Annuals are plants that complete their lifecycle from seed to bloom to setting seed and dying all in one season, examples would be Portulaca or Alyssum. Annuals need to be planted ‘Annually’. Some plants that we buy as annuals each season may over-winter in a mild season or if planted in a protected location, such as along the home, especially on the East side; examples would be Salvia Victoria, Petunias or Snapdragons. Many of these are considered ‘Hardy Annuals’ and are actually perennial in zones south of our zone 5. Although planting these plants every season may seem like a chore, the wonder of annuals is the constant color note they will provide in your gardens, wall beds or container gardens continuously thru the season and into fall.
Each year the color palette of annuals can change to compliment or accent the shrubs and
perennials that are the backbone of your gardens. Even though pink may be your favorite color (Geraniums, Petunias, Vinca, Begonias or Impatiens) next year a most wonderful shade of salmon orange (Geranium, Gazanias, Tuberous Begonia or Impatiens) in combination with deep purple foliage accents (Sweet Potato Vine Blackie, Pennisetum Rubrum, Basil Dark Opal or Coleus Dark Star) may be the ideal planting to set off your deck and patio areas to greet you and your guests during the summer evenings. Annuals are also an excellent place to seek out white accents for the areas of your gardens that are viewed after dusk from entries, windows or along lighted paths. Some excellent varieties are Bacopa, Vinca, Calibrachoe, Trailing Dusty Miller, Daisies, Begonias or Alyssum.
Some varieties of annuals, referred to as hardy annuals, are plants that will tolerate temperatures below 32° early in the season, if they have been properly hardened off. These are excellent plants to begin early plantings in April especially in among bulbs to help camouflage foliage as they begin to grow. Examples of these are Alyssum, Dianthus, Dusty Miller, Violas, Petunias, Snapdragons and Pansies. Early color that has staying power all season can be a wonderful early spring greeting.
Annual plantings will follow much the same regimen except that for watering, often 7-10 days is more the scheduling, depending on soil conditions and temperature extremes. Containers will vary tremendously depending on size of container, type of container (clay as opposed to plastic) and even what plants you select. Check containers daily until you know how your plantings will react. When you do water, be sure to water deeply and thoroughly, even containers need the entire root system moistened each time you water. Annuals planted in the ground should have additional fertilizer every 2 weeks and Annuals in containers at least once every week.
Sometimes, the most desirable location for some type of planting is in an area with either poor soil conditions or no soil at all. Often these are entry points where greeting guests to your home is important (entry porch, deck or patio). The remedy for many of these locations is some type of Container Garden or grouping of different plantings. These can range in size from 6”pots arranged in a grouping along a fence or side of a building to window boxes or deck planters of wood, metal or moss lined wire hayracks. Hanging baskets along the porch or in the arbor and trees, can be made of plastic, clay, wood or moss lined wire. Larger pots of lightweight polyurethane can easily be 20” or more in diameter and still be manageable. Colored concrete or pottery glazed to compliment your outside décor or stand out as an accent to show off entry and deck plantings can be dramatic setting for water plantings or sweeping grasses accented with perennials or shrubs as well as annuals. If water plantings are more to your liking, but you lack space for a pond, a container will work for many varieties of water & bog plants. Grouping one of these in with grasses and pots of annuals can create a dramatic effect. Just as you plan the other plantings in your landscape, understanding the amount of sunlight a particular area will receive as well as exposure to wind is important. The major advantage for container gardens is of course, they are movable.