A true annual is a plant that completes its life cycle in one year. This means it goes from seed to seed and then dies off during the course of one growing season. The whole mission of an annual is to produce seed and propagate. That’s why pinching off(deadheading) spent flowers before the seed matures is important. Deadheading encourages the plant to produce more flowers. Consequently, more blooms and a happier gardener.
Some tender perennials are grown as annuals in colder climates. For a perennial to be worth growing as an annual, it must flower profusely in its first year of growth. Pansies, violas, lantana and alyssum are all actually tender perennials.
There are also plants considered to be hardy annuals. This just means that they are able to withstand a little frost without being killed off and will continue to bloom and set seed into the next year, but they will eventually expire.
Annuals can be further divided into cool season and warm season. Pansies will fade as the summer heats up. Zinnias won’t even get moving until the nights stay warm.
Annual flowers give you the opportunity to have a totally different look to your garden every year. If something doesn’t perform well one year, try something else the following year. You might want to try different annuals in different areas to see which grow best in various locations.
There are many varieties and colors of annuals. Most annuals can be planted as soon as the danger of frost has passed. Our greenhouses are fully stocked with annuals in the spring. Some of our favorite varieties include: angelonia, begonias, geraniums, marigolds, petunias, zinnias, vinca flower, impatiens and coleus.
Three tips for growing annuals...
Planting and spacing
Plant transplants closely so they fill in quickly. Usually, the tag will say to plant 8 to 12 inches apart, so pick 8 inches for a great show of flowers more quickly. Take a ruler into the garden, or measure off the spacing with a trowel. If the plants are a bit pot-bound (roots circling around), cut an X into the bottom with a knife or use your fingers to tease them apart so they make better contact with soil.
Annuals need water to thrive. Water them deeply two to three times a week after planting. Water early in the morning to allow foliage to completely dry. Adding mulch will help retain moisture and reduce the growth of weeds. For the best show of color all summer, don’t let up on the watering.
Feed your plants
Once a week, feed your plants with a balanced all-purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer that you mix with water. You’ll find traditional or organic fertilizers – either will do the job. One good organic is fish emulsion, which is excellent when mixed together with a kelp-based fertilizer.