Plant spring-to-summer flowers.
the ABCs of Annuals
Credit: Van Chaplin, Joseph De Sciose

They provide dependable color for months with only occasional attention. What's not to love about annuals? "For Southern gardens in particular, where summer lasts so long, annuals are indispensable," says Troy Marden, garden designer and flower expert with Moore & Moore West Garden Center in Nashville.

Traits of Annual Plants

Consistent color and texture are a few of the virtues of annuals. Some tough-as-nails plants last the entire summer, while others, such as petunias, may go only to the halfway mark but are well worth it. "You don't have to plant your annuals 5,000 deep like a mall parking lot," Troy says. "They're just as effective in small groups throughout the garden."

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Plant annuals by your front door for curb appeal. Accent path entrances with a mass planting, or draw attention to a special place in the garden.
  • Use annual plants to bridge the gap between perennial bloom cycles in borders.
  • Try annuals in containers and hanging baskets to put color where you want it.

Tips for Growing Annuals

  • Loosen the roots with your fingers, especially if they are in a tight mass.
  • Plant annuals in well-drained soil.
  • Sprinkle a timed-release, granular fertilizer such as 14-14-14 under each annual when planting.
  • Surround new plants with a light layer of mulch.
  • Water every few days until roots become established--within a few weeks. Then continue on an as-needed basis.
  • Give them a thorough trim in July. Cut your annuals back by half, and feed them twice over the next 10 days with a liquid, blossom-boosting fertilizer such as 15-30-15.

This article is from the March 2005 issue of Southern Living.