How to Choose Annual Plants for the Midwestern Landscape


The best thing about growing annual plants and flowers is the absence of a long term commitment. They complete their entire life cycle in one growing season: germination, flowers and finally they produce seeds. You can try a different selection of annuals every year. The Midwest is known for its fertile topsoil and adequate rainfall, so you can grow virtually any type of annual with success nearly guaranteed. Avoid plants that require more than 90 days to reach maturity, as they may not have enough frost-free weather to bloom or produce fruit.

Step 1

Choose annuals that are either drought tolerant or require less water if the soil is kept evenly moist with a mulch. Although rainfall in the Midwest is plentiful, it can be sporadic. Plants that are naturally drought tolerant will continue to look their best whatever the weather, without any additional watering.

Step 2

Plant annual flowers that mature and bloom quickly from seed, ideally within about three months after they are sown. Plants and flowers direct seeded in the garden must be fast-growing so they bloom before the end of the growing season.

Step 3

Plant tender perennial ornamental grasses and treat them as annuals. They add height to the garden bed and provide vertical interest among blooming annuals. The cold winter weather will not allow tender perennial grasses and flowering plants and grasses to survive the winter. Treat them as annuals and replant them every year.

Step 4

Plant hot-weather-loving annuals, but start them indoors under lights eight to 12 weeks before the start of your growing season. They will be ready to plant outdoors when the frost-free weather arrives.

Step 5

Grow cool-weather loving annuals in early spring and late summer. They will provide color during these times, when annuals that love hot weather will not bloom.

Step 6

Avoid planting annuals that require a long season to produce flowers. Although some of these varieties are commonly started indoors and transplanted outdoors after all danger of frost has past, in the more northern areas of the Midwest the growing season may still not be long enough to allow them to come into bloom.

Things You'll Need

  • Seed catalogs

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Gardening with Annuals
Keywords: annual plants for Midwestern landscape, grow annuals in the Midwest, plant annual flowers and grasses