Annual flowers are easy to grow and add variation to your garden space or flower beds. Discover some varieties that are easy to start in the comfort of your home to reduce your bill at the garden center come planting time!
I love flowers. I love plants and gardens in general, but I especially love flowers. They add beauty to gardens that your good old vegetables just can’t match. The thing is, I think a lot of people just plan on going to their local garden center come spring to look at what’s available and move forward from there. And don’t get me wrong, I still like going to my local garden center or greenhouse to look and purchase a few things. Plus, that greenhouse smell… can anything really match it? You don’t have to really do all that much work either, just go and pick out what you like. But, you pay for that labor as well.
For me, I follow a pretty tight budget on my plants. And I love plants and flowers, probably just like you do. But I simply can’t afford to spend a lot of money on my plants when I have other goals and dreams that I would rather put more money towards. So to get around this, I like to start a lot of my flowers from seed at home. The good thing is, also, that there are a lot of plants that you can plant from seed directly into your garden as well! This is great because it requires less labor yet from you. Do I always plant directly into my garden? No. It works better with some plants than others. And some you technically could start directly in your garden, but I still start ahead of time in a pot because I might have better germination that way.
The thing is, there are some really easy annual flowers that you can fill your garden beds with and cut your budget while getting more bang for your buck. Let’s look at a few of my favorites!
Zinnias are absolutely beautiful and such easy keepers. They truly want to grow and produce so many flowers. In fact, if you aren’t careful they can go a bit overboard.
Zinnias are also great because you can direct sow them after your last frost and still have great germination. They hold up to the South Dakota winds and come in some truly beautiful colors. If you’re a true beginner, I think this is a great variety to get started with.
They’re also great because seed saving in the fall is super easy. Just let the flowers dry on the plant and collect the seeds before they scatter in the wind! If you buy one packet of zinnias, you could have them for the rest of your life. What a huge win.
Alyssum is a small flower that is great as a low cover flower or in baskets. It comes in various colors and really doesn’t need all that much time to get started. It likes full sun to part shade but is definitely frost tender.
The key to starting alyssum is that it likes to be surface sowed where light can aid in the germination. To surface sow seeds, I like to scatter them on damp soil, lightly press in, spray with water lightly, and cover them in some way. My favorite way to cover when I’m using solo cups is just with clear Saran Wrap.
Marigolds have to be one of the easiest annuals to plant. You direct sow annuals and most of the time get great germination. They’re pretty hardy too. The best part about most marigold varieties is that you can save back the seeds for the next year.
I like just the standard marigold varieties, but they make some beautiful varieties that stand out from the traditional ones.
Calendula is such a fascinating plant. Not only are the flowers beautiful, but you can also harvest them to dry for teas or tinctures. They can be started in doors about a month before your last frost or you can direct sow them after your last frost. They like full sun so they’re a great addition to your regular garden as they’ll also bring in pollinators.
Amaranth can be considered an edible plant. I love it for its aesthetics. It’s a beautiful flower that offers a romantic touch. It sprouts very easily, grows easily, and offers a great addition to a cut flower arrangement.
Snap dragons are another flower that likes to be surface sown. But as long as you have the room warm enough and some light, they tend to do just fine.
Snap dragons are one of those beautiful stem flower varieties that make great cut flowers. I just love the look of them and how easily they are to get started. The flower color variations are just beautiful as well.
There are so many different types of celosia. The one that I’ve started with is the pampas plume variety. It’s started well and I can’t wait to add it to my garden pots.
Straw flowers are another plant that likes to be surface sown. I thought it would be harder to get started but so far I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
The beauty with strawflowers is that they make excellent cut flowers or dried flowers.
Double Click Cosmos
Double click cosmos are a great annual to add to your flower bed. They get great flowers and are actually really easy to grow.
They like to be planted a little underneath the soil but they germinate very easily.
I like to start a lot of my garden seeds in good old red solo cups. They’re cheap and durable. However… most annual flowers don’t need very long to get started before you plant them in their garden beds. Most of them only require somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-6 weeks. And then they don’t tend to get very big before you plant them out. Nothing like your tomato or pepper plants might.
For this reason, I would recommend getting a seed starting tray with a medium cell size. You could fit all of your annuals in one or two trays depending on how many you plan on starting. As long as you purposely don’t destroy the tray, you should be able to use them for several years as well.
Another great material to use to start your annual flowers is the containers you’ve purchased from a garden center in the past when buying flowers. I love doing this because it’s something I’ve already purchased that I can reuse instead of just treating as a disposable material.
Guidlines for Starting Annual Flower Seeds
When you start your flower seeds, make sure to follow basic seed starting protocols.
Use a multi-purpose potting soil or seed starting mix. I love to use ProMix Multipurpose Potting Soil. Make sure to bottom water your plants as this helps reduce the tendency to have mold issues and doesn’t disturb the soil while the roots are establishing. Place your plants in front of a good south facing window that gets good sunlight or have a set of grow lights that will provide adequate light.
With most annuals, you really shouldn’t have to fertilize them while they are in their seed starting trays. Many easy annual flowers only take 3-6 weeks to get going before you have to plant them out. Your potting soil likely will have enough nutrients to support the plants until then. If you did have a set of annuals that needed longer to become established before planting out, you could fertilize at half of the houseplant rate after your plants have been started for somewhere around 4 weeks.
Exploration is Key
This list of annual flowers is in no way comprehensive. But I do think it’s a great starting place to get you moving towards having beautiful gardens full of some gorgeous flowers. What are your favorite annual flowers?