Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals
Easy Annuals for Summer Color (page 2 of 4)
by Susan Littlefield
Annual Flower Varieties
Many annuals can be be started early from seed indoors, then transplanted to the garden for earlier bloom. Others grow quickly enough that they can be sown directly where they are to grow in the garden. Some annuals, such as poppies, resent transplanting and do best if they are direct seeded.
'Carpet of Snow' Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) Also called sweet alyssum, this hardy annual forms a dense carpet of fine textured foliage that is covered with masses of small, white, fragrant flowers that are great for attracting beneficial insects. Although you can start it from seed indoors 5 to 6 weeks before your last frost, you can also sprinkle the seeds outdoors where they'll grow as early as a few weeks before the last frost. Press lightly into the soil, then water. In just 5 or 6 weeks, these speedy growers will be blooming. After the first flush of bloom, cut plants back by about half for a new round of flowers. You can also make repeat sowings throughout the summer, as late as early August, to keep up the show into the fall.
'Choice Tall Mixed' Bachelor' Buttons (Centaurea) Another hardy annual that can be sown outdoors where it is to grow in early spring, this old-fashioned favorite has a mix of blue, pink, white and wine-red flowers on a 2-3' tall plant. Also called Corn Flower, its a perfect addition to a cottage garden, makes a great cut flower and attracts beneficial insects. In mild winter areas, you can sow the seeds in mid-fall for bloom through until spring.
'Sensation Mix' Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) With 4", saucer-shaped, single blossoms in shades of pink with yellow centers and delicate, ferny foliage, cosmos adds a graceful note to the garden. Easy to grow, the seeds can be sown directly in the ground around the last frost date. Plant seeds about 1/8" deep and thin seedlings to stand about 12-15" apart. 'Sensation Mix' grows about 4' tall and is great for adding height to the garden.
'Semi-Double Fancy Mix' Calendula (Calendula officinalis) The bright sunny flowers of calendula, also called Pot Marigold, are a cheerful addition to any flower bed. Sow seeds in the garden as soon as the soil can be worked; in mild climates plant in early fall for bloom in late fall and winter. The 2" double and semi-double flowers in this mix bloom in shades of orange and yellow on plants that grow 18-20 inches tall. For extra early bloom, start seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last frost.
'Jewel Mix' Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) Sow the seeds of these fast-growers after the soil has warmed and you'll be rewarded with a profusion of 2" double blossoms in shades of yellow, orange and deep red from July until frost. Seeming to thrive on neglect, nasturtiums are an easy care choice. This compact, 15" tall variety is a good choice for small yards and hanging baskets.
Four o'Clock Mix (Mirabilis jalapa) This old-fashioned favorite bears marvelous, trumpet-shaped flowers that open in late afternoon or on cloudy days. The red, pink, yellow and white blossoms continue from summer to frost on 24" tall plants that thrive in full sun or part shade. In long-season areas, sow outside about a week after the last frost date. In shorter season parts of the country, start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost.
'Large Flowered Mix' Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) These easy to grow garden giants reach 6 to 10 feet tall from seeds planted directly in the garden in a sunny spot after the last frost date. The 6-inch, yellow, red and bronze blossoms are great for flower arrangements, but be sure to let some of the flowers set seeds for birds to enjoy.