How to Plant Easy Annuals for Spring

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When you dress up for a fancy occasion, the last thing you might add is colorful costume jewelry to complete the look. Think of annual flowers as the costume jewelry of the plant world. I love that term, because annuals will bloom all year, giving your garden color interest.

The dictionary defines “annual” as a plant that completes its life cycle in one year – germinating, producing seeds and then dying. Examples of true annuals include wheat, corn, lettuce, peas and zinnias. Annuals need to be planted every year, but some, such as spider flower, larkspur and balsam, reseed themselves. The prudent gardener saves seeds for the next year.

Buying annual seed gives you a large choice of varieties. Try seed catalogs or shop online. Common annuals can also be purchased as plants at local box stores.

There are dozens of annuals for sun or shade in many different colors with different heights, textures and foliage. Try combining several kinds for a varied look.

Familiar reliable annuals, including marigolds, dusty miller, vinca, moss rose, lantana, salvia, spider flower and verbena, have been gracing our gardens for years. They all take the hot sun and require very little water. Have you tried everlastings? These annuals are stress-free in the hot summer garden. Strawflowers, annual statice, globe amaranth, cockscomb and celosia encompass everlastings.

Got shade? Try part-shade annuals such as bachelor’s button, balsam, impatiens, begonia, coleus, four o’clock, larkspur, licorice plant, snapdragon and wallflower.

Cool-weather annuals include pansy, larkspur and plants in the brassica family, including flowering kale.


Red Giant Castor Bean with Spider Flower in the background

Need a quick cover up over an unsightly area? Annual vines fit the bill, growing fast and blooming abundantly. Good choices are sweet potato vine, Spanish flag, morning glory, cypress vine and black-eyed Susan.

My personal favorites are the little Johnny jump-ups (viola) that start blooming in March, then reseed and bloom September through December. Larkspur bloom purple and pink in June. Balsam (impatiens balsamina) has great colors and reseed and blooms in the sun or shade with no care needed. The everlasting celosia and cockscomb reseed each year. Their blooms attract all kinds of insects. The castor bean (red giant) makes a huge garden statement with its 4-foot height and large purple/red leaves. Red salvia invites hummingbirds all season.

Your choices are huge! First decide where to put them, how much work you want to do and then find annuals that fit the bill. Annuals can be the costume jewelry of your garden. Give them a try.

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