Late in the winter, spring is the only thing on the minds of gardeners. One of my favorite activities in the spring is heading out to the garden center and choosing all the fun flowers to plant. I like perennial plants because I can plant them one time and they will continue to come back every year. However, I also really enjoy the annual flowers. They come in such fun colors and bloom through the summer, longer than most of perennials do. I thought I would cover some great annual flowers to look at for your garden this year.
Let’s start with one of the earliest blooming annuals for our gardens, the Pansy. Pansies can grow and flower underneath the snow. However, they will fade out as the summer heat comes on. This is a good plant to start with, but plant other flowers around it later in the season to continue the flowering through the summer and into the fall. Pansies are typically found in a mix variety that has multiple colors in one container. They are found in blues, purples, reds, pinks, yellows, and whites but there are variations of those and mixes of color in one flower.
Marigolds are an old favorite flower of many gardeners. They are very easy to grow, making them a great choice for youth or for a new gardener. Marigolds come in many color options in the orange and yellow spectrum. 3 new varieties were All American Selection winners for 2019 for the Heartland region, which includes Nebraska. Big Duck Orange and Big Duck Yellow are large, longer blooming varieties for a good choice. Garuda Deep Gold is a great choice that lasts with intense flower color and healthier leaves much longer than the competition and will last up to 10 days in a vase as a cut flower. Marigolds have a lot of different varieties for single and double flowers but mostly all in the yellow-orange color spectrum.
Snapdragons are one of my favorite annual flowers. They come in different colors and sizes and can be added to any container garden or landscape bed. Check which size you choose before you purchase to make sure that you don’t pick an annual that grows larger than the perennials you plant it in front of. Be sure to remove spent flower blossoms through the season to maintain flowering throughout the summer months. Sarah Browning had a great article on snapdragons recently because they are the 2019 National Garden Bureau annual flower of the year.
Calibrachoa is another of my favorite annual flowers due to the long list of colors and color combinations you can find in this flower. This is also often sold as a Supertunia or as ‘Superbells’ in the garden centers and it resembles a small petunia flower. These plants have a growth habit similar to the wave petunia where they spill out and over the edge of a container. They are also quite drought tolerant and will do well on their own for a few days if you are out of town for a weekend. It was the 2018 annual plant of the year for the National Garden Bureau. Look at your local garden center for the wide variety of color combinations to fit your gardening needs. The hardest part of growing calibrachoa is choosing your color combinations.
Petunia is the big brother of the calibrachoa. It can also be found in many colors and color combinations and will withstand drought fairly well. There are many different types of petunias including single and double flowered varieties, spreading varieties that produce a carpet of blooms, and wave petunias which cascade over the edge of containers. A unique black petunia exists, true black is hard to find in flowers.
Lantana is a fun annual that will grow well in hot locations. It will bloom through the summer and into fall with no deadheading necessary. The common variety is a flower cluster that is red on the outside that transitions into yellow flowers in the center, but there are varieties with pink and yellow and straight white clusters of flowers. It is a low-maintenance plant for many garden spaces and can be utilized in a container or in a landscape bed.
Zinnia is another favorite annual flower choice among gardeners. There are countless colors and varieties to choose from. These are a fun flower for youth, including the kid in all of us. There are zinnias that are double-flowering, some that are single-flowering, Mexican zinnias that are more heat, disease, and drought resistant, and many more varieties. They come in all bright colors including green, pink, red, orange, yellow, purple, and white as well as mixes and flowers that are multicolored. Zinnias are also fairly easy to grow and can be planted in a container or directly into the ground. They are fun and have a place in any landscape.
Annual plants can be planted in the ground or in a pot. I like to use them around perennials to provide more color, for a longer period during the growing season. For the most part, they are easy to care for. The plants listed in this article should all be planted in full sun, but there are a lot of great shade varieties. If they are planted in a container, check to see if the soil is damp before watering to avoid overwatering. However, in the hot, dry part of the summer most container plants will need to be watered daily, if not twice a day. The best part of using annuals in the garden is that they are typically less expensive than perennial plants and if a disease or insect problem occurs on them, you can just pull them out and you might even have time to replant. There are always new varieties of these flowers for improved flowering or new, unique color combinations or better disease resistance. Go to your local garden center and find the perfect choices to fit in with your landscape and container gardens.