Gardening for Beginners: What Are Annuals?

Annual Phlox (Phlox drummondii) | Nick Pecker

What are annuals? Annuals, in the world of gardening, refer to the plants (usually very colorful flowers) that you plant once in the Spring and they die before Winter. They are called “annuals” because they live for one gardening year only. There are several things you need to know about annuals.

The components that make up a garden can be a combination of the following: Bulbs, perennials, annuals, grasses, shrubs, and trees. Annuals provide color in the garden. While some gardeners prefer to plant all perennials (you’re getting it – these are the plants that, once put in the ground, grow season after gardening season), gardens with even a few annual plants are usually more colorful and have more depth and contrast.

French Marigold (Tagetes patula) | Nick Pecker

There are full sun annuals and shade annuals. Sometimes it works to plant full sun annuals in slight shade, particularly if the climate is high and dry. On the other hand, it can work to plant shade annuals in full sun if the climate is colder. But any way you look at it, it’s best to pay attention to the plant label, which usually tells on the front whether the plants are full sun annuals or shade annuals. A few years of experience in planting annuals will allow deviation from the plant label, but for beginners, read and plant as suggested by the producer!

Annuals can be bought in garden centers as plants, already growing and ready to be put in the ground. The best option for purchasing annuals in this way is to choose annual plants that are not blooming. Save the blooming for the garden and not the garden center. Annual flower seeds can also be purchased but here’s the key: Be sure that the seeds will have enough time to germinate, grow, and produce flowers during the gardening season. Gardening in high altitudes almost always dictates that annual plants, not seeds, are put into the ground.


On a side note, deer really like annual flowers! So a commonly asked question is what are deer resistant annuals? While nothing is foolproof with deer, try ageratum, snapdragons, marigolds, verbena, or dusty miller.

The following is an annual flowers list. A more comprehensive list of annuals and when to plant them (along with annual flowers pictures) can be found online at any state university’s horticulture department. (Some of these can survive as perennials in lower altitudes.)

Geranium Grandiflorum, Regal Geranium “Elegance Jeanette”

-Bachelor button
-Four o’clock
-Moss rose

Kelli Dolecek is the author of several gardening resource books, including the Month-To-Month Gardening by state series. Kelli is a researcher/editor and gets her information from experts that have collectively over 150 years of gardening experience.

Source: Kelli Dolecek

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