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.
Grain amaranth is prized for its highly nutritious, golden seeds. High in protein and well-balanced in amino acids, amaranth has become popular in recent years as a flour. It is also popped and flaked and used like other cereal grains like wheat and oats. Grain amaranth is part of a large genus of plants that includes popular ornamental amaranth, such as love-lies-bleeding with its ropelike strands of flowers and Joseph’s coat with its technicolor foliage. Grain amaranth is less showy, but its culinary uses give it garden accolades. Harvest young leaves for use in salads a month or so after seeding.
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.
Annual toadflax is a colorful cool-season annual. Its lacy foliage is topped with snapdragonlike flowers that attract pollinators such as butterflies and bees. The flowers, in cheerful shades of purple, magenta, and yellow, are great additions to spring bouquets.
Easy to grow from seed or transplants, annual toadflax is a popular addition to early-season containers. Pair it with pansies for a brilliant color show. It is also spectacular as a mass planting in a garden. In cool regions, annual toadflax will bloom well into summer. In warm regions it will fade and eventually die in the heat of summer. Replant it in late summer for flowers in fall. Deer usually steer clear of annual toadflax.
What’s not to love about annual vinca? An array of colorful blooms held above glossy foliage is a win for any situation. One of annual vinca's claims to fame is its ability to spectacularly perform on even the hottest days of the summer.
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.
Baby Blue Eyes, a low-growing annual that bears dainty blue-and-white flowers, adds splashes of color to the landscape from late winter to late spring/early summer —depending upon where you live. Plant it in wildflower gardens, in rock gardens, or massed in borders. Use it as a groundcover or plant it in containers. Any of these choices will let you enjoy blue flowers at a time of year when few other plants are blooming. You’ll also see the garden pollinators that will swarm to enjoy baby blue eyes’ nectar.
The bachelor’s button, also known as cornflower because of its prevalence in cornfields in its native Europe, is a cutting garden and cottage garden favorite. Grown for its bright blue, fringed flowers, the stems last for days in a cut flower arrangement. As a rugged reseeding annual, bachelor’s buttons pop up year after year
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.
This old-fashioned cottage-garden staple goes by many names: garden balsam, rose balsam, and even “touch-me-not,” thanks to explosive seed discharges from ripe pods. With “impatiens” as part of the botanical name, you may expect to see something similar to its cousin—the flat-flower garden impatiens (Impatiens walleriana). In fact, balsam bears colorful flowers that range from cup-shape single blossoms to double blossoms that resemble camellias. Whichever version you gravitate toward, this annual will add a tropical flair to the garden throughout the growing season.
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.
Beefsteak plant is the perfect choice for gardeners who prefer using vibrant foliage to jazz up the yard instead of plants going in and out of bloom—or not blooming together. This tropical annual adds bold color to garden beds, borders, and containers with its variegated stems and leaves. You can even grow it as a houseplant if you have bright light! Though it may resemble coleus, this easy-care plant is more closely related to amaranth, globe amaranth, and celosia.
Note: You’ll sometimes see this plant called by the alternate (and unflattering) common names of chicken gizzard or bloodleaf because of the color of its variegated foliage.
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.
Always a standout among garden plants, bells of Ireland sports green, bell-shape calyxes on long, stringy stems. The showy calyxes aren’t the outer whorl of this annual’s true flowers, which are tiny, white, and often fragrant. Grown mostly as a cut flower, bells of Ireland also makes a stunning accent plant in a mixed border or in a container garden.