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July 23, 2012

Gardening with annuals

- by Debra Anchors

Collage of Annuals
Annuals are superb problem solvers. As most experienced gardeners will attest, annual plantings are unequaled for providing affordable color - filling gaps, extending the garden’s bloom, and providing a seemingly endless supply of cut flowers.

If you are willing to start from seed, annuals offer a very economical way to fill the garden with color. Even if your landscaping budget is limited, you can still afford almost instant gratification if you plant your designs initially in annuals. To give the garden permanence, phase in perennials as you can afford them.

Direct sown vs. transplants

The selection of annuals you’ll find as garden-ready transplants at your nursery is plentiful. But, to gain access to the full diversity of annual flowers, you must be willing to start plants from seed yourself.

Typically, this is done in one of two ways – by sowing seeds indoors on a sunny windowsill, or by sowing the seeds directly into garden beds. Indoor sowing is popular in the North because it gives the gardener a head start on spring. Direct sowing, however, is less work and produces just as good a display – especially where the growing season is long, as in the South. Many kinds of annuals may be started by either method. Some species, though, only respond to one kind of planting method. Snapdragon and petunia seeds, as examples, are so tiny that they are liable to wash away if sown outdoors and are therefore routinely started indoors. And, ageratum seedlings are so delicate that they do not cope well with the stress of an outdoor nursery. Iceland poppies have extra-sensitive roots that seldom tolerate the disturbance of transplanting. Although occasionally started in peat pots indoors, poppies generally grow better when direct sown.

A Brief List of Annuals to Direct Sow
Annuals Best Started Indoors

Baby’s breath
California poppy
Flowering tobacco
Giant sunflower
Hybrid verbena
Iceland poppy                    
Opium poppy
Spider flower
Pot marigold
Zonal geranium
Scarlet runner bean

Sweet alyssum

Wind poppy

Annuals are genetically predisposed to stop flowering as soon as they have set seeds. To keep your display in bloom, you must pinch or snip off all the aging flowers as they start to fade.

The limited life span of annuals is a great advantage when it comes to pest control. Perennials can develop fixed pest populations that overwinter and then reappear each year with the plant. By varying the kinds of annuals you plant in any given spot each year, you ensure that your floral display never develops a similar problem.

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  1. I am now deadheading the coleus row that I planted along the walkway. they last much longer that way, you are right.

  2. I started my zinnias inside this spring and I think I'm going to do it again next year. I didn't have to worry about spring storms smashing my seedlings and I was able to get a jump start on enjoying the flowers. :o)

    1. Hi there! I appreciated hearing about your experience this year. I have heard the same from other gardeners and will start zinnias inside next year too. Thank you for saying hello! -Debra

  3. Hi :D That is a good list my favourite is Baby breath flowers ,Veggie are a little easier for me to grow inside first :D I like that list :D Sincerly, Kula May :D


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