Old-fashioned annual flowers like nasturtiums and zinnias have made a huge comeback in gardens and containers. Because of an increased interest in supporting pollinators and butterflies, the popularity of cut flowers, and because they’re beautiful and easy to grow, this group of annual flowers are gaining in popularity. Not to mention, growing flowers from seed is a great budget choice as well!
All the annual flowers below are quick-growers and can be direct seeded outdoors in May in garden beds and containers. Or, if you have the space and inclination, you can get a jump start on the growing season by sowing the seeds indoors in mid to late March. Creek Side features a great selection of varieties to choose from our Botanical Interests selections. Or you can pick up starter plants from Creek Side this spring.
Most annual flowers need a site with at least six hours of full sun and compost-enriched soil. If direct seeding, keep the soil moist until the seedlings emerge and are growing well.
Easy to grow annual flowers:
Nasturtiums are an annual obsession of many gardeners every spring. Direct sow the large, wrinkly seeds in mid to late May, planting them about one half inch deep.
Read the seed packets carefully and select nasturtium varieties that will fit in your garden space. Some grow just a foot tall, others cascade several feet, while some produce long vines that need a sturdy trellis or fence for support. Our Botanical Interest variety includes a favorite, Cherry Rose Jewel.
Calendula (also called pot marigold) is planted in the garden for its heavy bloom of yellow and orange flowers. Be aware, it is a prolific self-sower and new seedlings pop up each spring.
Pull any that are growing too thickly or in the wrong spot and leave the rest to please the bees and butterflies. Calendula is valued for its medicinal properties and a common ingredient in salves, soaps, and lotions. It’s also a long-lived cut flower lasting about two weeks in a vase. Check out Botanical Interests seed variety, Oopsy Daisy.
Cosmos is a vigorous annual flower that can grow up to 40” tall, depending on the variety. It sports daisy-shaped blooms in vibrant shades of pink, magenta, lavender and white. They’re very bee and butterfly-friendly and the flowers make excellent cut flowers.
Sensation giant is the classic tall-growing cosmos, but if you’re short on space, try Bright Lights or Diablo in yellow and orange colors.
Poppies papery flowers only last a few weeks but when they were in bloom, nothing else compares. Some annual poppies like California are self-seeders. They wander around the garden blooming heavily from late June through late July, attracting more bees than any other flower.
Standout varieties include Mikado, American Legion, Brilliant.
Morning Glories are a favorite because they will climb a trellis or a fence on their own gracing the landscape with bright sky-blue flowers. The flowers can be relatively short-lived but, because there are so many, they make a nice show all summer. In addition to the classic Heavenly Blue, try Grandpa Ott or white Moonflower.
Zinnia have come a long way in recent years. While gardeners still love to grow traditional varieties like state fair and giant dahlia, thanks to the rise of local cut flower farms there are some unique new introductions.
One of our favorites for cut flowers is California Giant. Fireball blend is heavy in the red colors. Thumbelina is an old reliable favorite, as a short variety, just as the name indicates.
Other easy-to-grow annual flowers that can be direct seeded include marigolds, sunflowers, love-in-a-mist, and bachelor’s buttons.