Annual flowers are like Rodney Dangerfield: They “don’t get no respect.” However, if you have no annuals in your garden at all, you are missing out on one of life’s joys and a whole lot of color. Let’s discover some of the best and easiest annual flowers—including beautiful pictures!
Annuals provide gardens with all-season color, but they have to be replanted every year, so they often get the cold shoulder. Perennials are the garden divas; they give one outstanding performance a year and retire to the background to bloom against some time next year. Annuals are the hardworking chorus line, kicking up their heels all summer long.
Salvia ‘Lighthouse’ will add a pop of color to a drab spot in the garden.
At our farmers’ market, I have seen shoppers fall in love with an interesting annual in bloom, all ready to take it home until they hear that it is “only” an annual and then they drop it like it was on fire. However, there are many reasons to have annual flowers.
Life without zinnias? Not worth living! Bumblebees and butterflies will also enjoy your zinnias.
The Benefits of Annual Flowers
Annuals have many advantages and compliment perennials well. Here’s how I use annuals:
- Filling in bare spots
- Experimenting with new color combinations
- Adding color to containers
- Providing cut flowers for bouquets all season long.
- Changing the look of the garden every year by growing different annuals
Go from bold and bright to soft pastel or from cottage garden to tropical paradise by switching out your annual plants.
Favorite Annual Flowers
Tall Architectural Annuals
- Tall plants look great as centerpieces, against a wall, or to add a touch of drama to the landscape. Examples are Nicotiana sylvestris, sunflowers, and elephant head amaranth.
Photo: The charming, old-fashioned Nicotiana sylvestris (White shooting star) grows five- to six-feet tall.
Photo: Sunflowers may be annuals, but they may self-germinate from dropped seeds!
Photo: Elephant head amaranth. Does it look like elephant heads trumpeting skyward? The plumes hold their color when dry, too!
Photo: Edible nasturtium. See the Almanac’s Nasturtium Growing Guide for planting information.
Photo: Bachelor buttons (cornflower) as such a gorgeous color and a cottage garden favorite.
Annuals That Double-Duty as Beautiful Dried Flowers
- Grow some everlastings like celosia, globe amaranth, and statice to dry for winter arrangements (pictured below in order).
Photo: Celosia has a velvety, ruffled form that is often compared to a cockscomb and grows in a rainbow of colors!
Photo: Globe amaranth is an easy annual for mixing in garden beds and borders or adding to container gardens.
Statice aka Limonium is a great accent plant for landscape borders and flower gardens. It loves full sun and sandier soil.
Annuals for Hot, Dry Soil
Most annuals do best in full sun with well-drained soil, but there are annuals for every situation.
- Hot, dry soil a problem? Try growing portulaca, tithonia (Mexican sunflower), or gomphrena. They are pictured in order below.
Annuals for Shade
- Shady sites can be brightened up with impatiens, begonias, lobelia, and browallia (shown in order below).
- For shady areas, also look to foliage plants like coleus, iresine, and Persian shield (shown in order below). See more varieties of coleus plants!
Annuals for Moist Soils
- Moist soil is no problem for cleome (spider flower), torenia (wishbone flower), or monkey flower.
One of my favorite gardens is Celia Thaxter’s on Appledore Island off the coast of New Hampshire. Based on the plan of her cutting garden found in her 1894 book An Island Garden, it is almost totally annuals.
Or, plant a mixed border—a mixture of plants including perennials, shrubs, bulbs, vines, and annuals. Don’t be afraid to mix it up!
Browse more annual (and perennial) flowers. See the Almanac’s library of Flower Growing Guides.