Easy Annuals for Beginners

Annuals (plants that flower or produce tender foliage for one season) have just one mission and they do it well: grow fast and lush and, if a flowering variety, bloom their heads off all season long.

Most annuals thrive in summer heat and bloom nearly nonstop into fall. Remarkably versatile, easy to grow plants, they quickly fill out all those containers and window boxes whether your garden is a large backyard or a set of containers on a city balcony.But don’t just tuck them into vessels; use them in beds to fill in bare spots or provide all-season color when there’s a lull in floral flushes from perennials or shrubs.

The key to using these plants is to not hold back—they have a short growing season, especially in colder zones, so pack them in for a luxe display. Most prefer full sun, feeding with a balanced fertilizer when planted and once again during the blooming season, and regular water. Try these ten no-hassle annuals to add great color this summer. (Note some are considered a perennial in warmer zones.)

Noa™ Calibrachoa

You probably know these free-flowering beauties as Million Bells but either way, they’re vivid petunia-like blooms in a range of colors that come on non-stop all season. Stellar in hanging baskets, window boxes and pots. Full sun. Zone: 10 – 11

Bandana Lantana

A compact sun-loving plant for continuous summer color, even in heat and humidity, lantana comes in a range of bright colors. Use in hanging baskets, pots or garden beds to attract butterflies and hummingbirds! Full sun. Zone: 9 – 11

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 Sidekick™ Sweet Potato Vine

This colorful vining annual is a mainstay of window boxes where its saturated hues and cascading form provide the perfect counterpoint to flowering annuals from spring to first frost. Partial or full sun. Zone: 9 – 11

Iowa Heliotrope

Cherry pie? Vanilla extract? This one’s intriguingly scented and comes in a range of purples as well as white varieties. Plant near a sunny doorway or window and drink-in the clean, sweet fragrance. Partial or full sun. Zone: 9 – 11

Lanai® Verbena

When you need a profusely-flowering spiller to tumble from hanging baskets, window boxes, or tall containers, this early-bloomer fits the bill. Blooms well into fall in warmer zones. Thrives in the tough summer heat. Full sun. Zone: 10- 11

Techno Heat™ Lobelia

This series is one of the earliest blooming of the lobelias. Trailing habit is ideal between perennials, as a groundcover under shrubs or in containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes. Partial to full sun. Zone: 10 – 11

Archangel Summer Snapdragon

If snapdragons are a winter-bloomer only in your zone, this heat-lover’s for you. Vibrant flowers add color to borders or containers for months. Hummingbird friendly; deer and rabbit resistant. Full sun. Zone: 10 – 11


Drama in the shade!  Available in a wide range of colors and forms (this one’s from the FlameThrower™ series, new this season) they add long-season zip to pots and in the landscape. Partial shade to partial sun.Zone 10 – 11

Bounce™ Impatiens

Amazing color for shade with masses of beautiful blooms from spring to first frost. Will “bounce back” from a missed watering or two! Perfect in pots, hanging baskets or at the front of a border. Full shade to filtered sun. Zone: 10 – 11

BIG® Begonia

Wax begonias are a classic, elegant choice for shade, but this series in particular has larger flowers on a much larger plant. Edge beds, line walkways, or fill hanging baskets or containers. Partial shade to partial sun. Zone 11

Here are some great tips on what to look for when buying annuals at a nursery or garden center.

(lead image: courtesy of bruceewinglandscaping.com)

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