Annuals live their life in one season. They bring bursts of color to the garden. A mixture of annuals with perennials, shrubs, and groundcovers creates an interplay of texture and color.
Annuals can be started from seed, or they can be bought in containers and flat already in flower.
Use annuals to fill in bare spots summer-through-fall. Good choices are alyssum, celosia, cosmos, petunia, portulaca, and zinnia. In shady spots, plant coleus, and impatiens.
Plant taller annuals like cosmos, zinnia, and sunflowers towards the back or center of flower beds or pots. Phlox and Paludosum daisies can be placed at mid-beds and borders. Trailing and cascading ageratum, lobelia, and calibrachoa add low-growing color.
Fertilize bedding annuals from early summer at least once a month with liquid organic kelp or fish emulsion or hand broadcast a complete, granular, organic fertilizer. Annuals in containers should be fertilized every two weeks with liquid food.
Deeply water summer annuals to stave off wilting in the summer heat, but don’t overwater.
24 Annuals for Summer Planting
African Daisy (Arctotis hybrids). Blooms in purple, pink, red, orange, yellow, cream, and white often with contrasting “bullseye.” Grow 1 foot tall and 1½ feet wide. Use as bedding annual and also in containers.
Ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum). Blooms of blue, lavender, lilac, mauve, pink, and white flowers spring through autumn. Grows 6 to 8 inches tall and 10 inches wide. Ideal for mixed flower beds and as edging along borders in the front of containers. Complements phlox, Shasta daisy, and daylily.
Alyssum (Lobularia maritima). Blooms of white, pink, rose-red, violet, and lilac spring through fall. Grows 4 inches tall and 6 to 12 inches wide. Use as a ground cover in a mixed flower bed or as an edging in containers. Complements daylily, lily of the Nile, and wallflower.
Amaranthus (Amaranthus caudatus). Blooms in red early summer through frost. Grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide. Use in mixed flower border; excellent as a featured upright plant in the middle of a mixed container.
Angelonia (Angelonia augustifolia). Blooms of rose, plum, lavender, white, and combination stripes and bicolors spring to autumn. Grows 18 to 36 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Plant in mixed borders or in containers; they love the heat.
Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila paniculata). Blooms are white, pink, rose, and carmine in summer. Grows 18 to 30 inches tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. Use as filler in mixed order and as a mainstay in cutting garden.
Calibrachoa (Calibrachoa hybrids). Blooms yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, and white spring through fall. Grows 6 to 12 inches tall and wide depending on the variety. Perfect for hanging baskets and containers; self-cleaning.
Coleus (Solenostemum scutellarioides hybrids). Spectacular foliage in many color combinations. Grows 6 to 36 inches tall and 12 to 36 inches wide. Use as annual bedding and container plant for sun or shade. Sometimes overwintered indoors as a houseplant.
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus). Blooms spring through summer in orange or yellow; hybrids come in white, scarlet, copper, or pinkish-red. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall and wide. Grow massed for the best display of color. Complements bird of paradise, shore juniper, and silverberry.
Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria). Silvery white foliage with yellow flowers. Grows 8 to 16 inches tall and 8 to 12 inches wide. Gray foliage is a dramatic contrast to more colorful plants; use at front of borders or in mixed containers. Complements red roses and other colorful flowers.
Four O’Clock (Mirabilis jurapa). Blooms red, pink, yellow, and white from summer to fall. Grows 18 to 36 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. Plant where the fragrance can be enjoyed in the early evening; flowers remain open at night. Use in border and as hedging. Parts of plants are toxic, so keep away from children and pets.
Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana and hybrids). Blooms in colors ranging from violet through pink, salmon, white, and even yellow spring into fall. Grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. Use as a bedding plant in shay areas; tolerates sun with constant moisture. Excellent in containers.
Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum). Blooms in ivory, pink, and purple cup-shaped flowers from mid to late summer. Grows 15 to 20 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Attractive in beds and borders or in cutting garden. Complements roses, snapdragons, and delphiniums.
Lobelia (Lobelia erinus). Blooms blue, pink, purple, and white from summer to the first frost. Grows 3 to 6 inches tall and 5 to 18 inches wide. Use as border edging; use trailing varieties in containers, and hanging baskets
Marigold (Tagetes spp.). Blooms orange, yellow, reddish-brown, and white from early summer to frost. Grows 6 to 36 inches tall and 6 to 6 inches wide depending on the variety. T. erecta and T. lucida have open and upright growth; T. patula and T. signata are more compact. Use in borders and mixed containers.
Morning Glory (Ipomea spp.) Blooms lavender, blue, red, pink, white, or bicolor from summer to fall. Grows 10 to 15 feet tall and 12 inches wide. Needs sturdy support. Use as vertical interest in the garden or let cascade over walls or fences, combine with other cottage garden flowers.
Petunia (Petunia hybrids). Blooms in a multitude of colors, picotee, and bicolors spring through fall. Grows 6 to 20 inches tall and wide depending on the variety. Use as ground cover and in hanging baskets.
Phlox (Phlox drumondii). Blooms in red, pink, white, and purple early spring through fall. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall and wide. Plant water-thrifty and heat- and humidity-tolerant hybrids. Use in hanging baskets, containers, and in mid-border and as groundcover. Complements lily of the Nile and candytuft.
Pinks (Dianthus spp.). Blooms in pink, white, and red. Species include China pink (D. chinensis), Sweet William (D. barbatus), Maiden pink (D. deltoides), Cottage pink (D. plumarius), Cheddar pink (D. gratianopolitanus), and Bath’s pink (D. g. ‘Bath’s Pink’). Grow from 4 inches to 4 feet tall depending on the variety. Use as a groundcover, cut flower, bedding, edging, and in containers.
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Blooms in yellow, cream, red, orange, and bicolor from late spring to fall. Grows 2 to 16 feet tall and 2 feet wide depending on the variety. Plant in a cut garden or use tall varieties as a living fence.
Verbena (Verbena tenuisecta). Blooms in bright pink, violet, or white flowers in summer into tall. Grows 8 to 12 inches tall and 18 to 24 inches wide. Use as groundcover in hot, dry areas, filler in beds and borders and on slopes, edging walkways and patios, or containers.
Wax Begonia (Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum hybrids). Blooms in white, pink, and red from spring to frost; some have bronzed leaves. Grows 6 to 12 inches tall and wide. Use as annual bedding and in containers.
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans). Blooms purple, pink, red, yellow, orange, and white. Grows 12 to 48 inches tall and 12 to 24 inches wide summer to fall. Flower forms include double, cactus, and crested. Good as cut flower and in containers as well as beds and borders.
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