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The Best Annual Flowers

I think I pretty much say this about every flower (except a few), but okay, I’m going to go ahead and say it – I love annual flowers. They are the workhorse of flower gardens; when the perennials finish with their debut, the annuals just keep on blooming and blooming. Seriously, I have had snapdragons blooming into November and that’s here in the frozen tundra of Minnesota. There has to be hundreds and hundreds of varieties of annuals. The Best Annual Flowers I’m sharing today are classic flowers and easy to grow. These flowers can stand on their own or can be mixed in with perennials for continuous color in your gardens throughout the summer. 

Annual Flowers - Ageratum, Petunia & Marigolds

What are Annual Flowers

For most of you, this may seem a little elementary, but I want to include our beginning gardeners too. Annual flowers are those that have to be replanted every year. Some annual flowers will reseed and you may get new plants from those seeds the following year. Earlier we covered Classic Perennials and perennials are those plants that live more than two years.

The Best Time to Plant Annuals in the Spring

If you are in a gardening zone that freezes, it is very important for you to know your gardening zone. If you don’t know your gardening zone, you can check it on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, by simply entering your zip code in the upper right-hand corner of the site.

Every year there are recommendations for last frost date. You can check the last frost date for your area on The Old Farmer’s Almanac website by entering your zip code. This, however, is not foolproof. Check your extended weather forecast and if you see that low temperatures are going to dip down into the middle 30s, hold off planting. I’ve used this method for determining the best planting dates for my area for many, many years and I’ve only had to cover my annuals twice to keep them from getting frostbite.

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32 Best Annual Flowers for Sun & Shade

Tips for Buying Annual Flowers

Plants in cell packs (those are plastic plant packs in groups of 4, 6 or 8) are cheaper than plants in 4 – 6 inch pots. The plants in cell packs are smaller, but once planted in your garden, will catch up in no time with the larger plants.

Don’t want to buy annual flowers every year, learn how to grow your own from seed. Check out Seed Starting Indoors and Winter Sowing.

Many times flower growers will over-fertilize their flowers so that they are blooming when they reach garden centers, because blooms sell. To get the biggest bang for your buck, look for plants that have very small buds and not plants that are in full flower mode. By the time you get the flowering plants home and get them planted, those blooms will have run their course and you’ll have to wait for the next round of blooms. Before you go plant shopping, you may want to read Plant Shopping 101 for some excellent tips on getting the biggest bang for your buck.

The Best Annual Flowers Lists

Best Annual Flowers for Sun

  • Ageratum
  • Alyssum (often reseed the following year)
  • Angelonia
  • Asters (often reseed the following year)
  • Calibrachoa (great for containers)
  • Celosia
  • Cleome (easy to grow from seed)
  • Cosmos (easy to grow from seed)
  • Dianthus (often reseed the following year)
  • Gazania
  • Geraniums (learn how to overwinter zonal geraniums)
  • Gerbera Daisies
  • Gomphrena
  • Marigold (easy to grow from seed)
  • Moss Roses (often reseed the following year)
  • Nicotiana
  • Pentas
  • Petunia
  • Salvia
  • Snapdragon
  • Sunflower (easy to grow from seed)
  • Verbena
  • Vinca
  • Zinnias (easy to grow from seed)

For more annual flowers that reseed, check out The Best Annual Flowers That Reseed (Even in Cold Climates).

These are Montego Snapdragons, a dwarf variety. If deadheaded regularly, you’ll be rewarded with sweet blooms until frost kills them in late fall.

The Best Annual Flowers - Montego Snapdragons

Here’s a tall variety of Snapdragons called Rocket.

Rocket Snapdragons - The Best Annual Flowers

What about marigolds, now there’s a flower garden workhorse if ever there was one. According to many pins on Pinterest (lol), one can ward off mosquitoes and other undesirable bugs by planting marigolds. I can’t say that I’ve ever found that to be true, but perhaps it works in some areas.

Marigolds are easy to start from seed, either inside or outside, and they’re very easy to grow. I especially like the sunny yellow marigolds and they find a home in my gardens every year. Pictured below are Lemon Drop Marigolds. I’m always amazed at how much these little babies fill out from when they are first planted to the end of summer.

Annual Flowers - Marigolds & Alyssum

If you’re looking for low maintenance flowers, Vinca is one for you. It prefers dry conditions and doesn’t need to be deadheaded. If you’re interested in more ideas for low maintenance gardening, check out – Creating and Caring For A Low Maintenance Flower Garden.

Annual Flowers - Vinca

And zinnias, like marigolds are mainstays in lots and lots of gardens simply because they are so easy to grow. They too can be started from seed both inside or outside. This variety is Profusion Zinnia. Zinnias are also a pollinator magnet!

Pinwheel Zinnias - The Best Annual Flowers

What about Gazanias? I will back up here and say that after much trial and error, I no longer plant these in the ground. The rabbits and squirrels will not even give them a chance. They must be really tasty. I have a pot of Gazanias on my porch steps and the squirrels still help themselves and clutter up the porch by leaving the undesirable stems behind. I used to think it was just rabbits eating my Gazanias until I caught a squirrel in the act. These are beauties, aren’t they? They really resemble miniature sunflowers.


 Verbena is another favorite and another annual that keeps on blooming, if it’s regularly deadheaded.


The Best Annuals for Shade

  • Begonia
  • Coleus
  • Hypoestes
  • Impatiens
  • Lobelia
  • New Guinea impatiens
  • Torenia

You can’t have a shade garden without impatiens. They add color and are practically maintenance free. Look at these with the variegated leaves. They are very pretty, but light on blooms.

Variegated Impatiens & Pink Impatiens - The Best Annual Flowers

These orange impatiens are a stand out in this garden area. Those Torenia photo-bombing the picture were supposed to be blue and would have looked much better with the orange impatiens. Oh well!

Orange Impatiens - The Best Annual Flowers
These pretty double impatiens look like miniature roses.

Double Impatiens - The Best Annual Flowers

Lisianthus – An Underused Annual Flower

Have you ever heard of Lisianthus or grown them in your garden? I can’t talk about annuals and not include Lisianthus (it’s so fun to say). They are difficult to grow from seed (I’ve tried), so most garden centers don’t carry them. I have found a grower at a local farmer’s market where I purchase them every year. Here in Minnesota, they really don’t start blooming until late July or August, but they are so worth the wait. Lisianthus are very long lasting cut flowers, so they are often seen in florist bouquets. 

Pink Double Lisianthus

Look at this Lisianthus with the purple edges. It’s so pretty!

Purple and White Lisianthus
I love this combination of the single deep blue variety Lisianthus with the sunny yellow Marigold.

Lisianthus & Marigolds

These sweet pale pink Lisianthus resemble roses. They do need to be staked, but their beauty is worth the trouble. If you’re interested in learning more about growing Lisianthus, check out this article: How to Grow and Care for Lisianthus.

Pink Lisianthus

Annual Flowering Vines

  • Morning Glories (considered invasive in some areas)
  • Nasturtium
  • Hyacinth Bean Vine
  • Black-eyed Susan Vine
  • Cardinal Vine

Annual Flowers - Morning Glories

Other Annual Flowers

Let’s not forget about bulbs like: gladiolus, begonias, caladium, dahlias, etc. Some of these bulbs are hardy in warmer zones, but they must be dug up in my Zone 4 gardens and replanted every spring.

It’s always fun to look for unusual annuals too. Canterbury Bells are technically biennials, but they are generally sold as annuals and are difficult to find at garden centers here in Minnesota. I was at the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market (btw, best farmer’s market in the Twin Cities if your a Minnesotan) and came across a vendor that had an entire display of these gorgeous specimens in full bloom. They were selling them as annuals and of course I had to have some. I usually don’t purchase annuals that are in full bloom, but these were just to gorgeous to pass up. They finished their bloom and looked pretty scraggly through a bout of hot weather, but now they are looking good and getting ready to put on a show again. 

Canterbury Bells

Annual Flower Care

There are lots of things to learn about caring for flowers, especially for beginners. You don’t want to fork over the cash to buy flowers and take the time to plant them, just to have them die. Most annuals are fairly easy to care for and basically require simple watering, fertilizing and deadheading. For more detailed information, pop over and check out Flower Garden Maintenance.

If you are brand new to flower gardening, or have been gardening for a few years, but would like to learn more, take a few minutes and check out – Flower Gardening 101.  Do you have an interest in creating a flower garden to benefit pollinators, or a butterfly garden? If so, be sure to read How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden.

There are so many more annuals that I could go on and on. Buying lots of annual flowers can put a strain on the gardening budget, so every year I start many annuals indoors. If you’re interested in learning how to start your flowers indoors next year, check out- Seed Starting Indoors and be sure to pin it for next year. What are your favorite annuals? Is there a special annual that you grow every year? Leave a comment and let me know.

Thanks a bunch for stopping by and come back soon! 

Happy Gardening,

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Image of Flowers with Text Overlay - 32 Perfect Annual Flowers


Image of Flowers with Text Overlay - 32 Perfect Annual Flowers