What Is An Annual?
Why Grow Annuals?
There are many reasons gardener might use annuals, aside from the fact that they provide constant interest all season long, they are also very easy to grow. Annuals are so quick to bloom, they are the perfect solution for those of us who crave instant gratification! Annual flower complete their life cycle in one growing season, during which time they grow, flower and produce seed. Although some varieties will self-sow, or naturally reseed themselves, the parents of each seed are unknown and certain characteristics may be lost. Self-seeders such as alyssum, petunia and impatiens will scatter seed freely.
You can get great cut flowers from annuals, they add so much color to the garden and they are easy to grow. Year after year, you can have a brand new garden to look at and enjoy. Annuals continuously flower because they do not have to store up energy in their roots to be used to rise from the ground next year. They will continuously bloom the more you “deadhead”, or cut old spent flowers off. Annuals are also great for temporary plantings, such as living in a rental property or trying to beautify your summer cottage. They are wonderful in your perennial beds as filler—or they can give your bed color while you wait for perennials to bloom. Annuals also work great in containers to provide some color where you might want it around the yard, whether it be the patio, the deck, the front steps, or in a hanging basket.
Plant Selection Tips
In choosing a site, consider sunlight (full sun to heavy shade), slope of the site (which affects temperature and drainage), and soil type. For a good display, select a limited number of plants for a defined space. Observe the flowering times of perennials in your neighborhood. That way you will be able to choose plants that will flower together and plants that will be showy when little else is in bloom. To obtain details on particular plants or groups of plants, consult plant societies, specialty books, or your local greenhouse or botanical garden.
Select plants for texture, color, spread, flower form and height. Choose plants that are compact and dark green. Avoid buying plants with thin, pale yellow stems and leaves. Buy named varieties of plants, as their disease resistance, heat and cold tolerance, growth habits and colors are known.
A Few Other Things to Consider
¨ Sun or Shade—Sun-loving annual need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. “Direct” sunlight means sunlight in the middle of the day, when the sun is the most intense. Shade-loving annuals can thrive in fewer than 6 hours of direct sunlight.
¨ Ease – Because annuals sprout, flower, and die within a single growing season, caring for them is quite a bit easier than the year round work you might have to do for perennial plants. For instance, you don’t have to worry about plant hardiness (ability to survive frosts) when choosing or caring for annuals.
¨ Color and Variety – The hundreds of species of annuals offer a gardener an incredible amount of colors, shapes, textures, and heights. The color and variety of annuals can really make a garden stand out.
¨ Flexibility – Because annuals live only one year, they are perfect for experimentation. You can try one annual each year without having to uproot it if you don’t like the result. Just buy a different type of annual next year.
¨ Color – Think about what colors you want to appear where in your garden. Pay attention both to how the colors of the flowers will complement each other and the surrounding context of your house and garden.
¨ Height – Don’t surround a group flowers that grow to a height of one foot with other flowers that grow three feet high. Pay attention to the mature heights of the flowers you’re buying. Often you can “frame” groups of flowers by surrounding taller flowers with shorter flowers.
¨ Water and Sun – Don’t plant a sun-loving flower in a part of your garden that gets significant shade during the day. Similarly, don’t plant flowers that enjoy slightly drier conditions in a part of your garden where water runoff gathers.
¨ Timing – Timing is a part of gardening that is unique to annuals. Because different annuals bloom at different times, you can plan not just the layout of your garden but how its blooms will grow and change over time, kind of like fireworks in slow-motion.
The Pacific Northwest has mild summers and cool winters. The flowering season is from spring through to fall. Cool season annuals bloom in the spring and should be planted in late March through to mid April. Warm-season annuals bloom in the summer, and should be planted in May through to mid June.