Flowers are a great addition to any garden! Here are 10 easy to grow annuals guaranteed to brighten up every corner of your yard.
Across the US and around the world, the same flower can have many different common names. To avoid confusion, I’ll provide the botanical names too. And so I don’t play favourites, I’ll list them in alphabetical order.
Here’s my top 10 easy to grow annuals:
These are commonly known as wax begonias – Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum. Begonias grow well in full sun to partial shade. They’re perfect for along the border of the garden since they are compact, don’t spread out too much, and grow to be 6-10″ tall. Flowers come in pink, white, red and salmon.
Pot marigold – Calendula officinalis. Here in New England, calendula is treated an an annual, since it cannot withstand over-wintering. If you live in a warm climate, you may be able to grow it as a perennial. Calendula is such a versatile plant. The petals of the calendula are edible, widely used for medicinal purposes, and to colour food (like how saffron or turmeric does). The plants grow to be 8-18″ high, like full sun, and come in colours ranging from pale yellow to a reddish-orange. Some varieties are double like the one in the photo, and others are single petals with dark centers. I tend to go for the double varieties in bright yellow and fiery orange. (oops I said I wasn’t going to play favourites!)
Geraniums Pelargonium x hortorum are an old-fashioned favourite, and look amazing in hanging baskets and window boxes. They like at least 6-8 hours of sun a day, and can get full and bushy with proper care. Petals are single or double, and colours range from white, pinks, magenta, salmon, purples, fiery reds and bi-colours. Some gardeners are able to over-winter their geraniums in the house, but I just get fresh plants each year.
If you have a shady area, impatiens impatiens wallerana are the annuals you want to get. I plant them in a window box in a shady area of the patio, and they bloom up until frost. Colours are white, pinks, magenta, fuchsia, reds, peach, salmon, orange and bi-colour. They will grow to be about 8″ high, and fill out nicely. As the flower petal fall off, a seed pod will grow. And grow. Eventually, it will get to be about a half inch long, and if you touch it, it will burst and seeds will fly everywhere! Just before they get to that stage, I pick them off, and pop them over the soil in the window box. By mid-summer, new plants are growing and filling the window box with gorgeous colour.
Marigolds tagetes are one of the easiest annuals to grow – especially from seed. There are so many varieties – ranging from dwarf plants to ones that grow to be several feet high! Although mostly in the yellows and orange family, there are off white and even lime green. Petals can be single, double, or so dense that the flower looks like a snowball. Oh, and speaking of flowers – they are a little stinky. Not an offensive like a skunk stinky, but definitely not a sweet, smelling like a rose fragrance. Which is probably why marigolds are thought to repel mosquitoes and other bugs. Marigolds will fill out nicely if you pinch off the dead flowers. And save those to dry out for more seeds. Next spring, start those seeds indoors for a free crop of plants!
This morning glory ipomoea is aptly named “Heavenly Blue”. Isn’t it gorgeous? This is a vine that grows well on light posts, arbors and fences. The flowers open in the late morning, and by evening they are curled up and will die off. BUT – more flowers will appear and bloom all summer! Morning glories come in blue, purples, pinks and whites, and another favourite of mine is one that is bright red. Do be careful when pulling up the vine in late fall. The seeds fall off, and can become invasive weeds. (don’t ask me how I know this.)
Petunia x hybrida are another sun-loving annual. They do well in hanging baskets, window boxes and along walkways. Single flower, doubles and ruffles come in so many colours and colour combinations! Red, white, red & white, pale yellow, deep velvety purple, light purple, pink, magenta, fuchsia…there is bound to be one you will fall in love with. To keep the plants from getting scraggly and leggy, pinch off the dried, dead flowers and your plants will bloom all summer.
I said I wasn’t going to play favourites, but I have to give a shout out to Portulaca grandiflora. What tough plants they are! Blistering sun, not much water, and touching the hot pavement does not phase them one bit. They are low, sprawling plants that just look so happy! Colours are yellow, light yellow, peach, white, bright orange, fuchsia, pinks and red – in single and doubles. I need to stop gushing over these – just get some. Mine like to seed themselves, so I get a new crop every year without having to buy them. I just transplant them wherever I want a burst of colour in a tough spot – usually along the front walkway that gets full sun all day long.
The sign in these Helianthus says it all – We’re Happy! Sunflowers are the kind of flower that just makes you smile. The variety with the bright yellow petals and dark center look just like the sun. Sunflowers come in short varieties that are great for cut flower arrangements, and then there are the tall 10′ plants that grace the vegetable garden. The seeds are edible – but the birds and squirrels know that too, so keep a lookout for critters who want a free lunch. Flowers can be single petal or double, in colours mostly in the yellows and rusty orange family. Super easy to grow from seed, and kids love it when you make a tepee with a circle of them. (and let your pole beans grow up the stems)
and last on the top 10 list…
Growing flowers from seed doesn’t get much easier than with Zinnia elegans. Zinnias look beautiful in the garden, and make a long-lasting cut flower too. Single petal, double petal, short and tall, and coming in a huge range of colours, I think the only colour they don’t come in is a true blue. There’s even a lime green variety called “Envy” which I have grown. (it looks really cool planted next to deep velvety purple petunias). Zinnias are another annual that gives you free plants when you save the seeds. To keep note of what colour the plant is, use one of those plastic bread bag tags and write the colour on with a Sharpie marker. Slip the tag onto the stem of the plant, and in the fall or when the flowers die, you’ll be able to keep track of which colours you have for seed next year.
Keep a record of what you grow
And speaking of keeping track…did you get my free Garden Journal yet? Click here to get yours! I used my own photographs like the ones above, and turned them into watercolours for pages the Journal. I hope you like it! It will keep all of your garden notes, photos and seed packets organized and you can print one out for every year.
There are hundreds more annuals that I could write about, but how about perennials next? Or herbs? Maybe vegetables? Which group would you like to know more about? Let me know in the comments!