Annuals are flowering plants that complete their life cycle within one year. They usually flower during the warm summer months, and die with the first frost of winter. Annuals will germinate from seed, grow vegetatively for a period of time, then produce flowers and seeds before they die. Many annuals reseed themselves so you will find new plants growing in your garden each spring to replace those that have died. Some popular annuals include zinnias, petunias, marigolds, cosmos daisies, snapdragons and nasturtiums.
Annual plants can be categorized by various factors such as their height or whether they are tender perennials (tender meaning unable to tolerate frost). Here is a list of popular annual plants categorized by height.
Mature Plant Height: under 12 inches
Celosia spicata or cockscomb is an easy to grow annual that thrives in the warm months. It has plume-like flower heads and can be added to borders, beds and pots for height without taking up much space. If allowed to reseed it will return each year with little maintenance needed. One drawback is they will not tolerate frost so should be replanted every spring.
Seeds per Packet: 200+ seeds
Alyssum flowers are among the earliest blooming annuals which makes them ideal as ornamental edging along garden beds, pots, window boxes hanging baskets. They do best in full sun and can withstand varied growing conditions including heat, heat and drought, and salt spray.
Celosia spicata ‘Butterfly’ is a popular ornamental annual known for its fiery red plume flowers. Each flower head measures four inches across so it’s great as an accent in containers. The plant itself grows 18″ tall so it also makes a nice contrast to other foliage plants such as petunias or impatiens. They will grow in partial shade but the color of the plumes may not be as vibrant.
Mature Plant Height: 12-18 inches
Celosia ‘Peach’ has feathery dark pink heads that open over a long period throughout the summer months which make them ideal for adding color all season long. They will grow in either sun or part shade and the 18″ tall plant provides nice contrast to other plants in your container garden. One drawback is they do not tolerate frost so spring replanting is needed each year, but reseeding would be an option if you want them to return each year on their own.
Seeds per Packet: 200+ seeds
Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria’ is a vigorous salvia variety with big bright blue flowers that bloom through summer. These attractive blooms are great for mass planting or as bedding along pathways or borders where it will trail over rocks, walls or containers. The USDA has found this particular variety of salvia effectively controls soil erosion.
When drought conditions occur, especially in the hotter summer months, efficient plant selection is crucial to having a successful garden. Annuals that are drought resistant can be an important key to growing color without added water or maintenance work.