In all honesty I dislike the term easy-to-grow annuals. It’s redundant, you see. Almost all annuals are easy to grow. At least they are if you know the tricks. In general the seeds need only to make contact with moist, regular garden soil, some sun and poof! They grow into nice plants with copious amounts of blossoms in virtually every color imaginable, all sizes and shapes. A little feeding during the season, some deadheading and they’ll reward you endlessly.
Knowing all that what I’ll do is give you a list of the easiest to grow, those whose seeds seem ready to sprout even before you get them onto bare soil, those that thrive on neglect and require the least amount of fuss from you, the gardener. These also have the tendency to self-sow. Can you get easier than that?
Marigold- This massive group of predominately orange-yellow flowers is by far the easiest to grow. Widely available and ranging from the tiny 8 inch French Marigold with 1-2 inch wide simple flower to the taller “Crackerjack” with its large 4-5 inch wide, fully double blooms. Some newer cultivars have creamy white blossoms and pretty bi-colors, too. There’s a Marigold for every garden.
Cosmo- A meadow wildflower and along-the-highway favorite, Cosmos has been hybridized into some funky new shapes some with picotee edged, ruffled, curled and striped petals. These grow relatively tall 5-6 ft high in rich soil. They take care of themselves and drop seeds for next year’s crop of flowers. Pinks, whites, reds and even some yellows and bi-colored flowers grow at the end of wiry stems with delicate fern-like foliage. Lovely for the back of a border or even as a temporary hedge.
Zinnia- Another profuse bloomer which comes in a wide variety of colors and sizes. You can get the button-cute “Lillput” growing to 18 inches or the “State Fair” giant which tops at 4 feet with 6 inch wide blooms. There are tons in between too, with single, semi-double and fully double flower forms. You just can’t miss with these.
Cleome (Spider flower)- Growing 4-5 feet tall with spidery looking flowers (hence it’s common name) Cleome looks amazing planted en mass. Pinks and whites dominate the flower colors but what I love about this plant is the ballistic seed pods which explode when the seeds are ripe. Sometimes all you have to do is blow on them and they pop. Your kids and grandchildren will love that!
Petunia- New cultivars appear every year of the venerable Petunia. These fragrant lovelies look as great in the garden as they do in hanging baskets, planter boxes and patio pots. Many colors and types to choose from. Some stand upright while others creep along the ground. Self-sows readily but cuttings can also be easily rooted in water.
Impatiens- The best for the shady yard, Impatiens come in many pretty colors in single and double flower forms. The New Guinea is the new favorite for its exquisite double blooms and dark green foliage.
Nicotiana- A tall ornamental relative of the tobacco, Nicotiana has slender, tube shaped flowers with an enticing perfume somewhat like Jasmine. Hummingbirds love them. Don’t rub the leaves though. They smell like tobacco. Yuck! Some folks insist deer are repelled by them. Don’t know that for a fact but you try and let me know.
Morning Glory- Vigorous growing vine with trumpet shaped multi-colored flowers blooming in early morning and on cloudy days. Morning Glory has the unwarranted reputation of being hard to germinate. This is easily rectified by soaking the seeds overnight in warm water to soften the seed coat and hasten germination. Problem solved. Unless you want it sprawling on the ground provide adequate climbing possibilities in the way of fence or arbor.
Nasturtium- Some consider this an herb because the flowers are edible. They have a peppery taste great in salads or just to pretty up a dish. But they’re first and foremost best in the flower bed, window box or planter where they can cascade bewitchingly. Many colors in double and single form flowers.
Sunflowers- From the relatively little , 3-4 feet high “Teddy Bear” to the majestic “Russian Giant” at 8 feet, this is the best for the back of a border, to define garden spaces or to provide a bit of shading for cool weather veggies. They attract bees and Golden Finches like mad when the large seed heads dry and provide their favorite yummy treat. My advice to you if you want to keep some seeds for yourself, plant extra and cover a few seed heads with a loosely tied brown paper bag around it. No other way to keep the birds and squirrels away.
Quick to germinate, quick to bloom, easier than pie to grow and nothing but bad luck or frost to get these wonderful flowers to stop blooming, annuals got it going on. Try a few and see what living the good life’s all about.
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