Annual flowers bloom profusely throughout the gardening season, and gardeners enjoy the flexibility that they bring to a garden. They grow well in containers, borders or in a landscape setting. They are fast-blooming and provide gardeners with multiple garden solutions. These versatile plants must be planted every year but offer variety and dynamic color as long as they have life.
Annual plants are non-woody plants with a one-year life cycle, beginning with the germination of the seed. After germination, the plant grows, blooms and produces the next generation of seed. Most annual flowers bloom continuously from spring through fall. Once seeds begin to set, however, the life of the plant is over. Impatiens and marigolds are examples of flowers commonly grown as annuals.
Annual plants can re-seed themselves. These self-seeding plants can show up in a number of places in your garden and yard. You may even spot them growing between steps or in sidewalk cracks. When growing self-sowing annual flowers, allow the late season blooms enough time to set seed. Deadheading should cease by mid-August so blooms can completely dry out and the seeds ripen.
Annual plants cover a range of hardiness. Tender annuals, such as petunias and impatiens, will not survive a light frost. Seed for these flowers cannot be sown directly in the garden until all danger of frost is past. Half-hardy annuals need cool, dark temperatures to flourish and can stand a light frost. Some chrysanthemums, baby's breath and forget-me-knots are examples of half-hardy annuals. Hardy perennials can be sown directly in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked. Pansies and ornamental cabbage are extremely hardy and flourish quite well in freezing temperatures.
Annuals prefer soil that is well-drained with a pH between 6.3 and 6.7. A good quality peat moss or compost dug into the soil will help to build up the soil's organic matter. This allows the roots of the plants to spread quickly and begin their job of nourishing the plant. Young plants should be adequately spaced to prevent them from crowding each other as they grow larger. To keep them flowering and looking good, faded blooms should be deadheaded and plants should be watered regularly.
Annuals add splendor to the garden with their bold colors and dynamic foliage. They also bring life to window boxes and porch boxes and can be used as potted plants on terraces and in sunrooms. They do well in combined planting, and some species of annuals, such as snapdragons and larkspurs, can be cut and placed in vases indoors. Hobbyists use various parts of the annual flower in wreaths and in other dried flower arrangements.