What are Annuals?

Annuals are plants which germinate, grow, flower, set seed and die all in one year. What that means is that annuals do not come back the next year. Many genus of plant can have within the genus varieties which are both annual, possibly biennial and perennial. 

For gardening purposes here, Annual, is referring to those plants which are around for one year only, and that includes plants which are simply not hardy enough to survive our winters.

Why Grow Annuals?

You may wonder, if a plant is only going to last one summer, why bother to grow it in the first place?

The reason is that many of our most colourful plants are annuals and so it follows annuals add a lot of colour to our gardens and many  are cheap and easy to grow from seed.

Common garden annuals are Nasturtium, Cornflower and many wildflowers and wildflower mixes, Ipomea, virtually all bedding plants, Calandula, Sweet peas,Nigella, Cosmos, Sunflowers it's a long list. From many of these plants you can collect seed at the end of the season and grow again next year. 

Annuals are ideal for filling gaps in borders, the spaces where something didn't grow, or isn't quite as expected or as you are waiting for a border to mature. Seed some annuals into a container and you can either plant out or put the container in the border and fill the gap.

Annuals are also cheap to fill borders for extra colour.

Top 10 tips on about growing from seed

If you have never tried growing flowers from seeds, or you fancy trying to grow annuals here are some of the easiest to germinate and grow. 

The easiest annuals to grow from Seed.

Nasturtiun in veg plot

Nasturtium

Nasturtium always germinates, it is a foolproof annual. The first time buy seeds and there are many varieties now available, with a wider colour range and variegated leaves

. Sow in spring, as in March, April, May, into ordinary compost which is pre misted so it's a little damp.

Keep warm in a conservatory, porch or window sill and make sure the tray does not dry out and they will sprout, they always do.  Nasturtium is a half-hardy annual, they will tolerate it cold but not a heavy frost and are best planted out when the risk of serious frost has passed. You can sow indoors, leave it until late April/May and sow outdoors where you want them to grow. Do not enrich the soil for Nasturtium otherwise they tend to grow lots of leaves and not enough flowers. Plant in a spot which gets sun for at least half the day.

The Nasturtiums in the image were all seeded directly outside in late April and from seed saved the previous year. Once you have purchased your first seeds of Nasturtiums, you can easily collect seeds as at the end of the growing season you will find dozens of seeds on the Nasturtiums, pick them off, dry them well in a warm place and then into a paper bag to store over winter in a cool dark place, a fridge is ideal. 

Calendula

Calendula, the English Pot Marigold, will seed itself and start growing it is so easy. Again it produces lots of seed at the end of the growing season for use next year. It is also a half-hardy annual, sow and germinate in the same way as Nasturtium above.

Cornflower

Stunning blue Cornflower

Cornflower and wildflower mixes are generally easy to sow and germinate, although the soil preparation is more tricky. You need to sow in April/Mail into a fine tilth with stones and lumps removed. Like other seeds, it is important to make sure the ground does not dry out.

Cerinthe Major

Cerinthe Major

Cerinthe Major is an unusual but easy to germinate and grow, half-hardy annual.

So in the same way as the other half-hardy annuals and it has a very high percentage of germination. Plant in spot with at least half the day sunshine and it will reward you will lovely flowers, and bees.

Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea Hi Scent

Sweet Peas are easy to germinate but are time-consuming to grow but provide fabulous summer scent and colour. You can sow sweet peas in Autumn or Spring and they are hardy annuals which means they will put up with mild frosts.  You can sow in Autumn and overwinter under glass- all about growing sweet peas 

Sunflower

Sunflower

Sunflowers are a breeze to germinate from easy to handle, large seeds they are reliable germinators.

Sunflowers are also hardy annuals which means you can start them off earlier in the year and they will tolerate temperatures to below freezing but not heavy frosts.

Cosmos

large flower of Cosmos

Cosmos flower in all shades of purple, maroon, cream pink white and are both half hardy and hardy. There are orange and yellow varieties and a tender chocolate coloured and scented variety. All are easy to grow from seed and reliable germinators.

Sow indoors under glass in a propagator and keep warm until seedling establish.

last updated 12.07.2021