In this little series, we have covered all kinds of plants: perennials, biennials, shade-loving plants, sun-loving plants, and my favorite flowering shrubs. Today, we move on to most people's favorite flowers: annuals.
Annuals are the flowers that most people get excited about in the garden. They are the bright and showy flowers that really make bouquets pop with color. They last a single growing season, starting from seed, developing roots and leaves, and sending up beautiful blooms that later produce fruit and seed. Most annuals are happiest in full sun.
I wanted to share my favorite annual flowers with you. Each year growing flowers, I have been on the hunt for the lowest-maintenance, highest performing annuals to grow year after year. Some hold dear memories. Some are new to me. Regardless, the flowers on the list do well in my 7A zone and help fill out the market bouquets that are my primary form of income for the farm. Some double as dried flowers in the fall, as well.
Sunflowers. At the top of the list are sunflowers. These flowers have been in my garden since day one. They are what I have always gravitated toward at farmers markets before growing my own flowers. Sunflowers come in a range of colors and even textures. There are branching and single stem sunflowers. If you plant branching sunflowers, make sure to pinch them. Single stem sunflowers should not be pinched. The closer you plant sunflower seedlings, the smaller their heads will be. This is helpful for including them in arrangements and bouquets. If you are growing them for seed, you can space them out. I like to grow some with lots of seeds for my chickens.
Snapdragons. These beautiful flowers are spike-shaped and can be planted in the fall for a late spring flower. They are very hardy and over-winter well with minimal covering. I love the variety of colors and how easy they are to start from seed and get growing. Snaps should be pinched and netted.
Celosia. I grew one variety of this heat-loving flower last year: TX Plume Summer Sherbert Mix (not pictured). I loved the beautiful plume in the soft colors. There are different varieties of celosia that add texture and interest to bouquets. There are cockscomb celosia and a single stem feathery celosia. The TX Plume variety can be pinched, but single stem varieties like Flamingo Feather should not be pinched. Celosia is a great flower for drying.
Gomphrena. This cute round flower is also great for drying. They are a whimsical addition to the garden and arrangements. Gomphrena comes in many different colors. Cut deep to get longer stems and make sure to pinch.
Scabiosa. An umbrel-shaped flower, I grew Summer sangria last year and loved the dark wine color. I have quadrupled the varieties I am growing this year and look forward to this dainty but whimsical flower. Scabiosa also dries well. (I'm sensing a theme here).
Dahlias. I am going to count dahlias as an annual. Dahlias can be perennialized. However, after 2-3 years in the ground, the mass of tubers becomes so unwieldy that the tubers need to be divided and some have probably rotted. Most growers choose to dig up their dahlia tubers each year, divide them, and replant individual tubers in the spring. The tuber will grow a mass of tubers around it by the fall. This beautiful flower comes in so many different varieties and colors. It is worth it to grow them, as particular and finicky as they are. There will definitely be a blog post all about dahlias in the future. If you have any particular questions, leave them in the comments.
Strawflower. This flower was a highlight from the garden last year. The beautiful straw-like blooms are great for drying and add texture to the garden or an arrangement. We loved all the different colors. (The picture on the left has gomphrena and strawflower in the wagon).
Zinnia. The beloved annual. Zinnias are easy to grow from seed, do well with pinching, and will keep growing if harvested regularly. Make sure to cut them deeply to get long stems. Wiggle the head of the flower, looking for a firm stem in order to know when to harvest the bloom.
Cosmos. I loved growing these delicate disks last year. They add whimsy and playfulness to the garden. They look lovely on their own in a vase or in an arrangement. Cosmos were definitely a highlight. They need netting to keep from twisting, turning, and bending. Make sure to pinch.
Marigold. Finally, I really like to grow marigolds each year. Interplanting crops with marigolds helps provide a natural pest resistance for plants like tomatoes. I am growing a variety of marigolds this year and interplanting with different crops to find out what plants the marigold helps.
There are so many more annuals. What are your favorites? Is there one that I should add to this list?