My Top 10 Must Have Annuals

When I worked in public garden curation, I used to grow and use a lot of annuals. Much has changed since then. Many annuals are now clonal, that is they are now grown from cuttings instead of from seed. At first glace this seems crazy because seeds are easy and cheap, but these new cutting grown selections grow better and flower longer and harder. Gardeners may pay a bit more up front but these plants are a much better value. You need fewer plants to cover the same amount of ground and the display starts earlier and goes longer. These new plants fill in faster and require less care. In the old days we would plant spring annuals, replace them with summer annuals and then dead-head or replace them with mums to keep the display looking good. Not any more; this new breed of annual has changed all that.

Still there are some plants that will always be grown from seed like the castor bean plant or fragrant tobacco. These plants grow plenty fast as it is. 

When it comes to annuals, I'm a fan of big and bold. I am also a fan of fragrance. But above all I am a fan of plants that perform in the garden. Summer is too short here in Michigan to plant wimpy annuals that take 4 months to mature. I want plants that offer quick color and that fill in fast to shade out the weeds. Because I hate weeding. 

Here are my top 10 favorites. What are your favorite annuals?    

10. Colorblaze® 'Sedona' Coleus is a favorite of mine because the color is
so warm and rich. It is a strong grower that is great for
adding blocks of color to shade or partial shade areas in your yard.
The Colorblase series of coleus do not go to flower and seed as quickly.

9. Graceful Grasses® Vertigo® Pennisetum boasts big bold leaves.
This is a monster plant that gives you color, contrast and texture in
the garden. It also gives you movement. I adore big annuals.  

8. Kale 'Kaleidoscope' a wonderful cool season annual with a ruffled margin.
The foliage color changes and intensifies as the temperatures drop in autumn.
Ornamental Kales and Cabbages are great in mixed containers. 

7. Nicotiana sylvestris the Fragrant Tobacco is a bold plant with incredible fragrance.
It is grown from seed but matures quickly. I like to plant it in groups of 5 or more
to give people a real good dose of sweet fragrance as they pass by. 

 6. Ricinus communis 'Carmencita' - Castor Bean plant is big bold plant
and some cultivars have attractive
 red leaves like this one.
One plant can reach 5-6' or more in one season.  

5. Supertunia® Raspberry Blast is a super strong grower with incredible flower power. 
Like other Supertunias it is a super grower and a great value. You can get cheaper
petunias but they wont grow and flower like this series of plants.

4. I love Superbells® Cherry Star Calibrachoa because it is such a cheerful color. 
It boasts a unique blend of bright red with a yellow lines.

3. Euphorbia Diamond Frost® looks great every day all summer long. A very strong 
grower that gives great garden value. It is great in containers, as seen here,
 or in the garden. Just give it plenty of room to grow.  

2. The fragrant Snow Princess® Lobularia blooms all summer long
and it saves you money because you need fewer plants
compared to traditional sweet alyssum which is seen on the right.
Traditional alyssum stops flowering in summer but this plant just keeps going. 

1. This is my number one favorite annual and a must have in every garden.
 Vista Bubblegum is an incredible plant that flowers non-stop
and looks good every day all season long. There are only two plants in each of
these window boxes but you could have achieved the same resultls with one plant. That's how strong this plant grows. This annual amazes me!  


  1. I was very impressed with 'Opal Innocence' nemesia this year. This year our spring was very cool (45 degree F at noon one day in mid-June) right through June, and then we hit some upper 90's temps later in the summer. The OI nemesia flowered right through it all with just a bit of deadheading. I also tried some 'Serena' and 'Angelface' angelonias that nearly rotted away during the cold of June and took until the end of August to start looking good - those are probably best left to gardeners in warmer climates.

  2. I don't usually like flowering kale or cabbage, but Kale 'Kaleidoscope' could convert me. And I haven't grown the tall flowering tobacco in awhile. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    I would have to say that Calibrachoa 'Lemon Slice' was my best performer this summer. It was never not in full bloom and lasted until frost. And it was bright enough to see from anywhere in the yard.

  3. I agree with Marie, that Kale 'Kaleidoscope' looks amazing! Although, I didn't need any converting. I am a kale/cabbage admirer. I am not that familiar with ornamental kales though, do you know if this kaleidoscope variety is edible?


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