Regardless of whether you're hoping to fill a bare spot in your garden or you want to add some color to a few containers on your patio, annual plants are a smart solution.
Annuals are defined as plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season before dying. That means the plant germinates and grows big enough to produce seeds before the dormant season arrives. Usually, this means growing from spring into fall.
Most people use annual plants in the garden for some color that lasts all season long, but there are tasty annual herbs and veggies. Annual plants are also typically cheaper than perennial plants, so you can get a lot of impact for a lot less money.
Annuals vs. Perennials
Wondering why you should choose annuals over perennials? A few reasons to consider annual plants even though they don’t return each year are:
- Short-term commitment: You might not be sure about what you want to plant in a particular area. Why not plant annuals? You won’t have to worry about a plant establishing itself. The downside? You’ll have to re-plant each year to fill the space.
- Affordability: Annuals are typically less expensive up-front than perennials.
- No upkeep required: Besides watering and a bit of fertilizing for certain hungry feeders, upkeep of annuals is minimal. There’s no need to prune these plants like you would with perennials.
- Showier: Often, they produce more impressive blooms than perennials.
15 Annuals Worth Planting
Here are 15 annual herbs and flowers that I think are worth planting every year.
Zinnias are my absolute favorite flower, hands down. I grow them every year because they attract pollinators and provide a stunning color show all summer long and well into the fall. Butterflies and bees dance around the prolific pom-pom blooms.
When do they bloom?During the summer and onward, until it’s cold enough for them to die off.
When should I start or plant them?Zinnias can be planted anytime after the last frost date. I like to start them indoors a few weeks (about six to eight weeks) before and transplant, even though the consensus is that they don’t like to be transplanted. I’ve always had success with transplanting, as long as I baby the plants a bit, I’m always rewarded with a beautiful array of blooms.
Care tips:Plant in full sun and be sure to water them regularly, though they’re tolerant of drought. Be sure to plant in soil that’s well-amended with compost. If you’re starting from seed, there are so many varieties to choose from. I suggest trying a mix that includes several bloom colors for maximum aesthetic effect.
These pretty flowers are frequently sold at hardware and grocery stores during the early summer. I see them often on my walks throughout the neighborhood in front-yard landscaping or in hanging pots to enliven otherwise dull patios.
When do they bloom? In the spring and summer.
When should I start or plant them? As soon as there’s no longer any danger of frost. Start seeds well before the last frost date in your area (about six to ten weeks).
Care tips:Place them in a location that receives full sun. Soil type doesn’t matter too much as petunias aren’t particularly fussy. Take mind to water well during periods of drought.
These tall beauties offer a stunning display well into the autumn and make gorgeous cut flowers. You can even net a seed harvest from these towering flowers. Plant them int he vegetable garden to shield delicate plants from harsh winds or simply add them to your landscaping and enjoy a unique and impressive flower show. Sunflowers are also a popular microgreen, if that’s your thing.&
When do they bloom? Summer to fall.
When should I start or plant them? Direct sow sunflowers in mid-spring after the soil has warmed accordingly. You may start them indoors about two weeks prior to the last frost date.
Care tips: It’s no surprise that these flowers love the sun, but other than that, they’re reasonably tolerant to a variety of conditions from poor soils to drought.
It’s a given that marigolds will find their place in my garden each year. Why? Because they’re both beautiful and practical. They look great, and their strong scent is thought to keep certain pests away. It might be one of the reasons I’ve never had any problems with nightshade pests.
When do they bloom?Spring through to the fall.
When should I start or plant them?You can start the seeds indoors approximately eight weeks prior to the last frost date. Transplant store-bought plants when the danger of frost is gone.
Care tips: Plant these in full sun and in any type of soil. If planting among vegetable plants, don’t hide them under foliage, make sure they’re exposed to enough light and warmth. Water regularly, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
Basil is an annual herb that provides plenty of value. It’s fragrant, beautiful, its flowers attract pollinators, and it’s an often-used kitchen herb. If you’re a fan of Italian cooking, basil is one of the must-have annual plants. There are so many other varieties of basil, too! Grow Thai basil if you love a good pad sew dish.
When do they bloom?Basil blooms during the summer if left to do so. Harvest and prune frequently to prevent the plant from flowering if growing for culinary purposes.
When should I start or plant them?Transplant after danger of frost had passed. If starting from seed, start at least two months before transplanting.
Care tips: This Mediterranean plant loves the sun, and while it does need water, it prefers for the soil to dry out between waterings. Plant in a well-drained location.
If you’re growing cucumbers, you definitely need to plant this annual herb for pickling purposes. Why else grow dill? Its blooms attract pollinators, and it’s used in several other delicious dishes. It’s also a prolific re-seeder, so may return in the spring if allowed to self-sow.
When do they bloom? Summertime.
When should I start or plant them? Start dill at least a month before the last frost date in your area.
Care tips: Plant in an area that receives plenty of sunlight. Water frequently.
My favorite herb, but a controversial one. Ask people at a party whether they love or hate cilantro and you’ll get a myriad of answers. I think it’s a must-have annual plant because, like basil, it’s one of the most versatile culinary herbs.
When do they bloom? Spring.
When should I start or plant them? Start seeds indoors a couple of weeks prior to the last frost date. Succession sow this herb for a continuous harvest.
Care tips: Cilantro tolerates partial shade but prefers full sun. Keep well-watered until seedlings are established.
Plant parsley for culinary purposes and to satisfy the hunger of swallowtail caterpillars. If they’re trouble for your carrot crops, plant a sacrificial parsley crop for them to feast on instead. Parsley is also known for its variety of health benefits.
When do they bloom?After winter (parsley is actually a biennial, but is usually grown as an annual).
When should I start or plant them?Seeds are a little slow to germinate so start them at least a month before the last frost date.
Care tips:The herb tolerates partial shade, but it will thrive in the sun. Harvest and water frequently to prevent bolting.
New to my garden this year, dahlias were an impulse purchase that I don’t at all regret. The star-shaped blooms haven’t stopped coming and offer a vibrant display of color that can be seen even when standing far from the garden.
When do they bloom?Summer until a killing frost.
When should I start or plant them?Dahlias are not started from seed, but instead, are tubers. Start to grow them indoors about a month before the last frost date if you’re in a region with a short summer. If not, plant your tubers once spring has arrived, and the soil is warm enough to dig. Save money by digging up the bulbs and sheltering them during the winter for planting next year.
Care tips: Be sure to plant in an area where they’ll get full sun. The soil should drain adequately, and flowers should be watered regularly, especially in times of drought.
These cute little button roses are prettier than real roses, in my opinion. The only downside is that they’re not perennial. I think these adorable flowers are well worth planting in the spring, though. The dose of color they provide is impressive considering their miniature size.
When do they bloom? Late spring until a killing frost.
When should I start or plant them? Direct sow in the late spring when the soil has warmed. If starting from seed and transplanting, give yourself at least two months head start.
Care tips:Moss roses like full sun and well-drained soil. They’re also drought-tolerant and are ideal for adding color to rock gardens.
Pretty flowers that almost seem like they were created expressly for cut flower arrangements. Add a bit of height to your cut flower bunches by planting these annuals in your garden.
When do they bloom?Varies depending on the variety and region.
When should I start or plant them?Grown from corms, gladioli should be planted a couple of weeks after the last spring frost date in your region. In some climates, these flowers can be left in the ground over the winter.
Care tips:Gladioli tolerate some shade, but full sun is ideal. If you live in an area with scorching summers, choose a semi-shaded area for these annuals. Keep well-watered throughout the summer months.
Snapdragons are another excellent annual perfect for cut flower arrangements. They’re perennial in some climates but often grown as annuals. They have a prolonged bloom time, so I think they’re well worth the effort.
When do they bloom?Spring through the fall. In the heat, they may stop blooming, but they won’t die off until a frost.
When should I start or plant them?Start these flowers early. Allow six to ten weeks for these plants to grow sufficiently before transplanting in the spring. Germination is most successful when the soil is cool.
Care tips: Plant in full or partial sun. Be sure to keep these tender plants well-watered.
I LOVE these flowers. This year, I purchased a few plugs of gerberas and planted them in pots on my back deck. They haven’t stopped blooming, and despite my neglect, they seem to have outlived plenty of other flowers nearby. Plant them for a continuous display of color.
When do they bloom? Spring to fall.
When should I start or plant them?Plant once the soil has warmed up and there’s no longer a danger of frost.
Care tips: Plant needs full sun and well-drained soil. They’ll grow in shady areas, but you’ll notice fewer blooms.
A flowering shade-tolerant plant that actually thrives in partial sun. Plant begonias in a shady spot that’s lacking color. They also look great in containers.
When do they bloom?Summer through to fall.
When should I start or plant them?Plant the bulbs in the spring when the soil has warmed, and there’s no longer a danger of frost.
Care tips:Deadhead plants to promote blooming. Keep the soil moist without letting it become waterlogged.
For the gardener looking for a bright display that’s low maintenance and sure to attract pollinators.
When do they bloom?During the spring and summer.
When should I start or plant them?Transplant impatiens purchased from a nursery well after the risk of frost has passed in the spring. If starting from seed, do so early. Because seeds are slow to germinate, give the plants at least three months of growth indoors. In some zones, impatiens re-seed themselves and return the following year.
Care tips:Choose a shady location for these flowers and water regularly.