Annual flowers are widely planted by home gardeners for their vivid display of long-lasting color in nearly every hue of the spectrum. They generally thrive for a full season. Choose your annuals based on your region and its environmental compatibility with flowers.
Annual flowers, as their name suggests, complete their plant life cycle within one year with blooms through one season. You must replant these herbaceous ornamental plants each year. Annuals are chosen most often to add intense color to a gardening space whether planted on their own or in combination with perennials. Depending on the plant chosen and its use, annual flowering plants may grow from 1 inch in height to several feet.
Most annual flowers thrive in full sun exposure, however some annuals prefer shade. Inappropriate sun exposure will cause diminished growth to full sun plants placed in the shade and will result in scorch for shade plants placed in full sun. Annuals prefer moist, well-drained soil; avoid wet, poorly drained sites. Add a layer of mulch measuring 2 to 3 inches thick when growing annuals. Mulch like wood chips or pine needles prevents moisture loss and weed infestation, according to the Purdue University Cooperative Extension. Make sure your annual flowers receive 1 inch of water weekly.
Annuals are categorized based on their hardiness or ability to withstand colder temperatures. Annual flowers are hardy annuals, semi-hardy annuals and tender annuals. Hardy annuals like pansies withstand cold and freezing temperatures that fall well below 32 degrees F. Semi-hardy annuals like petunias also tolerate cool temperatures but cannot handle a severe frost, so keep semi-hardy annuals in temperatures above 28 degrees F. Tender annuals like impatiens cannot withstand cool temperatures or frost, according to the University of Missouri Extension.
Annual Flower Types
The options for annual flower planting are extensive, but consider a few options based on particular planting needs to get started. For cut flowers, consider dahlias, snapdragons and sunflowers. If dry soil or an arid climate is an issue, plant drought-tolerant annuals like zinnias and marigolds. For heat tolerance, salvia flowers and cannas tolerate warmer temperatures. Shade-loving annuals include fuchsias, caladiums and begonias.
How you use annual flowers is just as important as the colors and shapes you choose. For individual pops of colors or accessibility to small spaces like a patio, consider growing annual flowers in containers. Annuals thrive in hanging baskets or pots and grow well in soil-free container media. For expansive color and interest, plant annual flowers in flowerbeds to take up a full area of planting space or use as a border plant. If privacy is of concern, choose taller, denser annuals for use as natural partitions. Plant annual flowers with rapid growth rates for quick creation of a hedge or screen for your garden enclosure, according to the University of Missouri Extension.