There are tons of easy annuals to grow from seed. In fact, some of the most popular garden flowers can be started from seeds. If you want to grow your own flowers, then this is for you. In this post, I will share a list of my favorite easy-to-grow flower seeds.
Every year I grow tons of summer annual flowers in my gardens. The variety always changes, but there are several types of annuals that are staples in my garden. The best part is that they also happen to be some of the easiest annual flowers to grow from seed.
I get a lot of questions from readers asking about the best flowers to plant, and which are the easiest annuals to grow from seed. So I thought it would be fun to write a list to share with everyone.
Annual flowers growing in my summer garden
- 13 Easy Annuals To Grow From Seed
- Hardy Annuals: Part 1
- Welcome spring with these hardy annual flowers
- “What Is A ‘Hardy Annual?”
- “What Is A Hardy Annual?” Well first off let’s start with a definition:
13 Easy Annuals To Grow From Seed
There’s no order to this list of annuals, but I’ve broken it down into two sections. First, I list the easiest flower seeds to grow indoors. The second section is for seeds that are easier to start outdoors by direct sowing them into the garden.
Easiest Flower Seeds To Grow Indoors
The annual flowers list in this section are the easiest flowers to grow from seed indoors. You certainly could direct sow some of the seeds in this section. But, over the years I have found that the best way to grow these flowers from seeds is to start them indoors. Here’s my list of the best flowers to start indoors…
1. Marigold – Marigolds aren’t only beautiful, they attract beneficial insects to the garden. They’re also extremely easy annuals to grow from seed. To ensure that you have plenty of plants, it’s best to start the seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost in the spring. My favorite varieties to grow are french marigold and Crackerjack
Marigolds are one of the easiest flowers to grow from seed
2. Castor bean – Castor bean plants are stunning in the garden. They’re really fast growing flower seeds, so wait to start them until 4-6 weeks before last frost. The seeds can be a bit tricky to germinate, but you can learn exactly how to grow castor bean seeds here. If you’ve never grown them before, definitely get some red castor bean seeds.
3. Celosia – There are tons of different types of celosia flowers (aka cockscomb), and they are all gorgeous in the garden! What I love the most about them is that there are some really cool and unique varieties to grow (pink flamingo and purple fan are a few of my go-tos). For best results, plant the seeds inside 4-6 weeks before your last frost date.
Related Post: Tips For Growing Seeds Indoors For Beginners
4. Zinnia – Zinnias make a wonderful addition to any garden. They add tons of color, and make great cut flowers too. Plus butterflies and hummingbirds can’t resist them. They are quite possibly the easiest flowers to grow from seed. Plant them indoors 4-5 weeks before your last frost date. Two of the varieties I like the best are dwarf zinnia mix and the solar flare mix
Zinnias are fast growing flowers that bloom all summer
5. Coleus – Coleus plants add a pop of color to shady spots in your flower garden, and they also grow very well in containers. Technically they’re flowering plants, but the flowers are small and not very interesting to us (but the bees love them). The foliage is what stands out on this plant. Start the seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before your last frost date. I always plant a rainbow mix seeds for the best variety.
6. Cosmos – Cosmos flowers add bright pops of color to the gardens and the foliage is cool too. They’re easy flowers to grow, and they explode with blooms in the late summer. The seeds will sometimes self-sow, and they could be direct sown. However, they can take a long time to flower, so I recommend planting seeds indoors 4-6 weeks before your last spring frost to give them a head start. My top picks to grow are Sensation and Sea Shells blend.
Cosmos are super easy-to-grow annual flowers
Easiest Annual Seeds To Start Outdoors
This section contains a list of easy annuals to grow from seeds planted directly in the ground. Annuals that reseed themselves are especially easy to grow in the garden.
Some of the seeds in this list will grow just fine if you plant them indoors. But it’s more difficult to grow seeds inside, and also to care for the seedlings. Here’s my list of direct-sow flower seeds…
7. Calendula – Not only are calendula flowers beautiful to grow in the garden, they’re medicinal too. The seeds readily self sow in the fall in my garden. But if you want to make sure they grow for you every year, then direct sow the seeds either in the fall, or as soon as the ground is workable in early spring. Two varieties that I like to grow are Zeolights and Resina.
8. Snapdragon – No annual garden is complete without snapdragons. Hummingbirds and bees love them, and I do too. For many years I tried starting the seeds indoors with mixed success. But once I started planting seeds directly in my garden, they grew reliably every year. Sow the seeds directly in the ground in the fall or early spring. I always grow a snapdragon mix, and Night and Day are gorgeous too.
9. Moss rose – A cute little succulent ground cover, moss rose (portulaca) will create a carpet of flowers in your garden. The easiest way to grow them is to sprinkle the seeds over your garden in the fall, and then again in early spring for better coverage. I grow either a double mix blend, or a variety called Pastel Sundial.
10. Petunia – Petunias are annual plants that flower all summer, which is why they are so popular. Pollinators flock to them, and they’re excellent for growing in containers or in the garden. They’re also some of the easiest flowers to grow from seed. Sprinkle the seeds in your garden in either the fall or in early spring. There are tons of varieties, but Frappe Rose, Red Velour and Purple Wave are spectacular.
Coleus is one of the best annuals to grow from seed
11. Sunflower – Who doesn’t adore sunflowers? They make wonderful cut flowers, and are total bee magnets. If you have kids, these are one of the best flowers to start from seed. Sow the seeds directly into the garden as soon as the ground has warmed up in the spring. You can’t go wrong with your basic Lemon Queen, but Drop Dead Red are beautiful too.
12. Nasturtium – If you want to grow edible flowers, then make sure to add nasturtiums to the top of your list. The spicy leaves and flowers taste similar to radishes, and are a yummy addition to salads. The seedlings hate to be transplanted, so the seeds must be sown directly into the garden. Wait until the soil is warm in the spring before sowing the seeds. I recommend Fiesta Blend, but be sure to also try climbing ones like Amazon Jewel or Spitfire.
13. Morning glory – Morning glories are climbing vines, and super easy annuals to grow from seed. I love them because they’re fast growing, and will quickly cover a trellis. They tend to reseed themselves, but for best results, you should direct sow them in your garden before the ground freezes in the fall. I like planting a variety of mixed color seeds the best.
Morning glories are annual flowers that reseed themselves
Growing annuals from seeds is fun, and it’s a great way to save yourself some money every year. I hope that this list of easy annuals to grow from seed has helped give you lots of ideas for easy flowers to plant in your garden.
If you want to learn the basics of how to grow seeds indoors, then my Starting Seeds Indoors eBook is perfect for you! It’s a quick-start guide that will show you how to get started with growing seeds indoors. .
Otherwise, if you want to learn everything you need to know about growing any type of seed you want, then enroll in the Seed Starting Course! It’s a fun, comprehensive online course for anyone.
More Easy Plants To Grow From Seed
- 17 Easiest Seeds To Start Indoors
- 23 Easy Vegetables To Grow From Seed
- 17 Easiest Seeds To Direct Sow
Share your top picks for easy annuals to grow from seed in the comments below.
“We order small amounts of seeds more frequently, so that ensures that our quality is first rate. We’ll never go down the mechanised route, because we offer roughly 3,500 types of seeds. Some of these sell in small quantities, but we keep them because we want to satisfy customers, like our dad,” says Sally.
Forty-six of their 96 suppliers are private individuals who supply the unusual. Many of them have been contributing for decades.
Douglas’s extensive library, with obscure titles like Cactaceae and Cornucopia, lines the office shelves. The age of plant hunting on Google was yet to come.
The 300,000 seed packets are still hand-printed and hand-filled with generous amounts, although the sisters have added germination instructions to the packets. The number of seeds, filled by volume, can be seen on the website although it varies from 26,000 for dust-like nicotiana to four if the seeds are very large.
They continue to follow their father’s advice to be generous and to provide enough seeds for the average gardener.
“We want to exceed their expectations,” Heather explains. “Basically, prices are similar, but you get more for your money.”
The hand-filled packets have an artisan quality, especially now that the seed industry involves large multinationals all selling the same things.
“We do three days each every week and our mother still comes in and packs the seeds sometimes. We have too many product lines to go down the mechanisation route and our loyal customers, many of them horticultural fanatics, want to buy seeds they can’t find elsewhere and that’s why they come to us.”
- Ammi Majus
This is one of our star plants – its lacy white flowers are the perfect counterpoint to more colourful summer blooms and, with its ferny, fresh green foliage, it is an excellent filler for the summer border, weaving through it to create a naturalistic feel. It reaches up to 1m and is great for cutting, making any arrangement look effortless and stylish. Sow in modular trays in two batches – one in autumn, one in early spring. Also try: later-flowering A. visnaga.
- Antirrhinum majus ‘Chantilly Bronze’
A beautiful new variety of snapdragon, this has 90cm tall spires in the most unusual colours, modulating from deep red to rusty orange and rose pink. Others in the series, including ‘Chantilly Peach’ and ‘Chantilly Pink’, all have the same, open butterfly-type blooms. Snapdragons are half hardy, so it is best to sow them under cover in modules in early spring, to be planted out after the last frost. Also try: A. majus ‘Potomac Lavender’.
- Calendula officinalis ‘Orange Flash’
Not nearly as gaudy as its name suggests, this recent introduction has pale apricot-hued double flowers with coppery streaks on the undersides of the petals. It blooms all summer and into autumn with regular deadheading. Similar, but with smaller, slightly darker flowers, is ‘Touch of Red Buff’. Marigolds are very easy to grow from seed, either sown direct or in modular seed trays in autumn or mid-spring. Also try: C. officinalis ‘Indian Prince’.
- Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Fizzy Pink’
Both these colourful, half-hardy annuals have elegant, semi-double flowers on 90cm tall willowy stems and, like most cosmos, are excellent for cutting. They are very satisfying to grow, germinating readily from large seeds that can be sown individually in modules. The seedlings can then either be planted out direct from the module or potted on into 9cm pots before planting out in late spring or early summer. Also try: C. bipinnatus ‘Fizzy Rose Picotee’ and new variety C. bipinnatus ‘Xsenia’.
- Eschscholzia californica ‘Alba’
This creamy white Californian poppy is very different from its brightly coloured, more familiar cousins but is equally easy to grow – even in the poorest of soils. Reaching about 40cm tall, it makes a good filler for the front of a border and should be sown direct in mid spring, as it does not like to be transplanted. Also try: E. californica ‘Thai Silk Milkmaid’.
- Nigella papillosa ‘African Bride’
A more refined cousin of the cottage-garden favourite love-in-a-mist, this variety of nigella has large, flamboyant white flowers that hold their petals horizontally outwards, with prominent purple-black stamens in the centre. The blooms fade to leave equally dramatic, dark seed pods. These hardy annuals will reach up to 60cm and can be sown direct in the ground in autumn or spring. Also try: N. papillosa ‘Midnight’.
- Papaver somniferum ‘Lauren’s Grape’
This sophisticated charmer has large crushed-silk blooms in deepest plummy purple set against pale grey-green leaves and can reach 90cm. Opium poppies are fleeting beauties, but so worth having for the short time they are in flower. Easy to grow from seed, they resent root disturbance so are best sown direct in mid-spring. Also try: P. somniferum ‘Sissinghurst White’.
- Phlox drummondii ‘Blushing Bride’
One of the newest of the half-hardy annual phloxes, this is, we think, every bit as good as ‘Crème Brûlée’. The silvery-white flowers bleed into rose pink in the centre on stems up to 50cm tall, which make them good for a vase. Seeds should be sown under cover in early to mid spring in a modular tray and planted out after the last frost. Also try: P. drummondii grandiflora ‘Cherry Caramel’.
- Salvia viridis ‘oxford Blue’ or ‘Blue Monday’
An old-fashioned stalwart, clary sage is an excellent candidate for the cutting garden. With spires of deep purple bracts 50cm tall, it will flower all summer long and grows readily from seed scattered in autumn or spring. Also try: S. viridis ‘Pink Sundae’.
- Scabiosa stellata ‘Ping Pong’ or ‘sternkugel’
This is grown for its spherical seed heads rather than its flowers. Each papery drumstick globe is made up of green, cone-shaped bracts with maroon edging, delicate veining and tiny stars in the centre – the remnants of the old flower. They are perfect for arrangements, contrasting with almost any other flower colour or shape. The blooms themselves are understated but lovely – cream with a hint of pale blue. Sow in autumn or spring, in modules or direct. Also try: S. atropurpurea ‘Fata Morgana’.
- Papaver somniferum ‘sissinghurst white’
Hardy Annuals: Part 1
Once regarded as crucial elements in any garden, hardy annuals have been out of fashion in recent years. But as they undergo a revival Graham Rice starts a two part series by looking at the basic growing techniques.
The definition of a hardy annual is simple enough. It’s a plant that goes through its entire life cycle in one season and which can be sown outside in the open garden in spring where it is to flower. In many areas this carries with it the implication that it can happily survive the spring frosts as a seedling.
But it has to be said at the outset that in practice, this definition is a narrow one. In nature, some annuals germinate in late summer or early autumn and overwinter as young plants before surging ahead in spring. Many plants which have become adapted as weeds of cornfields like cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus) fit into this category. They germinate after harvest and flower and seed in summer, shedding at least some of their seed soon enough not to get collected with the crop. The definition can also be extended to plants which are actually perennial in habit but which flower quite happily in their first year when sown outside and also to plants which are frost tender but which flower so quickly from seed that even in colder areas they can besown outside after the last frost and still give a good display.
Site and soil
Many’s the gardening book that has recommended hardy annuals be grown in the hottest sun and the poorest, driest possible soil. There is the hint of good reason for this but it needs dramatic adaptations for the garden. In nature many annuals grow in situations where there is only a short time for them to grow and produce seed. This may be because they grow in semi-arid regions where the soil is only moist following brief seasonal rains and the plants must grow quickly to make the most of this temporary moisture before the sun dries the soil. Or a speedy life cycle may be necessary because the plants grow in unstable soil such as screes, windswept areas or soil frequently disturbed by animals.
In these situations, annuals grow quickly and flower with great flamboyancy but often on small plants and for only a short time. The soil is poor in plant foods and dry so there is a pressure for the whole cycle to be over quickly.
In the garden this is not what is required. Gardeners need their plants to flower for long periods and preferably on plants a little more bushy than the single stems so often seen in the wild. So although annuals will grow and flower in poor, dry conditions for a good display in the garden the soil should be rather better.
Sun is necessary for the best display although most hardy annuals will do well enough in a site that is only in the sun for half a day. Heavy soils are the least suitable for hardy annuals though they can be much improved by the addition of organic matter and especially by forking in sharp sand or grit to improve the drainage. Good drainage is one thing that really does help most hardy plants. But this should not be taken to such excess that they are constantly thirsty. Good drainage is important, if the soil is retentive too then growth and flowering will last all the longer. Sandy and gravelly soils will be much improved for annuals, as for many other plants by the addition of garden compost.
Hardy annuals appreciate a little more than starvation rations too. Personally I find that on most soils a handful of a general balanced fertiliser such as Growmore (7-7-7) raked in before sowing is quite enough as long as there is some organic matter in the soil. Some recommend an application of superphosphate at sowing time and a general fertiliser later but I have not found this necessary.
The sowing technique for hardy annuals is simple enough, although there are some variations which depend on personal preference.
The site should be forked over lightly, trodden again and then the fertiliser dressing raked in. At this stage opinions diverge but seem to be coming down in favour of sowing in rows rather than broadcasting the seed. So, first check the seed packet for advice on sowing depth and spacing. If your seed comes from a seed exchange, a society or a friend then use your wisdom and your reference books to help.As a guide sow seeds at about twice or three times their own depth – take no notice of the precise recommendations sometimes given in terms of fractions of an inch, we all know that such precision is impossible. Space the rows out at a spacing of about half the eventual height of the plants.
Rake the soil to a fine tilth and then using the corner of the rake, the point of a cane or even a finger well hardened by horticultural toil make a shallow drill of the depth required. If you’re sowing a number of hardy annuals in a large group, orientate the rows of the different varieties at contrasting angles to each other rather than parallel to avoid too much regimentallity.
When it comes to the actual sowing of the seed, there are many ways of going about it. I feel that the important thing is to be able to see the seed falling on to the soil so that it can be sown thinly enough, but not too thinly.
Perhaps the easiest way of doing this is to cut the top off the packet with a pair of scissors to leave a clean edge. A crease is then made half way along one side of the cut top and the edges of the packet held between the thumb and second finger. The packet can then be tipped slightly so that the seed runs into the crease and the packet tapped gently with the first finger to dislodge the seed. We are always enjoined to sow thinly and this is very wise. But a balance must be struck depending on the number of seeds available, the viability of the seed and the quality of the soil tilth. Some packets, especially those of newer varieties may not contain many seeds. In that case if the soil is good the seed of many plants can be sown very thinly, say at 1 inch (2.5cm) intervals, but if the soil is less good, sowing at a closer spacing in just one row may be preferable. Later, seedlings can be transplanted at their final spacings into the other rows. Seed from seed exchanges and from your own garden may not be of the very high germination quality that usually comes from the seed companies so sowing more thickly may be advisable. If it is not possible to work the soil into a fine tilth this too may necessitate sowing less thinly.
Covering the seed is a simple matter, the back of the rake can be used to draw a little soil over the drills and this can then be tamped down gently by the flat of the rake. If you have a problem with sparrows or other birds taking dust baths in the soil after sowing, stretch some black cotton thread over the sown area or place some twiggy brushwood over the bed to keep the birds off.
The speed at which the seedlings come through depends on the weather. If the tilth was well prepared and you have used seed from a seed company you will probably find germination is fairly even. Otherwise it may be a little erratic. The seed packet will usually give you a recommended final spacing and at the first thinning you should not remove all the seedlings that will eventually be unwanted. First of all thin to give an inch (2.5cm) between seedlings, then to half the eventual spacing as the seedlings grow then eventually to the final spacing. That way, if anything goes wrong there will always be a few spares.
Thinning without disturbing the seedlings you wish to retain can be difficult. The first thinning when the seedlings are small can usually be done simply by pulling the seedlings sideways away from the row, they should come out quite easily. If the soil is dry, water the drills well before starting. At the next thinning use the following technique. Place the first and second fingers closely on either side of the seedling you wish to retain and press firmly on the soil. This will keep the seedling in place while you remove other unwanted seedlings with the other hand. If you wish to transplant seedlings, use a narrow trowel such as a bulb trowel to remove seedlings individually with a little soil on their roots. Plant them at once and water them in promptly.
Many hardy annuals need support, especially in garden soil which is a little bit richer than the soil they find in their wild homes. This encourages them to grow a little taller and a little softer than they would normally – as well as flowering better. There are a number of different ways of supporting the plants.
The simplest is probably to use brushwood to support the plants that experience tells you are likely to flop. In different areas different materials are available but hazel (Corylus avellana) is especially good as it grows in flat, fan like sprays making ideal supporting material. But although hazel is the best natural support, birch or whatever other twiggy material is available is good too. Choose twigs which when pushed firmly into the ground reach a height of about two-thirds of the eventual height of the plants concerned. Place it around the group when the plants are still quite small so that the plants never flop and secure it by running string all the way round looping it around the main branches as you go. A few extra pieces in the middle of larger groups can be useful. As the plants get larger side branches will grow through the twigs and hide them.
An alternative that is easy for anyone to get is bamboo canes and although less attractive they are nevertheless very serviceable. Put a cane in at each corner of the group and run strings around and across. Use strings at two heights for taller plants.
Another method which I’ve found to work well for beds and borders given over entirely to hardy annuals is to use netting. Immediately after sowing all the groups knock in stakes at the corners of the bed and at 2ft (60cm) intervals in between. Then cover the bed in wide mesh plastic netting, the sort used to support peas and beans is ideal. Slide it over the posts and lay it on the ground where it will prevent birds creating havoc.
When the plants come through lift the netting slightly and in stages to a height of about 9 inches (23cm) so that the plants can grow through.
The same idea can be adapted for individual groups by using dahlia stakes and smaller pieces of netting or sometimes two pieces at different heights for taller plants.
In Hardy Annuals Part 2 I shall discuss late summer and autumn sowing, watering and other cultural matters and I shall recommend some unusual varieties.
Graham Rice is author of A Handbook of Annuals and Bedding Plants published by Christopher Helm (UK) and Timber Press (USA).
Source of article
Growing From Seed – Spring 1988 Vol. 2 Number 2
© The Seed Raising Journal from Thompson & Morgan
Welcome spring with these hardy annual flowers
Earlier this week, I shared a newly expanded list of my top DO’s and DON’Ts when it comes to starting seeds. Today I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite hardy annual flowers that can be sown early inside to get a jump start on the growing season.
Among the many other benefits of transplanting plants that you started from seed indoors (versus direct seeding in your garden or field) is that it enables you to transplant strong, healthy plants exactly where you want them. Plus, established plants generally experience less pressure from weeds and pests.
If you have access to a greenhouse or an indoor space where you can rig-up some simple grow lights, there are a number of flowers that you can start indoors. For many varieties, you won’t want to start seeds until 6-8 weeks prior to your last frost. (If you are not sure of your area’s frost-free dates, you can enter your zip on which will provide you with an estimate).
There are a number of hardy annual flowers, however, that you can start indoors even earlier, which is great for gardeners itching to get their hands back in the dirt this time of year. Hardy annuals (also called cool season or cold tolerant flowers) generally prefer cooler growing conditions and young plants can tolerate a light frost. Most can be transplanted prior to your last frost, typically as soon as the ground can be worked. Just don’t forget to harden-off your baby plants prior to transplanting.
Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella papillosa): This versatile plant produces both beautiful flowers and unusual pods. Designers drool over the the black pods while I adore the green in mixed bouquets and arrangements. Pods can also be dried and look lovely in fall bouquets. Nigella seeds are most often direct seeded, as they dislike having their roots disturbed, but they can be started early indoors and carefully transplanted into your garden. Because their bloom window is relatively short, I recommend multiple succession sowings of these beauties. A few of my favorites are ‘African bride’ and ‘Cramer’s Plum’ and my Starry Night custom blend (pictured above). Another must-have for the cut flower garden is ‘Transformer’ which features airy, wispy foliage and small, golden yellow flowers.
Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis): Each and every Bells of Ireland plant churns out masses of beautiful, fragrant stems that make bouquets look lush and vibrant. Bells of Ireland seeds have a reputation for being hard to germinate, but the key is providing a cold treatment. To grow, we pre-chill the seed in the freezer or put freshly sowed trays outside for a few weeks before returning them to the heat. I know some growers that have great success starting their Bells of Ireland by first placing their seeds on moistened paper towel in a ziplock bag and then they stick the seeds in the refrigerator for a few weeks before sowing them in trays. Whichever method you choose, germination can sometimes be slow and erratic, so be patient.
Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus): For many years we would thousands of snapdragons for natural grocery stores and sell every useable stem in the patch! Madame Butterfly snapdragons are among my favorites. This gorgeous group of ruffled butterfly-type blooms is one of our most requested and best loved crops of the summer! Our buyers would always jump up and down clapping when the first bunches were delivered.
Snapdragon seeds are pretty easy to germinate and grow, but be forewarned: the seeds are teeny tiny and can make you feel like you are going crosseyed. Sowing them takes a steady hand and a bit of patience, but it is totally worth it when you see the pretty blooms later in the season. Be sure to barely cover them and water them from the bottom (see our Seed Starting 101 photo tutorial for more details) until they are big enough to withstand a heavier overhead drink.
Sweet Peas: These sweet little blooms hold a huge space in my heart and an even bigger space in my garden. My longtime favorites have been ‘Nimbus,’ ‘Mollie Rilstone’ and ‘Erewhon’ (pictured above). After recently expanding our line of specialty sweet pea seeds, my favorites list has grown considerably. New cultivars that stole my heart include ‘Mr. P ‘, ‘Promise’ and ‘Sir Jimmy Shand‘. A while back I wrote an in-depth Sweet Pea Roundup post with tons of information on how to grow sweet peas, so be sure to read it for some serious sweet pea inspiration.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea): My two favorite foxgloves are Camelot Cream and Dalmation Peach and unlike biennials, these two cultivars will bloom without any cold which means they can be grown as an annual. Like snapdragons, foxglove seeds are tiny and can be washed away easily, so be sure to plant in pre-moistened seed starting or potting mix or bottom water to protect this precious seed.
Dusty Miller (Cineraria maritima): One of the most productive and unique foliage plants around, this special Dusty Miller features tall, thick stems with large, smooth-edged silver leaves. Seed is sometimes slow to start; bottom watering is recommended until plants emerge. Seedlings do not look silver when very young but color up as they mature.
Iceland Poppies (Papaver nudicaule): The brilliant silk-like petals and citrusy scent of these beauties are intoxicating and they add a romantic element to any bouquet. There are lots of poppies to choose from, but some of my favorites include Champagne Bubbles, and Sherbet Mix. Poppy seed is tiny and can be washed away easily, so be sure to plant in pre-moistened seed starting or potting mix and bottom water rather than overhead water to protect this precious seed from being washed away.
Chinese forget-me-nots (Cynoglossum amabile): This unique crop is worth considering both because of their delicate flowers and the fact that they can be successfully grown as annuals. Best known for their blue hue (like ‘Blue Showers’, above left) they also come in a lovely soft pink color,(‘Mystic Pink’, above right). Be sure to get new seed every year since freshness is vital to good germination with this crop. Also, sow twice as many as you’ll need because germination can be quite irregular. Read my past Flower Focus post on this great flower.
Larkspur: This is of the easiest hardy annual varieties to start from seed. I particularly love ‘Earl Gray’ and our new Summer Skies Mix, a Floret custom color blend. Last summer I fell in love with Larkspur ‘Smokey Eyes‘ (pictured above) which has icy pale lavender petals delicately edged with green. I generally direct seed it into the field in the fall and then follow with two rounds of transplants that I start indoors, one in late winter and then one in early spring.
Dianthus: This workhorse of the garden is such an import crop for us that while it isn’t a personal favorite (too bright!) I still plant and pick row after row all season long. The Dianthus ‘Amazon’ and the ‘Sweet’ series are both consistent performers with great stem length and nice sized blooms. Unlike biennial Dianthus, neither require cold temps to set flowers so they can be grown as annuals.
Stock (Matthiola incana): One stem of stock in a bouquet provides a delicious spicy scent that will stop hurried customers dead in their tracks. Stock comes in a wide range of colors and will withstand cold temperatures, making them a great choice for late winter seed starting, even in cooler climates. This is a great flower for small scale flower farmers with season extension structures such as a hoophouse, high tunnel or caterpillar tunnel. Because stock blooms early in a protected structure, it can greatly expand your spring sales window. Stock comes in a wide range of colors, but my favorites include ‘Apricot‘ and ‘Malmaison Pink’.
Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea cyanus): I have a love-hate relationship with these guys. I love their pretty wildflower blooms in early summer bouquets but I confess that I really hate picking them. I love them. I hate them. Then I love them again because they bloom when most of the rest of the field is still bare. No cutting garden is complete without at least a little patch of Bachelor’s Buttons, especially ‘Classic Fantastic’ or ‘Classic Magic.’
Other wonderful hardy annuals worth mentioning include: Chocolate Lace Flower, Bupleurum, Queen Anne’s Lace and Honewort.
In you live in a mild climate, many hardy annuals can be direct sown in the garden in late summer/early fall, typically 6-8 weeks prior to your first frost. The plant will form foliage that will overwinter and then send up flower spikes in the spring and bloom much earlier than tender annuals. If you live in a cold climate and have limited space to start seeds indoors, I recommend learning more about winter sowing techniques.
If you love hardy annuals, be sure to snag one of our special Hardy Annual Seed Collections available exclusively in the Floret Shop (but hurry–there are only a few left!). This special collection is packaged in a cute reusable gift tin and includes a great grouping of six easy-to-grow cool summer annuals.
Whether you are ready to start seeding today, or simply looking for inspiration to round out your seed order, be sure to add a few of these favorites into your fields and cutting gardens. After the dark gray days of winter, your spring harvest of beautiful, bountiful blooms will be that much sweeter!
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“What Is A ‘Hardy Annual?”
“What Is A Hardy Annual?” Well first off let’s start with a definition:
“The definition of a hardy annual is simple enough. It’s a plant that goes through its entire life cycle in one season and which can be sown outside in the open garden in spring where it is to flower. In many areas this carries with it the implication that it can happily survive the spring frosts as a seedling. ” Graham Rice.
“Half-hardy annuals are plants that die if exposed to the cold, so they can’t go into the garden until after the last frost and should be sown indoors in spring. They’ll keep going until killed by the first autumn frost.”
Larkspur ‘Giant Imperials’
In the cut flower patch I like to have hardy annuals as the majority of the flowers. They are easy to grow and provide heaps and heaps of flowers all summer long. They can be sown in August/September to provide flowers a little earlier the following year…and bigger plants too. They may lack some of the glamour of the half hardy annuals but they make up for it in the amount they will work for you.
‘Black Ball’ & ‘Blue Ball’ Cornflowers doing their thing at asmallholding.blogspot.com
Growing hardy annuals in a productive cut flower garden to provide flowers for the house is becoming increasingly in vogue…I’m not going to bang on about the rubbishy flowers that are grown in mono-cultured, chemically saturated hothouses in South America and then flown over (total and utter environmental short-sightedness) to the UK in Jumbo Jets…no…I won’t mention it even… But growing your own flowers is both simple and rewarding.
Yee Olde Higgledy Allotment Many Moons Ago. Calendula, Godetia & Cornflowers Looking Saucy.
If you have never tried to grow your own cut flowers here are ’16 Tips To Get You Started…’
Scabiosa ‘Crown’ with Rudbeckia ‘Marmalade’ getting in on the action…
Guide: “When Can I sow My Annual Flower Seeds Direct Into The Soil?”
Have a wonderful weekend…the sun is out at last! 🙂