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Annuals: Gardens come alive with colour!

Yellow Zinnia
Annuals are those plants whose life cycle is completed within a single season. The seed germinates, the plants bloom, set seed and then die. Owing to their short life span, annuals allow you to experiment and express yourself anew each year.

Colour
Annuals should be planted so that they complement the plants around them, for example, mauve or orchid-coloured petunias in front of a yellow-flowering potentilla shrub, low-growing white alyssum interplanted with blue forget-me-nots, or blue ageratum and yellow calendula surrounding red salvia.

Light requirements
The bulk of annuals prefer sunny locations but the following list will help you choose plants for all areas of your garden.

Sun
ageratum
alyssum
asters
carnation
celosia
coleus
dahlia
dusty miller
geraniums
marigolds
morning   glory
petunias
portulaca
salvia
snapdragons
sunshine impatiens
verbena
zinnia

Semi-shade
ageratum
alyssum
begonias
browallia
coleus
dusty miller
geraniums
impatiens
lobelia
marigolds
morning glory
nicotiana
pansy
petunias
salvia
snapdragons
vinca

Shade
begonias
browallia
coleus
fuchsia
impatiens
lobelia

Petunia

Grouping
Annuals, often referred to as bedding plants, show themselves best when planted in groups rather than individually. Even when planting on a small scale, use a minimum of three plants and try to plant so that each group overlaps with the one beside it, creating a unified flow rather than isolated spots of colour.

Height
In designing your garden, keep in mind that annuals offer a tremendous range of heights accommodating virtually any area in your yard. Here is a small but representative sampling of the possibilities:

Ageratum 'Blue Blazer'15 cm
Browallia30 cm
Butterfly snapdragons75 cm
Celosia plumosa45 cm
Dahlia and zinnias90 cm
Dusty miller20 cm
Dwarf marigolds20 cm
Evening scented stock38 cm
Fibrous-rooted begonia25 cm
Geraniums36 cm
Dwarf impatiens18 cm
Lobelia13 cm
Petunia25 cm
Sweet alyssum10 cm

How to plant annuals

  1. Prepare the flower bed to a depth of 30 cm, using good soil, composted manure and peat moss, all well mixed.
  2. Gently loosen the roots of each plant as you remove them from the pot or plastic cell-pak.
  3. Water thoroughly and fertilize each plant with 5-15-5 plant starter.
  4. Keep the bed well watered for the first two weeks until the plants are rooted. Then water once a week with a soluble fertilizer, 20-20-20 or 15-30-15.
  5. In choosing and placing your annuals, consider their need for sun or shade.
  6. Should the floral display diminish, pinch the plants by nipping or cutting the stems back. In a week or so your plants will look better than ever. Do this before going on vacation and your garden will delight you when you return.

Pinching
One of your most important pruning tools costs nothing! It consists of your thumb and index fingers. Annuals and perennials or, for that matter, anything you can break off with your fingers will become more dense and bushier with new growth after pinching.


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