garden.
New to many greenhouse shelves, angelonia (or summer snapdragon) is a spectacular addition for continuous color in any garden. Having only been around since the late 1990s, there are several fresh additions to choose from in this plant's playbook. A tough perennial, angelonia stands up against summer's heat and humidity with no problem, making it a hearty and colorful addition to any sunny spot.
Annual phlox is an early-season, all-star plant that makes a great addition to containers or entryway plantings where its sweet fragrance can be enjoyed. The mounding habit of low-growing annual phlox blooms in cheerful and bright shades of purple, pink, red, and white. Keep an eye out for winged visitors near annual phlox plantings. This spring bloomer is an especially welcome sight to pollinators that are active in cool weather months, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
Annual statice, a vivid Mediterranean flower, is noted for its papery, funnel shaped calyces that bloom in summer. The flowers are actually small and white, growing in the colorful calyces that remain long after the flowers have faded away. Annual statice works beautifully in mixed borders, rock gardens, cut flower gardens, meadows, and cutting gardens. These plants make an excellent choice for cut flowers and dried arrangements.
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 leaves 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
Versatile asparagus fern is an attractive herbaceous perennial that is easy to grow, though not actually a fern. Plant asparagus fern in garden beds where it is used as a creeper in warmer climates. It can be invasive, so keep an eye on it. You will more often find asparagus fern growing indoors as a dense, bushy houseplant with lace-like foliage that forms an incredible mound.
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.
Still a relatively new player to the plant game, Bacopa has made a name for itself with its floriferous nature. Funnily enough, its name is actually misleading. Bacopa is not in the genus Bacopa at all, but in the genus Sutera. Naming confusion aside, you would be hard-pressed to find a plant more pristinely white for all your container planting needs.
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 basil seeds indoors or plant basil 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.
Begonias have been around for ages, and with good reason: This easy-to-grow annual does well in a variety of conditions and needs little to thrive. Provide it with light shade, rich well-drained soil, ample water, and plenty of fertilizer—and you’ll be rewarded with stunning flowers and foliage.
With so many different shapes, sizes, and colors, begonias have no problem taking the spotlight in any garden setting.
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.
Tumbling over the edges of containers and spilling down the sides of hanging baskets, bidens act as a colorful waterfall. With prolific blooms of gold, pink, white, red, or orange, these plants put on quite the show with very little effort. Their fine foliage adds a light, airy feel and acts as an unobtrusive backdrop to let the dramatic floral display shine.