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Annuals

"Whatever a man's age he can reduce it several years by putting a bright-colored flower in his buttonhole."

a flower in a coat buttonhole

Photo: John Lambert Pearson

It is the annual plants that provide the continuous color we all long for in our gardens.

This is the time of year to think about annuals. They can be planted after the danger of late frost is past. The term “annual” refers to plants that germinate, bloom, set seed and die in a single growing season.

In cold climates, for all practical purposes, the term includes any plant that will not winter over in the garden. While most gardeners think of perennials, plants that normally do winter over, as the backbone of the garden, most perennials have only a limited period of bloom.

It is the annual plants that provide the continuous color we all long for in our gardens. Annuals bloom non stop. Their names are familiar to nearly everyone: marigolds, zinnias, petunias, nasturtiums, cannas, dahlias, and so on – showy sun loving bright flowers, most of which need to be dead headed to keep them performing. There are also annuals, primarily impaciens, that bloom in the shade. Annuals can be started from seed, but most gardeners prefer to buy plants.

Plant according to the directions, tamping down the soil so there are no air pockets, and water well. Apply fertilizer throughout the season, and cut them back if they get leggy in high summer. They will quickly recover and provide even more blooms. Annuals are easy to grow and very rewarding even for a novice gardener. And remember Mark Twain’s advice:

Whatever a man’s age he can reduce it several years by putting a bright-colored flower in his buttonhole.

Moya Andrews

, originally from Queensland, Australia, served as Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculties at Indiana University until 2004. In the same year, Moya began hosting Focus on Flowers for WFIU. In addition, Moya does interviews for Profiles, is a member of the Bloomington Hospital Board, and authored Perennials Short and Tall from Indiana University Press.

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