Annuals are exactly as the name sounds: plants that live their whole life cycle in one annual growing period. Although these flowering blossoms will not typically make a repeat appearance year after year (like perennials), the blooms of many annuals can brighten up a garden or outdoor landscape design. Prior to planting, it is best for gardeners to assess the preferred planting time for the best annual results.
Although annuals are typically thought of as a summertime color booster for gardens, it is possible to clip and replant these flowers for indoor winter growth. Many of these winter-season growers can even be planted again the following summer. For example, geraniums and impatiens can be clipped in late summer or early fall prior to the first frost. Simply cut off the remaining flowers and clip the stem to between 2 and 6 inches in length. Pull off any leaves, and place your clipping into a pot filled with soil. Keep the planted clipping moist and in a sunny spot.
Gardening enthusiasts may want to try growing their own annuals straight from seed. Although this may take more work than simply planting a full-grown flower, it is a less expensive option for those looking to use a large number of annuals. Start annuals indoors in soil-filled pots or flats. Check the directions on the particular flower seed packet for the number of weeks that it will take to germinate. This may vary depending on which annual you choose. Time your indoor planting so that you are ready to transfer to an outdoor space after the last frost of the season. Very cold temperatures, and frost, will harm your tender annual seedling. Avoid starting the annual seed too early or transferring it to the garden in the beginning of the growing season.
Plant most annuals in the spring following the last frost. Of course, as you do not have a crystal ball to foretell the exact date of the last frost, it is best to wait until the weather remains warm for at least a few weeks at a time. This means that although late March often brings us a few warm sunny days, planting at this early date may still be harmful to your flowers. On the other hand, if you wait too long or until the summer, you may not get the most out of your annuals. Remember, annuals live for only one growing season. If you plant your zinnias half way through the summer, you won't get the maximum bang for your buck.
Although warm weather is the target goal for planting your annuals, some of these flowers enjoy a bit cooler atmosphere. Snapdragons, petunias, dianthus, viola and garden mums do much better in temperatures under 80 degrees. Cool-loving annuals will flourish in spring or early fall temperatures, but may appear to wilt during the mid-summer heat. For example, garden mums are a favorite fall plant for many gardeners. These annual flowers should be planted in late September or after the high point of summer is over. If the spring or fall temperatures rise unexpectedly, moving potted cool-loving annuals into the shade may help to alleviate any negative effects.