The Best Summer Annuals and How to Plant Them

Annual flowers in garden

Annuals are easy-to-grow bounties of beauty and enjoyment. Requiring less commitment than perennials, annuals are fun and fulfilling because they're relatively inexpensive, low maintenance, and can easily be plopped into your garden beds or into containers to bring life and color to any part of your home. As you dream up your summer’s flower garden and all its beautiful colors, scents, and designs, take a little time to map out what exactly you want to plant this year. A little planning goes a long way!


All About Annuals

Flowers in garden

Annuals, unlike perennials, go through their entire life cycle in one season, meaning, they do not come back again next year. Perennials, on the other hand, if planted in the appropriate climate or zone, will come back year after year. As annuals are not permanent plantings, they are a great way to fill entire garden beds or to add to your permanent perennial gardens without too much commitment.
Also, if you are a vegetable gardener, certain annuals can be a great way to bring added color to your veggie patch while also warding away certain garden pests.
Regardless of what style of gardener you are or what your gardening space is like, pull up a chair to learn about some of the best summer annuals and how to plant them.


Cosmos

Cosmos

Playful, delicate, colorful, and magically fairy-like, cosmos are any flower gardener’s favorite. These adorable and feathery flowers grow even taller and faster the more you cut them, making them perfect for the garden and to bring inside, too.
Requiring full sun, Cosmos are a burst of shades of pink, purple, and white that will grace your garden beds all summer.


Larkspur

Larkspur

Larkspurs are the annual version of delphiniums. Tall, stunning spears of purple and blue flowers make a dazzling and alluring addition to any flowerbed.
These crisply cool beauties enjoy full sun to partial shade and are especially resilient in colder climates. Plant seeds in the fall (they will survive winter freezes) to enjoy beautiful flowers from spring through early summer.


Marigolds

Marigolds

Just because marigolds are common does not mean they are any less desirable. These vibrant explosions of oranges and yellows will add warmth and sunshine to your garden.
Fast growing, hardy, and extremely abundant, marigolds produce a generous amount of blooms each summer. Plant in a veggie patch to repel pests and bring some added color.


Snapdragons

Snapdragons

Add height, texture, and boldness to your flowerbeds with snapdragons. These longtime favorites are easy to grow and come in a multitude of color explosions that will bring a vividly striking dimension to the garden.
They love full sun and will bloom boldly through the summer. Fragrant and frost tolerant, these beauties make a vivacious addition to your garden.


Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Nothing brings bounties of sunshine and delight to a garden like sunflowers. Ranging from medium to over-your-head height, these bundles of joy come in a variety of sunny hues such as gold, orange, yellow, white, red, and even pink.
Depending on how tall your sunflowers grow, be prepared to stake them to give them the support they need to flourish. Like big, bright, smiling faces, sunflowers bring unparalleled happiness to your flowerbed and make excellent cuttings. Plant in full sun and enjoy blooms from summer into the fall.


Planting Annuals

There are two ways to plant annual flowers. You can either start from seed or purchase container planted annuals, also known as “starts.” Each option has its benefits, and most gardeners have a preference depending on their needs.

Seedlings

Starting From Seed

Purchasing seeds is often more economical as you get more for your money. You can choose to either directly seed into the garden (be sure to check the best time to do this as each flower has different requirements), or you can seed annuals indoors in small containers and then transplant outdoors later when the appropriate weather conditions arrive.

Plant Starts

Planting Starts

Planting annuals purchased in pots or trays from your local garden center is easier for many gardeners, as it cuts out much of the work. This is also a good option if you are not necessarily looking for an entire bed of one kind of annual flower (as seed packets typically have a larger quantity of seeds), but would prefer anywhere from a couple to a dozen of one kind of flower.

When picking what annual “starts” to buy at the garden center, be sure to look for strong and stocky plants that are a healthy bright-green, and are not yellowing or wilted. A key to a healthy life of a plant is to be sure they had a healthy start.

How to Grow a Healthy Garden

Healthy Garden

Probably the most important part of growing a healthy garden, annuals and all, is healthy soil. If your flowerbeds contain soil that is less than ideal, your flowers will reflect that.
When soil is depleted, it grows weaker plants, which are more susceptible to pests and diseases and will not fulfill their flowering potential. If you have doubts about the fertility of your soil, add organic matter to the soil like:

  • manure
  • compost
  • peat moss
  • gypsum

These additives will keep your soil fluffy and fertile, and it will better hold moisture and nutrients to ensure the more stunning annual flowers all summer.

Keep your flowerbeds mulched to keep in moisture and keep out weeds! Be sure to check on the individual growing and sun needs of each flower, too, to ensure great growing all summer long.


Annuals offer beautiful and easy-to-grow flowerbeds, are filled with color and fragrance, and are just around the corner. Take the time in the spring to plan your summer annual flowerbeds for the best results and most brilliant blooms. Summer is here, so enjoy the fruits of your labor.