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While perennials form the foundation of a garden, low maintenance annuals provide the pops of color that create interest all summer long. These plants bloom and shine for a single season, rather than returning year after year.
There are advantages to adding annuals to the garden. They fill in gaps among perennials. Annuals add variety as the plants can be changed every year. Cost wise, they are cheaper than perennials. And they are perfect for containers.
Try out the following low maintenance annuals. They can be tucked into the ground. Or use them to create a container garden on a balcony or patio.
For many gardeners, the brightly colored marigold was the first flower they ever planted. Available in warms shades of yellow, gold, orange and red-orange, dependable marigolds have a distinctive aroma that helps to repel insects. They range in height from 4 to 24 inches, making them perfect in a flower border. Scatter seeds or plant marigolds in well drained soil, in a sunny location.
In warmer climates, the geranium is actually a perennial. For most of the US, however, it is grown as an annual. Planted in containers, geraniums thrive when moved indoors to winter. Colors range from red to pink to white and they grow up to 18 inches tall. Place geraniums where they can receive morning or late afternoon sun and shade during the hottest part of the day.
This easy care flower comes in a broad range of colors and varieties and grows to a height of 3 feet. Zinnias appreciate full sun and well drained soil. They can tolerate some drought making them a great annual for hot summers. To encourage continual blooms, pinch off the flowers as they fade. This plant is easily grown from seeds.
Zinnias in metal containers near my brick patio.
Another very common flower, petunias are perennials in zones 9 – 11 and considered annuals in the rest of the US. (Find your zone here.) These colorful flowers do extremely well in containers, tolerating heat and blooming all summer. Keep them in full sun. Some varieties of petunias vine while others mound. Remove flowers as they fade to keep them blooming until fall.
These flowers resemble little petunias. Like petunias, they are perennials in zones 9 – 11 and annuals elsewhere. Calibrachoas come in a variety of colors and do especially well in hanging baskets and containers. They prefer sunny locations although light shade, such as on a covered porch, is tolerable as well. Water regularly to keep the soil damp for the best performance and remove faded flowers. If the vines get too straggly, pinch them back to encourage fuller growth.
Purple and yellow calibrachoas growing in a wash tub.
These low maintenance annuals bloom profusely throughout the summer, adding pops of color to borders and containers. Hues range from reds to pinks to lilacs to whites. Vincas grow up to 12 inches tall and attract bees and butterflies to the garden. Plant in well drained soil, in full sun. These flowers don’t have to be removed as they fade. Vinca blooms drop on their own.
Also known as moss roses or purslane, this annual thrives in hot dry conditions. Their trailing stems make them ideal for containers and hanging baskets. They also work well as ground cover. Portulacas come in a broad variety of colors and can easily be started from seeds. Although considered an annual in most of the US, they often self seed, producing new plants the following summer.
Vincas, portulacas and petunias in containers on my potting bench.
These sun loving flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden. Reaching a height of 12 inches, pentas bloom in shades of red, pink, white and purple. They prefer well drained soil. Plant them in containers or flower borders.
Colorful impatiens come in a variety of bright or pastel hues. These low growing plants prefer lightly shaded to full shade locations and damp soil, making them perfect for hanging baskets or containers on a porch or covered patio. The blooms do not need to be removed as they fade. This favorite will flower until first frost.
One of the easiest of the low maintenance annuals, begonias come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They grow 8 to 10 inches tall and bloom in shades of red, pink and white. Foliage can be green or bronze in color. Although they can thrive in full sun, most begonias do best in light shade. Keep the soil damp by watering frequently. The hardy plants do well in containers or borders and attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Begonias bloom throughout the summer, until it frosts.
White and red begonias fill containers on my covered front porch.
Backyard Garden Series
If perennials seem too daunting, I hope this list of low maintenance annuals gives you ideas for your own garden. The beauty of these easy care plants is that they can occupy a variety of containers, bringing color and delightful scents to small spaces.
Or have fun mixing perennials and annuals together. In my outdoor spaces, most of my annuals fill containers scattered throughout my garden. I change the annuals each year, trying out new varieties and different colors, which adds to the fun and keeps things interesting.
For more garden ideas, check out the other posts in the Backyard Garden Series. And, happy gardening!
Pentas growing in a vintage metal bucket, next to an old minnow bucket repurposed into a candleholder.
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