If you have a sunny garden, deck or patio, you can grow a dazzling variety of annual flowers. Not only do annual flowers delight us with myriad shapes, sizes and colors, they also are quick to bloom and keep flowering right through the gardening season.
Annual flowers are a key feature of a colorful landscape because they provide:
One way to group plants is by their growth habit. Trailing plants, such as ivy geraniums, grow well in containers, hanging baskets and as groundcovers at the edges of flower beds. Upright annuals, such as red salvia, also grow well in containers, but often find their niche in flower beds combined with other annual and perennial flowers. Deciding which plant to grow is a matter of taste as well as location.
Trailing white or lavender bacopa and the diminutive pink-flowered diascia provide beautiful filler for any planting. Also striking are trailing verbenas, with colors ranging from pink to dark purple, and trailing snapdragons, with bronze and yellow, deep purple and hot pink flowers.
Statuesque upright annuals, standing 12 to 14 inches tall, include the heat-loving nicotiana, with flowers from lilac to apple blossom; the fragrant, pink-flowered nemesia; and the classic salvias, with flower spikes in red, white or blue.
Combining trailing and upright plants in containers creates a dynamic look that makes the planter seem larger than life. Some good examples are red salvia with trailing white snapdragon, white nicotiana with cascading pink diascia, and pastel-colored light pink nemesia with trailing white bacopa. Once you get the hang of combining plants, be as creative and innovative as your heart desires.
The easiest way to grow sun-loving annuals is to buy transplants from your local nursery. Many annual plants, with the exception of snapdragons, are cold sensitive, so wait until after your last frost date to put these plants outdoors. A site that gets at least 6 hours of direct sun each day is best. The soil should be fertile, well drained and amended with compost. Be sure to allow enough room for the plants to spread out during the growing season, especially if you are combining them with perennials.
Keep plants well watered (especially those in containers) and fertilize monthly with an all-purpose plant food. Pull weeds regularly.
Some annuals may need to have old, faded flowers removed during the growing season to continue looking their best. Others, such as petunias, may benefit from having their stems pinched back to stimulate bushier growth.
Article published on June 23, 2008.