When you visit your local garden center do you get overwhelmed by plants and theand the beautiful colors surrounding you? Even experienced gardeners visiting stores can be overwhelmed.
You know you want color in your gardens but you're not sure which flowering plants would be good for your particular situation. after all, there are flowering annuals, flowering perennials, flowering shrubs, trees, and more. How do you incorporate all of these into your Gardens?
We have other articles here that examine those topics. However this article and section on Garden Masterz is devoted to just annuals.
Let's talk about the first obvious question: “What is the difference between an annual and a perennial?”
You’ll need to know this as you're looking through the shelves of various flowering plants. Why? Because each type of plant blooms differently. We have an article that's devoted to this exact topic. If you don't know the difference read our article about annuals vs perennials here.
For now let's talk about annuals.
If you don't know, annuals are plants that bloom once during the growing season and after that they die and will not come back. Therefore, they need to be planted every season.
Oftentimes professionals will distinguish between two types of annuals - summer annuals and fall annuals.
As the names imply, summer annuals are usually planted at the end of spring or beginning of summer and usually last until the first frost of fall. Once they get hit by a frost, they are gone forever and need to be pulled out.
Fall annuals on the other hand are usually planted in the fall and are hardy in colder temperatures. One in particular will overwinter and keep blooming and growing through the following spring.
Complicating matters is the fluid nature of the two types of plants. Knowing what plants are annuals and which are not is often determined by the hardiness of the plants and one other important factor - the weather!
Plants that are considered annuals in colder planting zones could actually be perennials in warmer climates. In addition, even colder climates sometimes have warmer than normal winters which will cause a plant that is normally an annual to come back unexpectedly.
It happens, but that's what makes gardening so fascinating. Just remember. Plants that are annuals in my region may be perennials where you live.
When shopping for plants annuals will usually be separated from perennials to make it easy to shop. Once you know the difference, you will usually not have to worry about confusing the two because of the way they are stocked.
Why You Should Include Annuals In Your Gardens
If you are like most people you want a colorful garden all season long. This my friend, is the most important reason to plant annuals in your gardens - constant blooming flowers. The only reason annuals would not bloom all season is if they are struggling because of lack of water or lack of nutrients.
The reason we've seen over and over again from our clients as to why they don't want annuals boils down to one thing - the cost. Yes, deepending on the size of your garden the cost can add up for sure.
Unfortunately there's no other way to have constant blooming flowers and color all season long without annuals. Perennials just don’t cut it because the flowers they produce only bloom for a short time.
So if you want constant color that lasts all season, you'll need to plant annuals. Period.
One common misconception is that people think they need to fill their gardens with annuals. indeed if you use professional planted Gardens as an example you will see large areas of annuals are planted together.
However most humans don't have the budget that large corporations have so we need to make allowances. These allowances however are good garden design. Let us explain.
Here’s the good news. You do not need to fill an entire garden with flowering annuals.
A professionally designed garden would not do this. A garden designed by a landscape pro would have areas devoted to different types of plants - including shrubs, an ornamental tree or two, broadleaf perennials and maybe even some floweing perennials and ground cover. An Area of the garden would be designated for summer annuals but only a part of it.
If you look close at large beds of annuals in professional spaces you'll usually see if those Gardens are not composed of only annuals. They have a mixture of plants as noted above. As a homeowner, this what you want as well.
This means that yes, you will need to spend some money every year purchasing and planting annuals but it will only be a portion of your garden space and therefore, much lower cost than if you were to plant the entire space with annuals.
We Want to say... budget for it. On a plant by plant basis annuals are pretty inexpensive. Decide how much you can spend every year and purchase that number of plants.
Summer Annuals - Producing Color All Season
Each spring there are a wide variety of summer annuals available for sale. Some are very common and popular, others not so much.
If you are a new gardener we would suggest you start with some of the more common ones. Not only will these be easier to grow they'll be less maintenance through the year as well because Growers know this is what the public wants - low maintenance but lots of beauty.
anything about summer annuals is you can use your creativity to come up with plants that will look good in your space. Most summer annuals do best in full sun so if your garden is sunny you've got lots of choices.
If your garden is in partial shade fear not because many full sun annuals will grow in partial shade as well. it may not be as ideal and the number of blooms maybe less but they will still generally survive.
Some annuals that prefer full sun would do better in partial shade than others. you'll just have to get to know the different plants and try different ones in your space to see how they do.
Read the plant tags that identify the plant and its sun and water needs and purchase the ones that closely match your planting location. Start there.
Pro Tip: most professional Gardens do not have a wide variety of colorful plants all with different textures shapes I'm colors. usually a garden space will be composed two or three different annuals all planted in groups.
We know that lots of people like a plethora of colors are mixed together. then go for it. We're just saying it's not the way to get a professionally designed look.
some of the more common summer annuals include begonias, flowering vinca, impatiens, petunias, geraniums, marigolds and much, much more. There are literally hundreds but you could start with 2 or 3 of these and have some showy gardens.
Just using the above mentioned plants, each of these six consist of many varieties. For instance, geraniums come in zonal and seed varieties. Petunias come in wave and bedding varieties. Plus when you add the various colors, the choices can be mind boggling!
This is what makes gardening fun and exciting - trying different plants, different colors and varieties of the same plant, all stuck in the ground in different configurations.
We've mentioned this before but consider your garden like a piece of art that you're creating from scratch. Once you get the hang of it you'll love it!
We will be covering an assortment of annuals in this section so check back often as we add more through the coming weeks and months.
Here some ideas in pictures to give your imagination a boost.
These vinca flowers are different than the "vinca vine."
A great summer annual that is bright and cheery!
Petunias are known for their trailing nature and their trumpet like flowers that attract hummingbirds.
Marigolds usually come in yellows and oranges and bloom profusely during the summer.
These impatiens often resemble the vinca flower.
The difference is with vinca, the inside of the flower is a different color and impatiens do well in the shade.
Fall Annuals - The Uncommon Plants To Overwinter
Once mid-summer hits garden centers will no longer be stocking summer annuals. Instead, they wait until the end of the season, ideally September, to change over to fall annuals.
If you've been a gardener for any length of time I'm sure you've noticed this changeover.
Fall annuals include plants such as chrysanthemums, ornamental cabbage, crotons, purple aster, ornamental pepper and, pansies.
Two of the more common fall annuals of course are pansies and chrysanthemums (mums for short).
Pansies are Famously known for surviving Winters even snowy landscapes. They are normally planted in the fall and Bloom while the weather is mild. If Colder Weather sets in they will stop blooming but won't die. then once warmer weather sets in don't begin to bloom again.
This makes pansies an excellent choice for your fall annual because, depending on your weather, you could have off and on blooms all through the winter.
Chrysanthemums on the other hand are not quite so forgiving. While they're very popular and their colors are spectacular, the blooms only lasts for a few short weeks. You get a beautiful show but only for a short time.
Because of this some of our clients feel the cost of planting chrysanthemums is not worth it. God is something you'll have to decide for yourself.
As a side note, in planting zone 7 where we work chrysanthemums more often than not come back every year so they would really be considered an perennial here in our region although most people consider them annuals and remove them after the blooms are spent.
Here are some examples in pictures of fall annuals in the ground.
These are pansies - the flowers with faces.
You can have this color through the winter season.
Beautiful chrysanthemums are a fall staple.
They don't last long but while they're blooming, they are spectaular!
This is ornamental cabbage. It's a real performer and the purple color is perfect for fall.
Ornamental peppers make a good fall annual.
Their bright peppers go well with the reds, oranges, and yellows of fall.
Knowing What Plants Are Annuals Is A Place To Start
As you become more of an experienced gardener you’ll get to know the annuals you like to use because you'll generally be using them every year.
When a plant works in a certain area, it just works and it's often better to stay with the same plant.
However, if you are like us, sometimes you like a change. You like to try different things to see how they will do. This is absolutely fine and a great idea.
Perhaps you'll find out other annuals will do even better in the spot you've designated. Conversely, you may try other annuals and none will do as well. You'll then just go back to your original choice.
We've had this experience with our own gardens and our clients gardens as well. Often times we will try to change up our clients gardens to give them some variety. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. You never know until you try.
Incorporating Annuals Into Your Gardens
As we mentioned previously you'll want to add annuals yearly to your Gardens to make them pop with color all season long.
just designate a smaller area within the whole garden as a place where you'll be alternating between summer annuals and fall annuals.
This is the best thing you can do to keep your Gardens fresh every year.
It's what we do. It's what the professionals do, and now you know it's what you should do too.
If you want more information on other plants you can use in your gardens, such as shrubs, perennials and ornamenal trees, GO HERE and check out this guide.