If you're looking for bright bursts of color in your garden to last throughout the growing season, you can plant annuals flowers in beds and along borders. They also make an excellent choice for container gardens or hanging baskets, livening up outdoor spaces during the warmer months. A true annual completes its life in a single growing season and is characterized by an extended blooming season that lasts throughout early summer and sometimes into the fall. Before deciding which annuals are right for your garden, consider the following questions:
• Where do you plan to place your annuals?
• Is the area shaded, sunny or a mixture of both?
• What is the typical growing season in your region?
• Are there certain types or varieties of annuals you prefer?
• What are the characteristics of your soil, climate and garden?
Planting, Maintenance and Selection
Since growing seasons can change drastically from region to region, be sure you know when the typical season begins and ends in your area. Be careful not to plant too early, since unexpected cold snaps can damage or destroy delicate plants. Similarly, planting too late might not produce the best results as plants may not have the opportunity to take root and grow to their full potential. If you use fertilizers to hasten growth and enhance appearance, be sure to use the right amount and type for best results. With proper planting and maintenance you can help ensure that your garden exhibits hearty, robust beauty that will thrive all summer long.
Planting Tips: Starting young annuals off on the right foot begins with proper planting practices. If you are placing annuals in beds, till or break up the soil beforehand. Well-drained soil with moderate humus content works best. You'll want to be sure to match your plants to the appropriate area, considering such elements as soil, climate and exposure to the sun. Most annuals prefer full sun, which equates to somewhere between six and eight hours per day. Some annuals prefer partial shade, however, and a few do well in complete shade. Spacing of plants is based upon the mature size of the particular species, so consult the growing directions provided with the plant or seed packet.
• For soil that contains clay, adding compost or manure to the mix is helpful
• Many annuals prefer soil with a pH that falls in the 6.7 to 7.4 range
• Add lime to acidic soils or aluminum sulfate to alkaline soils for a good balance
• Before planting, gently untangle roots to help plants take hold of the soil more easily
• Placement holes for each plant should be slightly larger than the root ball
• Plants should stand in the ground at or slightly above soil level
• Carefully tamp down the earth around the plant for stability and reduction of air pockets and
When to Plant: Planting at the right time of year and the right time of day is important to ensure your plants take hold in the soil and flourish. It is safe to plant most annuals after the danger of frost is past, although some may be planted sooner. The best time to plant is late in the afternoon. Choose a cloudy day or late afternoon or evening for planting.
• Pay careful attention to the typical growing season of your region
• Most annuals can be planted as soon as the danger of frost is over
• Planting annuals later in the day yields better results because they have all night to recover from
transplant shock and don’t have to deal with the heat of the day if planted earlier
Maintaining Annuals: After planting, annuals continue to require care and attention so they remain healthy and keep blooming. Fertilize plants once or twice during the growing season, if needed. Soil that has been enriched with compost may not require fertilizer. Annuals need anywhere from 1" to 1-1/2" of water per week during the growing season. Water plants thoroughly to encourage deep root growth. If you are watering plants overhead, water early in the morning to allow foliage to dry completely as dampness encourages disease. Adding mulch to your flower beds helps keep moisture in the soil longer, while also reducing weeds and enhancing presentation. Adding between 2" and 3" of a mulch variety seems to yield the most effective results.
• Use a general purpose insecticide or fungicide to treat signs of disease or insect damage
• Mulch can be purchased in a variety of wood types and colors; shredded leaves, bark chips or pine
needles also make a good substitute
• Weeding improves the appearance of your flower bed and eliminates places for insects and disease to
• Pinch off the dead blooms of some varieties to encourage new flowers and keep plants looking healthy
Selecting Annuals: Annuals come in a number of varieties. Some are suited to certain climates or soils while others prefer shady areas or thrive better in full sunlight. Once you determine where you wish to place your annuals, be sure that the selections you make match the defining characteristics of the plant. To find suitable options for your garden or landscaping project consult the following chart.
Characteristics of Popular Annuals
|Hardy annuals -- tolerate cool temperatures, freezing conditions||• Forget-me-not
|Prefer full sun||• Geranium
|Prefer shade or filtered sun||• Ageratum
|Semi-hardy annuals -- tolerate cool temperatures, moderate frost||• Calendula
|Tender annuals -- don't tolerate cool weather||• Marigold
|Thrive in alkaline soil||• Dianthus
• Sweet pea
|Thrive in infertile soil||• Cosmos
|Tolerate drought||• Cleome
• Dusty miller
• Globe amaranth
|Tolerate wet climates||• Forget –Me-Not
• Sweet Pea
Seeds:Motivated gardeners with the appropriate indoor conditions can start annuals indoors from seeds. Starting seeds requires plenty of space, good light and proper temperature levels. Seeds are more cost effective than buying live plants. They do, however, require more time and maintenance.
Live Plants:Choose live plants if starting plants from seeds is not practical or desirable. Live plants come in individual containers or packs of four or more. Choose plants that are deep green in color and are neither too compact nor spindly. Also, look for plants that have not yet bloomed. If you cannot plant the annuals right away, set them in a lightly shaded spot and keep watered until they can be placed in the ground.
Containers and Hanging Baskets: Annuals provide beautiful color for container gardens and hanging baskets to liven up your porch or add spots of color to beds or borders. Containers provide a more ideal root-zone environment. Because there is limited space around the plant, they can dry out more quickly and must be watered frequently. Soil-less growing materials, such as peat and vermiculite, work well for growing annuals in containers and baskets.
Screens and Hedges: Some fast-growing annual vines can be used as screens when grown on trellises or fences. Examples include morning glory and moonvine. Sunflowers are another annual that provide a brilliant backdrop to a garden or yard.