Most of these flowers are true annuals, but a few are actually perennial plants that are treated as annuals; they might last longer than a season but are usually started over each year. The first part of this list includes those that are readily available at nurseries as small plants. The second part contains unusual annuals that may take some looking for.
Ageratum. Excellent six-inch, blue, flossy flower. Use in pots or as edging. Space plants nine inches apart, water regularly, and remove dead blossoms.
Alyssum. Low, spreading plant covered with fragrant blossoms. White is most popular, but also comes in rose, pink or purple. Volunteer seedlings appear next season; eventually volunteers become leggy. Nothing easier to grow.
Aster. Pretty but short-lived. Intense colors in purple, cerise or pink. Plant varieties range in size from six inches to three feet; taller varieties require staking. Best in cool climates.
Bachelor’s button ( Centaurea cyanus ) . One-inch blooms on free-standing three-foot plants. Royal blue is best color, but also comes in pink or white. Successive plantings necessary for continuous bloom.
Bedding begonia. Nonstop small flowers bloom profusely on six-inch to one-foot plants with waxy, decorative leaves. Along coast, takes full sun or shade; partial shade inland.
Celosia. Crested (cockscomb) or plume-shaped blossoms on plants that range from 6 to 20 inches. Plume type adds valuable vertical effect to flower garden. Try ‘Apricot Brandy’ for unique color.
Coleus. Ornamental leaves with kaleidoscopic colors and crinkled, picotee or saber-toothed margins. Easy-to-grow plants reach two feet. Best in semi-sunny locations. Remove flower stems for long-lasting foliage.
Cosmos. Old-fashioned four-foot plants ( Cosmos bipinnatus ) with blooms that resemble daisies, in white, pink or crimson. New dwarf introductions ( C. sulphureus ) reach only two feet with bright orange-red or yellow flowers. Taller strains are softer in appearance. All cosmos thrive in poor soil with little care.
Creeping zinnia ( Sanvitalia procumbens ) . Miniature flowers on low, trailing plants. Yellow blossoms with brown centers last until fall. Good in baskets, pots or front of borders. Likes sun and heat; once established, tolerates drought.
Dahlia. Seed-grown bedding dahlias make compact 12-inch plants with 2 1/2-inch blooms in white, yellow, pink, red or orange. Well-grown plants produce tubers that can be lifted or left in the ground.
Dianthus (pinks). Blossoms of red, pink, white or bicolors on low-growing plants often with blue-green foliage. Magic Charms and ‘Snofire’ are most popular. Remove old blooms.
Dusty miller. Many silvery-leaved plants are called dusty miller; the most popular in our climate is Centaurea cineraria . Yellow one-inch globular flowers on one-foot plants appear in late summer.
Globe amaranth ( Gomphrena globosa ). One-inch papery flower cones on plants that are six inches high (for dwarf varieties) or 24 inches (for taller ones).
Gloriosa daisy. Fast-growing, tough biennial that blooms in one season. Single or double five-inch gold or mahogany blooms on three-foot plants. Excellent in borders.
Golden fleece or Dahlberg daisy. Exquisite golden daisies shaped like miniature marguerites borne in profusion on ferny, green six-inch plants. Performs well in heat, is disease free and blooms all summer.
Hollyhock. Double pompon flowers on tall spires in midsummer. Will tolerate poor conditions but performs best in rich, moist soil.
Impatiens. Free-flowering, symmetrical plants smothered in one-inch blooms. Easy care and long blooming period. Generally grown in shade, but some gardeners have great success with impatiens in sunny spots.
Lobelia. Low-growing, cascading plant with small flowers in intense colors. Most striking is deep-blue ‘Crystal Palace,’ but many other shades now available. Prefers cool climates. Shear old blooms.
Marigold. Despite their strong odor and stiff appearance, marigolds create a blaze of color in shades of orange, gold, yellow or mahogany red. Easy to grow and heat-tolerant.
Moss rose ( Portulaca ). Brilliant two-inch flowers on plants with succulent stems and small, cylindrical leaves. Low-growing, it thrives in hot weather. Blossoms on newer strains remain open all day.
Nasturtium. Orange, gold, maroon or yellow blossoms with long spurs. Round, bright-green leaves are aromatic. Foliage sometimes hides flowers. Vigorous, almost rank, growth.
Nicotiana. Limited supplies of sweet-smelling, flowering tobacco seedlings appear on the market in spring. Grows 10 to 36 inches, depending on variety. Blooms in sun or partial shade. Newer strains remain open in the day. Spray if tobacco budworms appear.
Petunia. Old-time garden favorite with new single and double hybrids offered each year. White-edged picotees developed in Japan are excellent in beds or containers, but the compact floribunda hybrids such as ‘Summer Madness’ and the multiflora hybrids Joy and Pearl series are recommended. Cut plants back one-third to one-half after bloom slackens and fertilize.
Phlox ( P. drummondii ). Grows eight inches tall, bearing thick trusses of crimson, rose, scarlet, purple, salmon or pastel flowers. Best strain is Beauty. Grow in fertile, moist soil, and remove spent blooms.
Salpiglossis. Unusual, two-inch, funnel-shaped flowers in mahogany, gold, purple or pink. Each flower has contrasting marbling and stripes. Prefers cool, sunny weather and rich soil.
Salvia. S. splendens now comes in pastel or purple shades, in addition to fire-engine red. The perennial S. farinacea ‘Victoria’ can be grown like an annual for magnificent blue spikes. For white spikes, try ‘Silver White.’ Snails and slugs devour salvia seedlings unless controlled.
Statice ( Limonium sinuatum ). Everlasting, papery flowers on square-stemmed 20-inch plants. Colors include blue, gold, white and newer shades of rose or apricot. Limonium suworowii produces furry pink spikes.
Strawflower ( Helichrysum ). Remarkable everlasting flower heads on lush green plants. In addition to familiar rust or gold colors, newer strains offer salmon, rose, soft pink or white.
Verbena. Vivid clusters of scarlet, purple, rose or red blossoms. The annual varieties grow 6 to 10 inches tall and spread one to three feet. Best in hot climates. Water deeply and infrequently.
Vinca rosea ( Catharanthus roseus ) . White or rose flowers on bushy plants with glossy leaves. One- to two-foot perennial usually grown as an annual. Also called Madagascar periwinkle, it outperforms all other summer flowers in hot places, such as the San Fernando Valley.
Zinnia. Popular but sometimes disappointing multi-petaled summer annual. Bright blossoms in dahlia or cactus forms on dwarf or tall plants. Wait to plant until nights are warm. Subject to mildew in cool, moist conditions, so allow air to circulate among plants, and keep water off foliage, particularly late in the day.
The following annuals are usually available only from seeds. Free seed catalogues can be ordered from: W. Atlee Burpee Co., Warminster, Pa. 18974; Park Seed Co., Highway 254 North, Greenwood, S.C. 29647-0001; and Thompson & Morgan, P.O. Box 1308, Jackson, N.J. 08527. Balsam ( Impatiens balsamina ) . Pretty camellia-type florets on two-foot bushes.
Bells-of-Ireland ( Moluccella laevis ) . Apple-green bells (actually calyxes) on 20-inch stems.
Black-eyed Susan vine ( Thunbergia ) . One-inch flowers cover vines climbing to five feet. Most popular color is orange. Useful for ground cover, trellis or hanging baskets.
Calliopsis ( Coreopsis tinctoria ) . Vibrant red, mahogany or yellow two-inch flowers with contrasting color bands grow on two- to three-foot plants.
Candytuft ( Iberis umbellata ) . Annual globe candytuft has pink, maroon, lilac or white flower clusters. Best in cool climates.
Cleome. Pink and white spidery flowers on vigorous plants reaching six feet. Effective in garden background. Tolerates some drought.
Feverfew ( Chrysanthemum parthenium , sometimes sold as Matricaria ). Easily grown compact border plant with small white or golden flowers. ‘White Stars’ makes six-inch mounds of anemone-type flowers. Volunteers become weedy.
Four o’clock ( Mirabilis jalapa ) . One-inch trumpet flowers open about 4 p.m. Attractive three-foot plant is good in neglected area. Jingles strain bears striped flowers.
Gaillardia ( G. pulchella ) . Gold, lemon or maroon flowers, some bicolored. ‘Lollipop’ variety is one-foot plant with two-inch flower balls.
Lavatera ( L. trimestris ) . Pink, white or lavender cup-shaped flowers on two- to six-foot plants. Long bloom period. Recommended varieties are ‘MontBlanc’ and ‘Silver Cup.’
Linaria ( L. maroccana and L. reticulata ) . Baby snapdragon flowers for sun or partial shade. Fairy Bouquet has pastel shades; ‘Crown Jewels’ has maroon, red, gold or orange shades. Shear after bloom for second show.
Love-in-a-mist ( Nigella damascena ) . Ferny foliage surrounds blue, white or rose one-inch flowers lasting three to four weeks.
Mexican tulip poppy ( Hunnemannia fumariifolia ) . Bright-yellow three-inch single flowers on bushy plants. Likes warm, dry, sunny location; don’t transplant.
Morning glory ( Ipomoea ) . Fast-growing summer vine. Four-inch blue or rose flowers stay open nearly entire day. Train vines on arbor, trellis, fence or wall.
Pincushion flower ( Scabiosa ) . Ball-shaped, two-inch flower heads in blue, white, rose, pink or lavender. Very easy to grow. Volunteers return the next year.
Starflower ( Scabiosa stellata ) . Each tan floret has a dark, spiny, starlike center. Garden conversation piece.
Sunflower ( Helianthus ) . Try ‘Italian White’ for elegant creamy four-inch blooms with yellow band encircling dark centers.
Sweet sultan ( Centaurea moschata ) . Thistle-like fringed flowers in white, carmine, pink or lavender. Best in hot areas.
Tithonia. Orange-red daisy flowers borne on weedy plant. New variety ‘Sundance’ is most compact.
Wishbone flower ( Torenia fournieri ) . Violet-blue tubular flower with yellow lip. Eight-inch compact plants are good in front of shady borders or in pots.