As spring wears off and summer heat picks up, most gardeners find it rather tiring to work in the garden. That’s why you need to look for flowering plants––both annuals and perennials––that bloom profusely throughout the season without much pampering from you. Fortunately, you have a wide selection of summer bloomers to choose from.



Petunias grown as annuals have one of the longest flowering seasons, right from mid-spring to late fall. Hybrid petunias with the trailing habit, commonly known as Purple Wave petunias, are extremely floriferous and versatile. First introduced in purple color, they are now available in several shades of pink, purple, blue and red, and also in creamy white.

The tiny seeds of petunias are a bit difficult to start indoors, so buying young plants in nursery flats is your best bet. Set them out in well-draining beds in a sunny location once all danger of frost has passed, or grow them in containers. They are excellent for hanging pots. Keep them happy with regular watering and feeding.


Zinnias love warmth, so they are reliable summer bloomers, filling the garden with long lasting flowers in jewel colors. You have the choice of small, single-flowered daisy-type zinnias and large pom-pom types, with everything in between. The hybrid variety Profusion Zinnias are a great choice since they keep blooming into fall. The dwarf types make good bedding plants and borders.

Grow these annuals in a sunny location. They flourish in hot weather but appreciate regular watering and feeding.


Gaillardia is another summer flowering plant that never seems to get tired of blooming all through the season and beyond. These North American natives come in bright yellows, often embellished with deep maroon and rust-colored centers.

They are ideal for filling up less frequented areas in the garden because poor soil and neglect seem to make them flourish even more. They keep blooming whether you deadhead the spent flowers or not, but this exercise keeps them neat. These short-lived perennials live longer if they are divided every 2-3 years. There are annual gaillardias too, which can be easily started from seeds.

Globe Amaranth

The compact mounds of globe amaranth are usually covered in globular flowerheads all through summer and fall since they continue to persist on the plants. They serve as non-fading cut flowers in vases and bouquets. They retain most of their color when dry, so bunches are often dried in the shade for dry flower arrangements and potpourri.

Grow these deer resistant, drought tolerant annuals in beds or borders for a long display of bright colored pom-poms. Purple is the most common and popular color, but you can find them in light pink, lilac, white and red too.


Nothing can beat these perennials when it comes to filling up your garden with a profusion of long-lasting blooms starting from spring. The large flower heads keep coming all through summer and continue to adorn the plants long after the blooming season is over. Take your pick from the different varieties––Bigleaf, Oakleaf, Panicle or Smooth––or have all of them in different spots.

Hydrangeas are propagated from cuttings, and they should be sited carefully taking into consideration the amount of sun and water they would receive. They prefer morning sun and afternoon shade in places with very warm summers but can take full sun for most of the day in cooler regions.

Rose of Sharon/Hardy hibiscus

Rose of Sharon is a perennial hibiscus for USDA zones 5-8. It blooms in various shades of pink, peach, and red. Individual flowers may not be as large as that of tropical hibiscus, but this hardy relative makes it up by the sheer profusion of the flowers they produce. They keep coming from late spring until the touch of frost kills all but the underground parts.

Grow hardy hibiscus in rich, well-draining soil in a sunny location. They appreciate some afternoon shade in areas with hot summers. Keep the soil moist with regular watering and mulching. Give it an occasional feeding to help the plant continue the flower production


Commonly called Tickseed, the low growing coreopsis is an old-time favorite. It is actually a perennial in warmer regions but is more often grown as an annual elsewhere. The yellow and gold flowers are borne on thin, long stems that hold them well above the foliage for good effect. Once they start appearing––towards the end of spring––they go non-stop until summer turns into fall. Deadheading ensures more flowers. Grow coreopsis in a sunny area. They are great as ground covers and bedding plants.

Marigold (Tagetes)

Often grown in vegetable gardens to keep off pests, French Marigolds are well known to gardeners. They are compact in size, with a bushy, slightly spreading habit. Their yellow-orange flowers, often having varying amounts of red-maroon, usually have a single or double layer of petals. Their African cousins are taller and grow upright, producing large pom-poms in yellow, orange and cream. Both these types, as well as the petite ‘Signet’ marigolds, love warm weather and bloom continuously from spring until the first frost.

Marigolds are easily grown from seeds, but the seeds collected from hybrids may not give the expected results. Use them as bedding plants in sunny areas. Regular watering is a must.


Common yarrows with off-white or yellow flowers and weed status have undergone a transformation with several new color choices in shades of pink, cream, peach and red. They can add color and variety to your summer garden with their long blooming season. The fern-like leaves also are an asset, not to mention the medicinal value of the herb.

Grow yarrow in full sun, but make sure that it stays within limits. The flat-topped flower heads look good in flower arrangements, so keep cutting them off to reduce self-seeding.


These hardworking, ground hugging evergreen plants can brighten up any nook and corner in the garden with its clusters of tiny flowers that start appearing in spring. There’s no stopping them after that; the green mounds expand as they get covered in white, purple or pink flowers, so they are great as fillers anywhere in the garden or in containers. An additional attraction is that they retain their leaves throughout winter in USDA zones 5-9.

Candytuft can grow in full sun as well as partial shade. Keep the soil moist by regular watering.

Purple coneflower /Echinacea

No garden should be without this native flowering plant producing large, purplish pink flowers. The common name obviously comes from the prominent cones in the center of a single layer of slightly reflexed petals. New hybrids offer more color and form choices now.

Purple coneflower is propagated by root or clump divisions. Plant this perennial carefully because it does not like being disturbed later. Flowering all through summer and into fall, its flowers can be harvested for making an herbal tea. In fact, all parts of the plant have medicinal properties.

Eryngium (Sea holly)

Silvery blue and spiky, the flowers and foliage of sea holly are strikingly different from those of usual garden plants. Consider adding it to your summer garden. Tolerant of neglect, drought, poor soil, and salt sprays, they are a great choice for xeriscapes. Flower spikes last long and look great in both fresh and dry flower arrangements. Grow as specimen plants or bedding plants in sunny areas.


The delicate daisy-like flowers of asters in pinks, purples, lavender, and white bring cheer to your garden from early summer to fall. Their cut-and-come back nature keeps your vases full and flower beds bright.

Asters can be started from seeds, but purchasing young plants is the best option. Plant them out in spring for summer blooming that usually extends to fall. Asters do well in both full sun and partial sun, but they can’t stand too much heat. Rich and moist soil with good drainage brings out the best in these beauties.


Daylilies bloom from spring to fall. Each flower lasts for just one day, but a succession of them open up day in and day out, ensuring that your garden looks cheerful throughout. The flowers are borne on long stalks that rise above the mound of leaves, so daylilies attract attention wherever they are. That makes them the best plants to brighten any remote corner of the garden.

Grow daylilies from divisions. The shorter hybrid Stella de Oro is great for small gardens. It also has the longest flowering season, spanning 5 months.


This is a wildflower that earned a rightful place in our gardens by its large flowers and profuse flowering habit. The contrast between the bright yellow petals and the brownish black center disc makes these large, showy flowers all the more striking.

Rudbeckia is a perennial, but the smaller Rudbeckia hirta can be grown as an annual if started early enough. In most zones they start flowering from early summer and continue on until fall. But flowering starts in fall and extends into winter in areas with hot summers.


Whether you have cats or not, this aromatic plant makes a good addition to your summer garden. The bluish-purple flowers are tiny, but they are borne in abundance on long, slender, terminal flower spikes that stand above the silver-gray leaves. The flowering period is quite long, starting from mid-spring to fall.

The plants are drought resistant and do well in both full sun and partial shade in USDA zones 4-8. They make great borders, requiring little attention once established. When the flower spikes are nearly spent, a good shearing usually produces a second flush.


Another reliable annual with a long flowering season, snapdragons were an old favorite in summer gardens. The pretty flowers, in almost all possible shades of pink, peach, yellow and red, open in succession on terminal spikes. Their throats usually have a darker or contrasting color that adds to the variety. Taller varieties are ideal as a neat backdrop for other summer bloomers, while dwarf and medium-sized types make great borders and do well in beds.

Start plants from seeds or cuttings, and plant them in spring. Pinch the young plants to induce branching. You get only as many spikes as the number of branches they have.

Bee balm/Monarda

This North American native blooms from early summer to fall, producing whorls of tubular flowers around the tip of each branch. Each spike may have two or more whorls arranged one above the other. Flower colors include red and various shades of pink.

Being a perennial in USDA zones 4 to 9, bee balm can be planted in fall as well as in early spring. Choose a location with rich, well-draining soil. It does well in full sun as well as in part shade and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. The flowers and leaves can be used to make an herbal tea.


These old favorites are making a comeback in new avatars. You can now choose from large, dinner plate dahlias to small daisy-flowered bedding dahlias, with pom-poms and ruffled ones in between. There’s endless variety in solids, bi-colors, and variegation too.

Although dahlias are perennials in warmer areas, reliably coming up from the ground in spring, they have to be started afresh from tubers in most parts of the United States. They can only go in the ground when the temperature rises above 60F, but starting them indoors a few weeks ahead of spring ensures early summer flowers.


This wildflower is a North American native, forming large perennial stands, crowding out all the competitors. They are sometimes called bee blossoms, but the four-petalled flowers have more in common with butterflies. In a gentle breeze, the tall spikes carrying white blossoms appear to be covered in fluttering butterflies.

Gaura is easily propagated from seeds or division of rhizomes. Apart from the most common white gaura, you can find colors ranging from the lightest pink to the brightest, most shocking pink.

Canna lilies

They are perennials with bold foliage and bolder flowers. They start blooming from late spring or early summer depending on the zone and continue through summer and fall. Sunny location and ample moisture in the soil are ideal for lush growth and flowering.

Although cannas are not true lilies, they are grown from their underground rhizomes. In USDA zones 8-11, they can be left in the ground all year. But they should be dug up and stored over winter elsewhere. Cannas do produce viable seeds, but getting them to sprout is a challenge.

Heat-Tolerant Annuals That Bloom All Summer Long

Believe it or not, some plants actually like to be hot. While most plants will suffer in the summer when temperatures rise, we’re here to talk about annuals that can take the heat—and actually like it!

See our favorite annual plant pairings.

All of these annuals grow well in containers. The smaller the container you use, the easier it will dry out, so be sure to pick a large container for your annuals. For an eye-catching container garden, utilize plants that require the same care but differ in colors, heights, and textures.

Although these annuals beat the heat, they also like to stay hydrated, so give them a drink every other day. Editor’s Tip: To know if your pot needs to be watered, stick your finger into the dirt. If the dirt is dry, your pot needs water. If it’s not, you can probably wait another day.

Be aware that if you rely on rain to water your plants, the water from the rain will most likely hit the leaves and fall off, rather than dampening the soil. In other words, don’t trust that water from rain is giving your plants a decent water supply—a hose will do a better job.

To ensure that your annuals bloom all season, be sure to deadhead blooms that look wilted or dead. This will make room for fresh, new blooms to take their place.


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Mandevilla is an annual vine that doesn’t mess around—it can grow up to 20 feet tall! The plant flowers trumpet-shape blooms in shades of white, red, or pink and is identified as a tropical and subtropical plant. Although mandevilla is an annual, it can be overwintered in your home as long as it’s kept in a bright, sunny spot.


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One of the easiest annuals to grow, ageratum not only takes the heat but also can handle frost. That, plus its pest-resistant qualities, make it the perfect plant for the beginning gardener. Another fun fact about ageratum is that it is one of the few plants in the world that blooms a true, natural blue.


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Scaevola is a tough annual native to Australia, so it’s no wonder that this plant can take the heat. The plant produces small, fan-like blooms that range from lavender to blue to white. Scaevola looks gorgeous as a cascading plant from pots, baskets, and window boxes. There’s no need to deadhead spent blooms, either—scaevola self-cleans and keeps itself in production.

Persian Shield

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Persian shield is a leafy plant that thrives in Zones 9 and up and can be overwintered as a houseplant. This captivating plant is an ideal centerpiece in a container with its iridescent purple, green, and black foliage. Persian shield is also deer and rabbit resistant, so you don’t have to worry about the colorful leaves falling victim to pests.


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Coleus puts on a nonstop show throughout the season. There are several different types of coleus, ranging from shade- to sun-loving, single to multi-colored leaves, and different leaf sizes. This easy-to-grow annual thrives in warm weather as long as soil is moist. With coleus, more light equates to more saturated leaves.


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SunPatiens is essentially a sun-loving version of the ever-popular shade annual impatiens. The blooms are ideal for a sunny container garden, and it can be grown as a houseplant in a bright spot indoors. The best part about SunPatiens is that it blooms all season long and can even take on frost!

Licorice Plant

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Licorice plant has a soft color and texture, making it a great backdrop to more colorful counterparts in a garden or container. This trailing vine acts as a wonderful “spiller” in a container garden, and its fuzzy leaves protect the plant from pests. In the hot summer sun, this plant may actually give off the smell of licorice, hence its name.

Full Sun Annuals

If you have a sunny garden, you’ll be able to choose from a huge selection of annuals, in all colors, shapes, and sizes. The majority of annuals require full sun, which means they need direct light for at least six to eight hours daily. Before planting, you’ll want to watch the different areas in your yard to see how much sun they get, especially when surrounding trees and shrubs are in full foliage and may be casting more shade.

Annuals Image Gallery


If your garden won’t provide full sunlight, you still have several options. You can plant an annual that does well in partial or full shade, like Coleus. Or you can make a spot in your garden with full sun by removing branches, fences, or other obstacles that block the light.

This page includes links to annuals, grouped by light condition and color. Remember, if your plants aren’t getting enough sun, you won’t get as many flowers.

Blue to Purple Full Sun Annuals:

Full Sun Annual Grasses and Foliage:

Pink to Fuchsia Full Sun Annuals:

White to Green Full Sun Annuals:

Full Sun, Partial Shade, and Full Shade Annuals:

Didn’t find what you needed? Try Annual Flowers, Annuals, or Full Sun Perennials for more information.

Annual Flowers

Many gardeners grow annuals for seasonal color alongside existing perennials, shrubs and trees. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some produce amazing flowers, while others are all about striking foliage.

Popular annual flowers and plants:

  • Petunia
  • Verbena
  • Calibrachoa
  • Geranium
  • Marigold
  • Vinca
  • Zinnia
  • Ageratum (floss flower)
  • Angelonia (summer snapdragon)
  • Impatiens
  • Begonias
  • Sweet potato vine
  • Coleus

To decide which plants to try in your own garden, take a closer look at these popular annuals in our photo gallery.


Consider the following pros and cons before planting annuals in your garden:


  • Annuals are easy to grow and offer brightly colored flowers for instant impact
  • They are versatile and can be grown in garden beds, hanging baskets or containers
  • If properly planted and cared for, many annuals will bloom nonstop from planting to frost
  • Color choices include purple, bi-color, pink, blue, red, yellow, coral, orange, white and even black!
  • You can find annuals for every situation: deer, sun, shade, low maintenance…you name it


  • Unlike perennial plants which return year after year, they complete their life cycles in a single season and must be replanted yearly
  • Many annuals require deadheading, or the removal of spent buds, to keep them blooming
  • Annuals often benefit from frequent applications of fertilizer to keep them looking their best
  • Daily watering is usually necessary, especially in summer heat

When it comes to growing these garden favorites, you have two choices: purchase the plants in flower or start them yourself from seed. If you are looking for instant gratification, buying starter plants will be best. However, if you want to save some money and aren’t in a rush, seeds can be cheaper.

Here are some tips for planting annuals in the landscape:

  • When planting young annuals make sure you are giving them enough space to reach their full size
  • Add slow-release fertilizer to the planting hole to get your plants off to a good start
  • Make sure you plant them in a spot where they’ll receive the right amount of light
  • Check the weather, it is safest to plant when all danger of frost has passed
  • If the roots are twisted and dense when removed from the growing pot, loosen them slightly by hand or run a knife down the sides
  • Don’t leave annuals in six-packs or flats for long, getting them in the ground or container quickly is best
  • Water your new plants well immediately after planting
  • Spread a layer of mulch after planting to complete the look, reduce water loss and prevent weeds

Annuals can be divided into three groups: hardy, half-hardy and tender, based on their cold tolerance. This classification will determine how close to the last frost date in spring that they can be planted, which will vary by location.

  • Hardy annuals do well in cooler weather. They are able to withstand some freezing temperatures and can be planted the earliest. These types will also do well when planted in fall when temperatures begin to drop.
  • Half-hardy annuals will tolerate a touch of frost and most common annuals fall into this category. If a surprise spring frost arrives, be prepared to cover them at night.
  • Tender annuals can’t take any frost and most have originated in tropical or sub-tropical climates. Their growth may be stunted in cooler weather (above freezing) and they shouldn’t be planted until late spring.

Besides true annuals, there are tender perennials that are often grown as annuals in climates where they are not hardy. Check with your favorite local nursery for recommendations to grow in your area and when to plant them.


As garden centers start to fill up in spring with enticing displays of annuals, it’s easy to grab everything you can and think about where to plant it all later. If you want a cohesive design (face it, we all know that looks better), here are a few essential tips for designing with annuals:

  • Before you get in your car to go plant shopping, evaluate the areas in your garden where you want annuals. Measure the size of the spaces, know the sun and shade patterns throughout the day, think about how the areas will be viewed and take stock of what plants are nearby.
  • In a bed of strictly annuals — unless you’re buying a mix of plants that is intended to go together, as with some pansies — stick to larger quantities of a few types of plants, rather than the overbusy look of a few of everything.
  • Not all plants need to have flowers to be great additions to the garden. Foliage plants such as coleus, Persian shield, ‘Magilla’ perilla, Joseph’s coat and copper leaf add color and texture whether used as filler or focal point.
  • Color combinations can complement, contrast or match. Too much contrast can be jarring, and too much of the same color can be monotonous. Use several colors in a limited palette that work well together for a cohesive and pleasing look. Arrange samples on the ground at the garden center to see if they will work — chances are, if they look good together in a flat, they’ll look good in the garden!
  • Repeat colors and forms to lead the eye through the garden.
  • Use a variety of textures to give the garden energy. Too many plants with either a fine or a bold texture can be boring to look at.
  • If you’re tucking annuals into a perennial bed, keep in mind the ultimate sizes of the annuals and the perennials so that none of the plants are later overwhelmed by their neighbors.

Learn About Annuals

Annual Flowers to Consider for Your GardenJan Johnsen shares her favorite annuals for non-stop blooms. Annual ViolasDiscover 8 viola varieties in colors ranging from lilac blue to ruddy orange.Sweet PeasGet tips for growing, harvesting and arranging these delicate flowers.Morning Glory VinesHow to grow and care for this fast-growing, easy-care vine.BegoniasLearn about how this tropical plant can be used indoors or in shaded summer beds. Ornamental Kales & CabbagesSee how these hardy plants are used to beautify the winter garden.

Reader Questions

We have just moved from Baltimore to this land of mild winters. I’ve been told I can plant seeds for annuals right now – instead of waiting until spring – to get flowers early next year. What kinds should I try?
See answer

I filled a large flower bed with the new Wave petunias last year, and they made a terrific show at first. But near the end of the summer they just quit. The plants still looked healthy, but the flowering stopped completely.
See answer

Get more gardening advice.

Choosing The Best Annual Flowers That Bloom All Summer

March 14, 2019

annuals, flowers, garden, gardening, landscape, Landscape Design, landscaping, mulch, shrubs, Spring, Summer, trees

Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle — seeds, growth, flowering, and death — in a single growing season. Unlike perennials, which regrow year after year, annuals will not return the following spring. This makes annuals an inexpensive way to play around with color in your garden. Annuals are also a great option for container gardening.

Annuals give maximum garden color and beauty because they bloom continuously throughout the growing season. When you’re looking for annual flowers that bloom all summer and beyond, look for the varieties below!

The Basics of Planting Annuals

When to Plant Flowering Annuals

With the first hints of spring, you may be very eager to get outside and work in the soil, whether it’s freshening up your flower beds or prepping window boxes and containers. But when it comes to planting annuals, timing is everything. Annual varieties are classified as tender annuals, half-hardy annuals, and hardy annuals and each has a very distinct planting window.

Tender annuals — Tender annuals thrive in warm soil and warm air temperatures. They should only be planted once temperatures reach and stay above 55°F. They can be severely damaged or die if they are exposed to frost or temperatures below 32°F.

Tender annuals include: impatiens, geraniums, zinnia, verbena, and coleus.

Half-hardy annuals — These plants should be planted once all danger of freeze and frost has passed, but they do not require that the soil is completely warmed. While they can withstand a few nights where temperatures drop to 35-45°F, you’ll want to wait until evenings are consistently warmer.

Half-hardy annuals include: petunias, marigold, cosmos, lobelia, and gazania.

Hardy annuals — These plant varieties can withstand slight freezing, although not sustained freezing temperatures or drastic drops in temperature. Annuals grown from seeds can be planted in early spring, while container plants can be planted in late spring. Additionally, hardy annuals are better suited to plant in the ground instead of in containers. This is because ground soil can better insulate plant roots.

Hardy annuals include pansy, snapdragon, alyssum, dianthus, and viola.

Ways to Plant Annuals

There are two ways to plant flowering annuals. You can choose to start from seeds or purchase container-planted annuals.

Planting Annuals from Seeds — You can start growing annuals from seeds indoors earlier in the year and then transplant them outdoors when the appropriate weather conditions arrive.

Planting Annuals from Containers — You can also purchase flowering annual plants in pots or trays at your local garden center. When choosing container plants, look for strong, stocky plants. Plants should be a healthy bright green, not yellow or wilted. You should avoid plants with roots growing out the bottom of the container.

Tips for Planting & Caring For Flowering Annuals

Planting Annuals

Healthy soil plays an important role in growing healthy annuals. If your flower beds contain soil that’s less-than-ideal, you may want to add organic matter to the soil, like peat moss, cow manure, or compost. These additives can help loosen soil and hold moisture during hot, dry summers.

When digging your bed, loosen the soil to at least a depth of eight to 12 inches. By taking the time to loosen the soil, your plants will grow and bloom much more quickly. Dig the holes for your annual plants at the same depth they were growing in their containers. Planting too deep can rot the plant. Firm the soil around the roots, and water thoroughly to eliminate air pockets.

Be sure to leave adequate space between each plant. Eight to 12 inches is typically recommended, although you can find specific information on each plant’s tag. If spot-planting annuals (for example, adding them around a mailbox or light post) avoid the temptation of squeezing in plants without leaving enough space for them to grow.

Fertilizing Annuals

Annuals will need additional food because they grow so quickly. You can add a granular fertilizer at the time of planting, such as 5-10-10 formula. You can also choose to top dress your beds with a slow release pellet like Osmocote. The advantage of slow release fertilizer is that one application takes care of your plants for the entire season. If you water your beds or containers regularly, a water-soluble powder such as Peter’s 20-20-20 gives good results. The important thing is to fertilize consistently, following the directions on your fertilizer package.

Mulching Annuals

When the weather gets hot and dry, applying mulch on top of your soil will help your annuals hold moisture and keep blooming. You can use bark, straw, well-dried grass clippings, or cocoa bean shells. Avoid peat moss, as it forms a water repellent barrier if allowed to dry in the sun. Also avoid wet grass, since it will mold and cause disease problems. Never use tan bark as it can burn tender annuals.

Caring for Annuals

Once planted, annuals are remarkably care-free. Here are a few tasks you can take to ensure healthy flowering all summer and into fall.

  • Remove old flowers and seed pods so plants can concentrate on producing more flowers.
  • Weed your beds to reduce competition for food and water.
  • If plants get leggy or floppy, pinch them back several inches. This allows them to branch out and grow to a fuller size.
  • Watch for the occasional insect infestation — aphids are the most common danger.
  • Water thoroughly once a week in dry weather. Be sure to soak the root zones. By only wetting the top of the soil, plants form shallow roots that dry out and die.

Protecting Your Flowering Annuals

Two enemies that can ruin a yard full of beautiful blooms — especially in our region of Central Pennsylvania — are deer and drought.

Deer-Resistant Annuals

A large deer population that’s always on the hunt for food can leave you with beds and containers full of annuals that have been eaten or trampled. You can solve the problems with fencing or repellents, but you can also choose deer-resistant annuals for your garden.

Typically, deer avoid plants that have strong fragrance and plants that have fuzzy, spiny, or bristly textures. Try these flowering annuals to keep deer away:

  1. Ageratum
  2. Snapdragon
  3. Wax Begonia
  4. Heliotrope
  5. Dahlia
  6. Poppy
  7. Geranium
  8. Salvia
  9. Marigold
  10. Verbena

Drought-Resistant Annuals

Summer weather can be unforgiving. Heat, humidity, and insufficient rain can create seasonal droughts. These periods of low rainfall and intense heat can put your flowers under a lot of stress, resulting in withered plants. Choosing plants that require less watering and have deep taproots can help your beds thrive in drought conditions. Try these drought-resistant annuals:

  1. Alyssum
  2. Cosmos
  3. Marigold
  4. Centaurea
  5. Petunias
  6. Verbena
  7. Zinnia
  8. Cleome
  9. Gaillardia
  10. Lantana

Add annuals to your garden for pops of color all season!

Use our plant finder to explore other varieties of annuals or speak to the experts at our Home & Garden centers.

Top 10 Hardy Annuals

In this Top Ten List, our garden expert – Phil McCann – has compiled his favourite Hardy Annuals.

What is a hardy annual? An annual is a plant that completes its life cycle, from germination to the production of seeds, within one year, and then dies. These tend to be your bedding plants. A hardy plant is one that will tolerate light frosts – so they are particularly good spring plants where we can still be caught out be the frosts.

1. Poached egg plants

(limanthes douglasii)

Loved by the bess, the fattened flower heads are a soft buttery yellow and white. Simple to grow and a real boon in the wildlife garden.

2. Bells of Ireland

(moluccella laevis)

Something a little different and top class for all flower arrangers. Green blooms on spikes are produced in the summer. An easy plant and a real talking point.

3. Cosmos

Band on trend with feathery foliage and large daisy-like flowers in pink and white. Scatter the seeds and watch them grow. Sensational.

4. Pot marigolds

A firm favourite and still look great in any garden. Cheery, bright orange flowers, tonnes of seed and, once you have them, you’ve got them for years.

5. Sunflowers

From small to tall, single to branched, yellow to chocolate and easy to grow. Bees love most of them as do children. Surely the perfect annual to grow.

6. Baby’s breath

(gyspophilia paniculata)

Dainty white blooms drifting above greenish grey leaves. Easy to grow, richly rewarding and a flower arranger’s stalwart.

7. Night-scented stock

Oh, the power of perfumr! Pollinated by moths, each plant will fill the evening air with a heady fragrance. Great in containers on a patio. Scentsational!

8. Nasturtium

The easiest of plants to grow and perfect for borders, containers, hanging baskets and growing in cracks in the paving. Red, yellow, orange – choose your colours and sow those seeds. You will never be disappointed in a nasturtium.

9. Love lies bleeding

(amaranthus caudatus)

A sad common name for a spectacular plant. Blood red tassels form the bloom, hanging from exotic looking plants. Perfect for pot culture.

10. Shoo-fly plant

(nicandra physalodes)

Chinese lanterns in washed purple form an attractive display on plants that can shed seed all over the garden. Great for border and containers if you want displays year after year from self-sown plants.

Cold Hardy Annuals – Choosing Annual Plants For Cold Climates

Cold hardy annuals are a great way to extend the color in your garden into the cool months of spring and fall. In warmer climates, they’ll even last through winter. Keep reading to learn more about good annual plants for cold climates.

Cold Tolerant Annuals

It’s important to understand the difference between cold tolerant annuals and perennials. Annuals get their name because their natural life cycle lasts for just one growing season. They won’t live through winter like cold hardy perennials will. That being said, they will last much longer into the cold season than tender annuals, and may actually thrive in cool weather.

If you’re growing cold hardy annual flowers, you can’t go wrong with these annuals that tolerate cold:

  • Calendula
  • Dianthus
  • English Daisy
  • Forget Me Not
  • Clarkia
  • Pansy
  • Snapdragon
  • Stock
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Sweet Pea
  • Viola
  • Wallflower

These cold tolerant annuals can be planted outside in early spring or late summer to provide bright colors at a time when more tender annuals can’t survive. Some other cold tolerant annuals can be sown directly in the ground as seed before the last frost of the spring. These flowering plants include:

  • Marigold
  • Bachelor’s Button
  • Larkspur
  • Sunflower
  • Sweet Pea
  • Black Eyed Susan

Additional Annuals That Tolerate Cold

When selecting cold hardy annuals, nothing says you have to draw the line at flowers. Some vegetables are very tolerant of the cold and provide welcome, intense color. These vegetables can be started early in the spring before the last frost, or in late summer to last through several frosts well into the fall. Some good choices include:

  • Swiss Chard
  • Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mustard

If you live in a climate that experiences light to no winter frosts, these plants will do best planted in the fall to grow through the cool months of winter.


Colourful, quick growing and straightforward, hardy annuals offer an easy fix to fill gaps in young gardens.

Hardy annuals are simplicity itself to grow because they can all be sown directly into finely raked soil in spring. Because they are hardy, you can sow them in autumn (September-October) and the seedlings will over-winter, ready to burst into growth in as soon as temperatures warm up in spring. Alternatively, you can wait until spring to sow. Or do both, and have the longest possible succession of flowers.

Nearly all hardy annuals prefer full sun and well-drained soil, but they don’t need the soil to be particularly rich. Rich soil can lead to plants producing too much leafy growth at the expense of flowers.

Sow in rows to distinguish the seedlings of hardy annuals from the weed seedlings that are bound to emerge and to make hoeing to remove any weeds easy. Scatter the seed along the row as thinly as you can, and once they have germinated, thin the seedlings out to the spacing recommended on the packet.

Which hardy annuals should I sow?

California poppy
Tongue-twisting Eschscholzia californica is mercifully easier to grow than to pronounce. Lacy grey-green foliage forms a loose mound from which the flowers appear in the height of summer. When the sun shines, their satin-sheened petals fling themselves open.There are many different cultivars available with flowers in satsuma-orange, creamy-white, rose pink and fruity berry shades. Height: 45cm.

Colourful eschscholzia open their flowers wide in the sun, from elegant scrolled buds. Photo:

Centaurea ‘Mauve Ball’
Annual cornflowers are among the easiest of hardy annuals to grow. Simply scatter and wait to be rewarded with masses of their ruffled blooms. Bright blue varieties are the usual choice, so try something different with ‘Mauve Ball’ (Chiltern Seeds, tel: 01491 824675). This is a pink-purple shade that would look lovely alongside lime green. In a cutting garden, sow cornflowers in a block with a cane at each corner and run string around the plants to stop them flopping.

Annual cornflowers are normally sky blue, but cultivars such as ‘Mauve Ball’ ring the changes. Photo: Chiltern Seeds

Star-shaped azure blue flowers top fuzzy stems on this distinctive plant, that will soon fill gaps in borders or the herb garden. Worth growing for their colour alone, the flowers are also edible and are most often frozen into ice cubes or used to decorate a jug of Pimm’s. Scatter them across summer salads to appreciate their subtle cucumber flavour. The bristly leaves are edible too, best wilted like spinach and used to make a sauce or stuffing for pasta.

The starry blue flowers of borage. Photo:

Crepis rubra
Its flowers may look similar to a dandelion, but this lovely species of hawk’s beard is no weed. Thriving in poor soil, its pale pink blooms are held above a rosette of lance-shaped, grey-green leaves. Like its lookalike, it does have a tendency to self-seed, but prompt deadheading will nip this in the bud.

Crepis rubra is an ideal choice for borders with a more naturalistic look. Photo:

Evocatively named and distinctively flowered, most gardeners are familiar with Nigella damascena and the enchanting inflated seed pods that follow the flowers. Its feathery foliage is excellent for filling gaps, and varieties are available in a range of colours, from the familiar blue, to pure white and pink. Leave the resilient seedheads in place to add interest in winter.

The distinctive flowers of love-in-a-mist, which will happily seed around to provide a haze of colour. Photo:

Calendula officinalis ‘Pink Surprise’
Say the word ‘marigold’ and the colour that most often springs to mind is a strident orange. But there are subtler, prettier choices such as ‘Pink Surprise’ (available from Chiltern Seeds), a muted shade of peach that would do well in a pastel-coloured border. Calendula self-seed with abandon, but are easily pulled up if they appear where they are not wanted, or pull them out the moment flowers fade to avoid the problem.

The subtle peach-orange flowers of marigold variety ‘Pink Surprise’. Photo: Chiltern Seeds

Salvia horminum
Clary sage is on the cusp of being a ‘hardy’ annual, so wait until spring before sowing if you are in a cold part of the country, but in milder areas, try a row or two in autumn. Colourful bracts make this annual stand out, emerging from the top of each flower stem like the wings of perched butterflies. Sugar pink, purple or white, they have a long flowering period and last well as a cut flower too.

The bright, butterfly-like bracts of clary sage. Photo:

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