Who’s busy planting in the their gardens? Here in the Chicago area, I typically start planting Mother’s Day weekend or shortly thereafter, depending on the weather. Most of my perennials, annuals, and vegetables are planted by the first week of June. BUT, I still visit the garden center and buy more flowers to fill in any spots I may have missed. And of course, I can always find a new spot for flowers. Today I’m sharing my favorite, easy-to-grow annual flowers that you might want to add to your own flower beds.
While there are oodles of annuals from which to choose, the following list includes my favorites that I always add to my yard each summer.
These beauties are the gift that keeps on giving. Plant them in a sunny location, water them more frequently in the beginning until they become a bit more established, and then enjoy prolific, colorful blooms all summer long. They tolerate dry conditions more than other flowers, but do keep them watered during periods of drought.
Zinnias are available in a variety of types and you’re sure to find one or more that suit your fancy, from single petaled flowers to doubles which have several rows of petals. State Fair Zinnias grow about three feet tall on single stems and create a spectacular display where you need some height. They’re also great for cutting and creating indoor flower arrangements.
You can also find bushier, shorter zinnias that are perfect for filling in holes in your garden or adding a pop of color in between perennials that might have already bloomed or are yet to bloom. Here’s a Pink Magellan Zinnia from my garden a few years ago.
This is another sun-loving annual that is a great addition to flower beds, containers, and hanging baskets. Lantana grow in a somewhat vining effect and will reward you with plenty of small blooms all summer long. They are sometimes used as a ground cover. Last year I planted a couple in the rocks around my waterfall and it looked beautiful. Water plants so that the soil doesn’t completely dry out. I always find it hard to choose the color of lantana I like best and end up getting one of each color offered at the garden center.
This list of annual flowers wouldn’t be complete with the ever-popular geranium. One thing geraniums are known for, is their ability to tolerate summer’s heat. When other plants tend wilt during the extreme dog days of summer, geraniums seem unaffected. For the first time ever, I planted Calliope Geraniums in my window boxes. I used to plant shade-loving annuals in them until we had to cut a big dying branch off one of our trees. Calliope geraniums grow in a mounding pattern which is why I chose them, but there are plenty of geranium types and colors from which to choose. Plant them in sunny locations, although they can tolerate a bit of shade.
Pretty, tissue-like petals dance atop feathery leaves to create the dainty flower called Cosmos. My mother always had these in her garden. Cosmos prefer a sunny location with well-drained soil. They lend a fairy-like quality and are perfect for cottage gardens. Well, actually, I think they’re perfect for any garden. If you pinch them back, they’ll become bushy and strong. Otherwise they can get pretty leggy and you might need to stake them. Here in gardening zone 5, Cosmos will re-seed itself on occasion, but not always. Consider yourself lucky if they come up in new spots.
For many, many years, impatiens were my most favorite annual due to their prolific blooms and mounding growing habit. But now I have too many favorite annual flowers to name just one as the top dog. I use impatiens to add non-stop color to shady locations. They enjoy wet feet so keep them moist. Believe it or not, you can plant them directly in pond water and they’ll take off. My pond is too sunny to do this, but I have friends that have gorgeous patches of impatiens tucked at the edges of their pond or even between rocks in a gentle waterfall.
If you love a tropical-looking flower and have shaded areas of the yard, look no further than glorious tuberous begonia. Garden centers often carry these in a variety of colors and since the flowers are much larger than regular begonias, they put on a more impressive show. I like to pair these with impatiens and caladium in containers. Deadhead or not, these jewels of the shade garden will bloom their hearts out for you all summer long.
Caladium is a great companion plant for your annual flowers that prefer shady areas. Since they prefer soil that’s evenly moist, they pair well with impatiens and tuberous begonia. Leaves are veined or mottled, or sometimes both. Caladium adds a little height to containers, so I like to plant them in the middle or toward the back. Plant them en masse in the ground for a showy display during the hottest days of summer.
You’ll notice that petunias did not make my list of favorite annuals that are easy to grow. I’m not particularly fond of them, and I don’t really know why. But they are pretty and well-loved by many gardeners.
What are some of your favorite annual flowers that you like to use in your garden spaces each year?