One of the best things about annuals is the wide variety of colors they come in. No matter what your fancy, there’s probably an annual for you. However, just because annuals come in a rainbow of colors doesn’t mean you should use all those shades in your garden.
For a unified effect, choose a palette of two or three complementary colors. For a cool color scheme, choose blue, pink, or lavender flowers. For a bright, warm effect, try yellow, orange and red. Use white flowers as an accent for both warm and cool color schemes. In addition to flower color, consider foliage, as well. Sweet potato vine, for example, has large, trailing leaves that come in purple, chartreuse or orange.
Once you’ve selected a color scheme, it’s time to pick colors. Wondering where to start? Below are some common annuals listed by color:
Cool Color Schemes
- Blue: cornflower (or bachelor’s buttons), morning glory vines, nigella, pansy
- Pink: snapdragon, zinnia, phlox, sweet pea, petunia, pinks, lantana, geranium, coleus, alyssum, forget-me-not, larkspur, impatiens, nicotiana
- Purple: lantana, petunia, sweet pea, phlox, larkspur, cosmos, impatiens, lobelia
Warm Color Schemes
- Yellow: dahlia, marigold, petunia, phlox, zinnia, calendula, cleome, snapdragon, nasturtium, portulaca
- Orange: nasturtium, dahlia, marigold, zinnia, cleome
- Red: nasturtium, poppy, nicotiana
- White: impatiens, nicotiana, sweet pea, lobelia, sweet alyssum, daisy
- Spectacular foliage: coleus, sweet potato vine, ageratum
Annuals for Planters
When selecting annual plants for a planter, think about the shape, texture and height of the plants, in addition to the colors. For the most dramatic effect, select one tall, extravagant plant, some shorter, bushy plants as filler, and some trailing plants to spill over the sides.
Good choices for vertical affect include purple fountain grass, spikes, agave and cannas. Position the vertical plant in the center of the container. Slip a few spreading, mounding plants, such as petunias, begonias, dusty miller or coleus, around the tall plant. At the edge of the container, add two or three trailing plants. As the plants grow, they’ll dangle down the sides of the planter for a lush, full effect. Trailing plants include licorice plant, sweet potato vine, trailing nasturtium, sweet Jenny and bacopas.
Annuals for Beds
When selecting annuals for beds, select those that have a spreading habit and mounding form. Petunias, impatiens, pansies, and nasturtiums fall into this category. Some annuals, such as cosmos, snapdragons, phlox, nicotiana, and marigolds have a stalky or leggy appearance and are best grown mixed with other annuals. Flowering annual vines work well against a trellis or the back of the flower bed. Morning glories, moon flowers, trailing nasturtium, sweet potato vine and hyacinth bean vine make spectacular background plants.
Planting Annual Flowers
Most annuals are frost tender, meaning they do not tolerate cold temperatures. Plant them outdoors only after temperatures are reliably above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. A few annuals, such as pansies, poppies and sweet peas, prefer cool temperatures.
Provide well-drained fertile soil for annuals. Since they only live one season, you want to give them the best growing conditions possible to encourage lots of blooms.
Feed annuals with a water-soluble fertilizer every two to four weeks.
Water and fertilize potted plants more frequently since moisture and nutrients leach out of the soil.
Want to learn more about growing annuals by color?
University of Illinois Extension: Directory of Annuals
Purdue University Cooperative Extension: Growing Annuals