19 Annual Flower Bed Combinations that Look Great Together

Garden annuals bring fun, excitement, and dynamism to the planting display. Add new colors and textures to the garden and change its look for seasonal variation. With long-blooming annuals, you’ll get nonstop color and multi-season appeal. Choosing which annuals to grow together may be the most fun part of the process. For annual flower bed combinations that look great together, follow garden professional Katherine Rowe in exploring colors and textures that pop.

A large flowerbed displays marigolds, sunny daisies, and red snapdragons.

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Annuals give the garden an unparalleled infusion of seasonal color. They embellish the bones of the garden – the existing structure and form created by trees, shrubs, and garden beds – to energize the space and draw the eye to focal areas.

For a dynamic annual display, look to complementary combinations with high contrast in color or texture. Grasses and tall, airy blooms add movement to the garden, while low-growing border plantings bring a buffer of nonstop color to anchor the design.

Many annuals propagate quickly from seed and are readily available as bedding plants. Endless combinations allow us to play in the garden to change colors and patterns for a versatile and refreshing seasonal display. In addition to boosting garden aesthetics with all-season color, annual plants also serve pollinators like butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds in nectar and pollen production.

Our Favorite Annuals

Zinnia

California Giants Zinnia Seeds

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California Giants Zinnia Seeds

Petunia

Petite Charmer Petunia Seeds

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Petite Charmer Petunia Seeds

Coleus

Rainbow Blend Coleus Seeds

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Rainbow Blend Coleus Seeds

Mealycup Sage and Zinnia

Flowerbed with Mealycup Sage and Zinnias in bloom. Mealycup Sage (Salvia farinacea) presents an elegant appearance with upright stems bearing spikes of tubular flowers in shades of blue and purple, complemented by gray-green, lance-shaped foliage. Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) offer a vibrant appearance with bushy, compact plants adorned with large, dahlia-like flowers in a wide array of colors, including red, orange, yellow, and pink.
Interwoven hues bloom as these delightful annuals flourish together.

Mealycup Sage

Also called blue mealy sage, this salvia lends a striking vertical element to annual displays in vivid blue. Its rich blue-purple bloom spires contrast beautifully with other annuals in yellow, white, red, orange, and pink. Tubular blooms are “dusted” in white hairs, resembling flour or meal (hence, mealy or mealycup). 

Mealycup sage is a short-lived perennial native to prairies, plains, and meadows in the Southwestern U.S. Its distribution is widespread. Blue mealy sage makes a wonderful annual in climates where it’s not hardy. The dreamy flower color is versatile in endless planting combinations, including cheerful color variations of zinnia.

Salvia farinacea attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds with its nectar-producing blooms. Its sagey, aromatic foliage is deer-resistant. Keep soils well-drained. In wet soils, plants may be weak or leggy.

Popular varieties include ‘Augusta Duelberg’ with silvery-white blooms and ‘Henry Duelberg’ with blue flowers. These are tall varieties with prolific bloom spikes, tolerant of heat and drought. Sweetly, these two were discovered in an old Texas cemetery and are named for their respective tombstones.

For a more compact habit with florific production, look to ‘Fairy Queen’ with sapphire blue and white flowers. The spot of white creates the “fairy dust” on blooming wands.

Zinnia

Zinnias make the annual display bounce with vibrant colors. Their large, single or double-disc flowers are the perfect landing pads for pollinators. Zinnia varieties range in size from dwarf to tall and in bloom colors from white to magenta to lime green to bicolor.

Plant zinnias in a mass for a nonstop annual display, with heat-loving blooms from early summer through frost. Cut flowers for arrangements – they’ll reward you with more blooms! Bonus: zinnias are edible. Enjoy them as a pretty garnish for a summer salad or dessert.

Zinnias need good air circulation, well-drained soil, and full sun to ward off pests and fungal diseases, especially in humid climates. In areas like the South with high heat and humidity, try disease-resistant varieties like ‘Profusion,’ a dwarf zinnia loaded with successional blooms. 

Petunia and Fountain Grass

View of a flowerbed with blooming Petunias and Fountain Grass in the garden. Petunias (Petunia spp.) present a vibrant appearance with trailing growth habits and a profusion of trumpet-shaped flowers in various colors, including pink and soft pink. Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) offers an elegant appearance with arching, fountain-like foliage that cascades gracefully from tall, upright stems. The leaves are shiny, purple in color.
These flowers dance amid Fountain Grass, creating a vibrant garden spectacle.

Petunia

Petunias are among the most popular flowering annuals with their showy waves of blooms from spring through frost. From bubblegum pink to velvety black, with single, double, or ruffled flowers, there’s a petunia for every annual lover.

Petunias are classified based on bloom type and growth habit. Grandiflora have the largest flowers, while multiflora blooms are smaller but more prolific. Milliflora is a dwarf variety with miniature flowers, and cascading types are fast-growing spreading plants that quickly fill an area.

Petunias thrive in full sun. For Southern gardens, try an improved variety that tolerates heat and humidity, like Supertunia Vista Bubblegum or Mini Indigo, or go for the wave varieties, a cascading petunia with sound performance in a variety of climates.

In the right site, petunias are low-maintenance annuals with little watering and soil requirements, except that soils be well-draining. They benefit from fertilizer for those bursts of continual blooms throughout the growing season. Give plants a trim for refreshing new growth if they get leggy. Generally low-growing, they are the perfect understory contrast for striking purple fountain grass.

Purple Fountain Grass

Ornamental grasses add sway and movement to the garden, offering textural interest and contrast through their graceful blades and plumes. Fountain grass, available in an array of varieties for height, color, and hardiness, brings fine, arching grass blades with showy plumes. Annual fountain grasses are fast-growing and feature deep red, purple, and green blades.

Fountain grass provides a lovely backdrop and accent to blooming annuals. Cenchrus setaceus is a tough, clumping grass adapted to various soil and moisture conditions. Heat and drought-tolerant, purple fountain grass is also seldom browsed by deer.

Showy plumes of purple fountain grass persist into fall and provide forage for songbirds. Annual fountain grass readily reseeds – if invasiveness concerns your area, opt for a perennial pennisetum bearing the same graceful and textural qualities for multi-season appeal.

Coleus and Begonia

Flower bed of blooming Begonias and Coleus. Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) displays a vibrant appearance with colorful, serrated leaves in shades of yellow-green. Begonias offer a charming appearance with lush, waxy foliage and abundant clusters of pink flowers.
Vivid contrasts emerge as this combination of plants intertwines in harmony.

Coleus

Coleus is a magician in the annual display, able to brighten up dark areas and add drama to bold plantings with its vibrant foliage and “filler” habit. Versatile to many garden conditions and endless annual planting combinations, coleus is a show-stopper in both sun and shade displays.

Use coleus as a foil for other annuals – though it may end up stealing the show! Arrange it loosely to punctuate blooming annuals or plant it as a mass for striking color. In formal designs or patterns, coleus adds easy structure. Use trailing varieties along border edges and in containers.

Coleus shines because of its leaves in various sizes, shapes, and colors. Light purple bloom spikes accent the plant in late summer. Trim leafy stems if plants get too tall or sparse, and pinch the blooms if you want to promote lush foliage and a tidy appearance. Coleus will thrive from spring through frost in brilliant jewel tones of pink, purple, red, orange, green, and patterns that combine hues and add splashes of white.

These plants need regular water to thrive, and those in full sun require more than those growing in the shade. Coleus can be grown from seed and is easily propagated in about two to three weeks in water or soil through cuttings and rooting.

Begonia

Begonia is one of those hardy annual performers with thick, glossy leaves in various shapes and colors. Pendulous, ever-present blooms cluster atop tuberous stems. Depending on the variety, begonias perform in tough spots like dry shade with heat and humidity. 

Opt for bronze-leaf begonia varieties for sunny beds and pair them with sun-loving coleus. In shade, graceful pink or white blooms give a lovely effect to the annual combination. Bold red begonias contrast beautifully with the plant’s metallic green leaves.

Speaking of bold, incorporate angel wing begonias into shady spots for unusual texture and foliar interest. Their wing-shaped leaves and painterly dark green and white mottled leaves adorn tall, arching stems.

Begonias can be kept year-round as a houseplant and are easily propagated through cuttings. Flowers are edible, with a citrusy flavor.

Celosia and Alternanthera

Close-up of Celosia and Alternanthera blooming in a flower bed. Celosia presents a striking appearance with upright, bushy plants adorned with vibrant, plume-like flower heads of bright yellow color. Alternanthera offers a colorful appearance with low-growing, spreading plants featuring small, oval-shaped leaves in purple hue.
Radiant blooms unite in the garden as Celosia and Alternanthera thrive.

Celosia

These plumes of brilliant color have an easy care habit to quickly stand out in the annual planting. Celosia brings flair to the garden in the summer and fall—streaming colors of red, magenta, yellow, and orange waves on fuzzy bloom spikes. Celosia flowers appear as plumes, spires, or ruffly fan shapes, depending on the group.

They are characterized into three groups based on distinct blooms. These include the Cristata, Plumosa, and Spicata groups. Cristata represents what we commonly call cockscomb celosia, with large, ruffled flowers harkening a rooster’s wobbly comb. Plumosa group celosia features a feathery flower plume, and spicata blooms have naturally arching spikes resembling a sheaf of wheat.

Celosia grows easily from seed and can reseed readily in the garden. Deadhead spent blooms to prevent unwanted reseeding and pluck any volunteer plants. Celosia often pops up from seed in the following seasons from previous plantings.

Easy care and low maintenance, celosia grow best in full sun with well-drained soils. They make charming and long-lasting fresh or dried flowers in arrangements with their wild colors and textures. In vibrant hues of the season, celosia works well with other fall bloomers and with dark foliage plants.

Alternanthera

Dynamic annual displays feature variations in color, texture, and form. Like coleus, alternanthera gives that tropical pop of foliar color amid exciting leaf textures and growth habits. Leaves are ruby red to deep purple to chartreuse and range from rounded to threadlike on dense forms.

Alternanthera’s common name, Joseph’s Coat, is a reference to Joseph’s “coat of many colors” because of the plant’s colorful foliage. Alternanthera’s rich leaf color is striking against bright annual blooms and lighter foliage. Gold marigolds are the perfect complement to deep purple leaves.

Look for ‘Brazilian Red Hots’ and its pink, green, and red variegated leaves for extra sparkle. ‘Little Ruby’ is a compact grower with deep purple, burgundy, and green foliage. It’s heat and humidity-tolerant, too. ‘Red Threads’ is a densely-packed, fine-leaved variety for a textural carpet in the annual bed.

Alternanthera is a tough annual that grows best in evenly moist, organically rich soils in full sun to part shade. Color is most vibrant in full sun.

Marigolds and Cleome

Close-up of a flowerbed with Marigolds and Cleome in bloom. Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) exhibit a cheerful appearance with compact, bushy plants adorned with clusters of daisy-like flowers in vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red. Cleome (Cleome hassleriana) offers a striking appearance with tall, upright stems topped by clusters of delicate, spider-like flowers in shades of lavender and purple.
These charming annuals interlace, painting the flowerbed with vibrant hues.

Marigolds

Marigolds make beneficial companion plants in the kitchen garden and showy faces in the annual flower display. Their prolific pom-pom blooms in sunny yellow, deep gold, creamy white, and garnet contrast beautifully with feathery deep green or purple foliage. Marigolds bloom reliably all summer, and their economy makes them an excellent investment to pack a punch in the garden bed.

There are three types of marigolds. French marigolds (Tagetes patula) produce bountiful blooms in single or double flowers up to two inches wide. African marigolds (Tagetes erecta) are the tallest plants at three to four feet tall and perennialize more easily in moderate climates. Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) are the most petite marigolds and also the tastiest. Use Signet blooms to garnish salads and serving platters for a pretty touch.

Marigolds are celebrated worldwide and used in festivals for their fragrance, cheerful color, and versatility. Marigolds grow easily from seed and thrive until hard frost in full sun with well-drained soils. It benefits marigolds to amend soils with organic matter at planting time if soils are lean.

Cleome

Cleome boasts waving wands of purple, pink, rose, and white bloom clusters. Tall, upright stems are lined with delicate individual flowers with long stamens (hence the common name, spider flower). Long, narrow seed pods, too, emerge after each bloom.

Best in a mass, cleome lends the garden an informal and wild look. They also bring a tropical, exotic show of color. Add structure to the planting arrangement with a full border plant (like marigolds, zinnia, or celosia), which helps fill in cleome’s spiny stems.

Cleome proliferates from seed and self-seeds in the landscape. Pull any unwanted volunteers to keep it from spreading to other garden areas. Remove seed pods as they develop to reduce spreading, or heavily mulch the area the following spring to reduce volunteers. Some varieties, like ‘Senorita Rosalita,’ are sterile and won’t reseed.

The colorful blooms of spider flowers attract numerous pollinators. Enjoy the bloom show from early summer through frost. Cleome also makes an excellent cut flower.

Lantana and Red Salvia

View of a flowerbed with blooming Lantana and Red Salvia. Lantana presents a vibrant appearance with dense, bushy growth adorned with clusters of small, brightly colored flowers of yellow and orange colors. Red Salvia offers a striking appearance with erect, spiky stems bearing vibrant spikes of tubular flowers in shades of red.
A kaleidoscope of colors blooms as these flowering plants intertwine.

Lantana

Lantana brings bursts of color to the annual garden all season long, with flowers of multiple colors in the same cluster. Depending on your hardiness zone, lantanas are annual or perennial, with some lantanas more winter-hardy than others in mild climates.

Lantana cultivars run the spectrum of color palettes from pale peaches and pinks to bright reds, oranges, and yellows. Choose your favorite color scheme; lantana pairs beautifully with numerous garden annuals like ornamental grasses, coleus, and salvia. 

Rugged and reliable, lantana grows with ease in the landscape with low-maintenance needs. It requires regular watering but err on the dry side, as it doesn’t do well when overwatered. Lantana thrives in full sun and needs no fertilizer to bloom all season.

Red Salvia

Salvia splendens, red salvia, is native to Brazil. It brings tropical red-hot color to the annual garden. Red salvia is an easy-to-grow annual with long-lasting bloom spikes that rise above heart-shaped leaves. Grow S. splendens (from the Latin “splendid”) in well-drained soils to enjoy warm-season blooms of cherry red or in cultivars of pink, lavender, white, and orange.

For a native alternative, use Salvia coccinea or scarlet sage. Scarlet sage grows naturally in the Southeastern U.S. and Mexico and is perennial in warm climates. Grow it en masse as an annual in cooler zones for a stunning seasonal display.

Salvia coccinea is tolerant of heat and drought and grows easily in the landscape. It may self-seed, where you’ll find it popping up in future seasons.

Both red salvias feature tubular blooms attractive to hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. The vibrant color and buzz of the pollinators are sure to enliven the annual garden.

Gomphrena and Ageratum

Close-up of a flower bed with Gomphrena and Ageratum. Gomphrena displays a charming appearance with compact, bushy plants adorned with globe-shaped flower heads in shades of pink and purple. Ageratum offers a delightful appearance with low-growing, spreading plants featuring fluffy clusters of small, button-like flowers in shades of blue.
This delightful combination of plants creates a tapestry in the garden.

Gomphrena

Gomphrena, with its petite globes of red, gold, magenta, and white, is an old garden favorite. Its cheery pom-pom flowers are perfectly globe-shaped. Commonly called globe flower, gomphrena brings a sea of color to the annual border.

Look for ‘Fireworks’ for tall stems (reaching three to four feet) with bright pink powder puffs to light up the garden. Each puff glows with little tips of vibrant yellow. ‘Fireworks’ loosens the annual display with its airy texture and movement and accents other annuals with floating pops of color. It blooms more than other gomphrenas and is pretty in a mass and in floral arrangements, fresh or dried.

Gomphrena grows from seed and thrives in full sun with well-drained soils. It’s a tough summer annual that withstands heat, humidity, and dry conditions. Gomphrena may overwinter in mild climates.

Ageratum

Floss flower, or ageratum, features tufts of true blue flowers that bloom from May through October. The genus Ageratum holds approximately 43 species that are annual or perennial herbs.

While A. houstonianum is noted for its blue, feathery bloom clusters, options in pink, white, and lavender add a soft haze to the annual garden. Perennial varieties feature taller, upright stems with more evenly spaced leaves.

A delicate look and a delightful fragrance add to floss flower’s charm in the annual display. It’s lovely among soft white, silver, and pink hues and tones of yellow, orange, and lime green. 

Sunflowers and Amaranth

Close-up of blooming Sunflowers and Amaranth in a sunny garden.
Sunflowers present a bold appearance with tall, sturdy stems topped by large, daisy-like flower heads with vibrant yellow petals surrounding a prominent dark brown center. Amaranth offers a captivating appearance with erect, branching stems bearing colorful, feathery flower clusters in shades of deep burgundy.
These towering annuals reach for the sky in vibrant harmony.

Sunflowers

Is there anything more cheerful than a sunflower in the summer garden? While there’s nothing like experiencing a field of those bright faces, they make fun and vibrant annual bed additions, too.

Sunflowers are quickly grown from seed and come in various sizes and colors. If you have a sunny spot in your garden, they’ll be sure to brighten it. Plant sunflowers in groupings for impact. Seed two to three successional plantings so that when one group fades, the other keeps the blooms going.

Sunflowers evoke sunny days and blue skies that last into fall. Blooms match the harvest palette in every shade of yellow, orange, garnet, and cream. Their cheery faces and nodding heads represent the quintessential American flower that has migrated worldwide as an ornamental, a crop, and a celebrated bloom.

Amaranth

Amaranth’s striking foliage and tassel flowers grace the garden as an ornamental annual. Grow amaranth easily from seed to achieve its prized form and bloom and its edible high-protein seeds, which benefit humans and wildlife.  

Flowering from late summer through frost, pendulous blooms in colors of burgundy, gold, coral, and magenta suspend from arching stems. Amaranth adds spectacular color and texture to fresh and dried floral designs. ‘Emerald Tassels’ and ‘Coral Fountain’ varieties feature ropes of trailing blooms, and ‘Red Spike’ arches gracefully in colors of deep red, perfect for fall.

Aztecs and earlier American cultures domesticated amaranth thousands of years ago and relied on it as a significant food source. This historic grain is now grown worldwide because of its nutritious seeds and ease of growing. The heirloom amaranth is a stunning plant in the annual garden (and the birds will enjoy it, too).

Snapdragons and Violas

Flowering annual plants Snapdragons and Pansies in a sunny garden. Snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus) feature tall spikes adorned with uniquely shaped, dragon-like flowers in soft pink color. Pansies (Viola tricolor) offer low-growing plants with rounded flowers in shades of purple, yellow, white, and blue, often showing charming faces in the center.
These flowering plants add a touch of elegance to borders.

Snapdragons

Well-known snapdragons are a classic beauty in the garden with yellow, red, pink, peach, or coral bloom spikes – just to name a few! They are cultivated in bold colors, pastels, and bi-colors. Snaps are prized for their various colors and uses in the cool season landscape. They attract pollinators, grow well in containers, and make showy cut flowers.

Snapdragon varieties are dwarf, intermediate, or tall, depending on stem height. Tall varieties perform well behind smaller annuals and greens in a border and are suited for cut flower arrangements.  Dwarf and intermediate varieties perform well in front of the display garden. 

This nostalgic garden flower spans generations with new exciting varieties available like ‘Orange Wonder‘ (large, double deep orange flowers) and ‘Twinny Peach’ (double blooms in pale peach and yellow on a compact plant) – perfect for bouquets. Showcase with ageratum, marigolds, and violas for a full-color display.

Violas

Violas, available in numerous varieties and colors, are the perfect blooming annual to bring to the cool-season garden.  With a profusion of blooms and a compact form, violas create a lively border for the garden bed and are a cheerful addition to garden containers, hanging baskets, and window boxes in fall, winter, and spring.

Violas represent the petite blooms of Johnny jump-ups and the more significant, colorful pansy flowers. With so many varieties to choose from, in almost endless shades and combinations of color, picking out annual violas and pansies is nearly as joyful as the extended cheer they will bring to the display.

Violas grow easily in well-drained soils. Deadheading is less necessary than with pansies, but it does help to encourage new blooms.

Sweet Potato Vine and Nicotiana

Close-up of Red Calibrachoa, chartreuse nicotiana and burgundy sweet potato vine bursting from a terra cotta garden container. The Sweet Potato Vine boasts a lush appearance with vigorous, trailing vines adorned with lobed leaves in shades of green and purple. Nicotiana offers an elegant appearance with upright stems bearing clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of yellow.
These trailing plants cascade with graceful allure.

Sweet Potato Vine

Ornamental sweet potato vine invites a shock of color in trailing form. Lush, broad leaves are chartreuse or purple-black, forming a mounded groundcover with runners that spread or cascade along annual borders and from containers.

Sweet potato vines grow vigorously, and the stems root easily. Keep plants in check simply by trimming stems to prevent them from creeping into unwanted areas. Cutback adds to the fullness of the plant, and new growth will continue.

The tropical look and bold color of sweet potato vine gives high contrast to blooming annuals like floss flower. They are extremely versatile, easy care annuals. While tolerant of periods of dryness, ornamental sweet potato vine will wilt in prolonged periods of high heat. They’ll rejuvenate with regular water.

Nicotiana

The star-shaped trumpet flowers of nicotiana make it a standout in the annual bed. In deep red, pink, lime green, and creamy white, blooms dazzle from summer through frost with a sweet fragrance attracting butterflies and other pollinators to the garden.

Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco, is easily grown from seed directly in the ground or started indoors before spring’s final frost. For best blooming and vigor, nicotiana needs soils rich in organic matter with even moisture and good drainage. In hot summer climates, give nicotiana protection from direct afternoon sun.

Nicotiana is a nightshade best grown away from other nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes to reduce disease transmission. Tobacco mosaic virus is easily spread and can cause stunted growth and eventually die back.

Geraniums and Sweet Alyssum

Close-up of a flower bed with Geraniums and Sweet Alyssum in bloom. Geraniums present a classic appearance with compact, bushy plants adorned with clusters of showy flowers in shades of red. Alyssum offers a delicate appearance with low-growing, spreading plants featuring clusters of small flowers in shades of white.
These flowering plants form a charming floral ensemble.

Geraniums

Flowering geraniums are a longtime garden favorite for good reason. With true green, ruffly leaves and rich, color-saturated flowers, geraniums bring texture and vibrancy to the annual display. Their form is unmistakable, with stems of bloom clusters rising above leafy branches. Plants are divided into common garden geraniums, ivy-leaf, and scented geraniums.

Common garden geraniums feature distinct leaves, sometimes fancy-leaved and in tri-color green, silver, and maroon selections. Their blooms are the cherry reds, salmon, white, and pink we associate with the annual.

Ivy-leaf geranium varieties trail in the garden or container, while scented geranium are prized for their notable fragrance (flowers are less showy). Lemony leaves are lovely in the garden and in dried potpourris and help deter mosquitos. Other leafy fragrances include rose, mint, nut, and fruit, depending on the cultivar.

Provide at least four hours of sunlight for geraniums to bloom. In hot climates, offer protection from direct afternoon sun. They thrive with regular water in well-drained soils, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. It’s best to water at the plant’s base, avoiding the leaves, to prevent disease.

Geraniums also benefit from a boost of organic fertilizer if they start to yellow or become stunted. Pinch off spent blooms to encourage more flowers and for a full, leafy plant.

Sweet Alyssum

Lovely sweet alyssum is a petite annual covered in white, pincushion blooms in spring and fall. Its sweet fragrance and numerous flowers attract pollinators, and the drifts of snow white it creates in the garden make it a fantastic border or filler planting.

Use sweet alyssum in pastel color schemes or to soften bright hues. It brightens up dark compositions and contrasts highly with reds (like geraniums) and blues. It gives a frosty look to white-themed gardens among silvers like dusty miller and variegated white foliage. You can start seeds indoors or direct sow them in the garden a week or two before your last frost.

Sweet alyssum is an easy-care annual in full to part sun with well-drained soils. In the heat of summer, plants may turn yellow and fade to resume blooming with cooler temperatures. Sweet alyssum reseeds. Leave plants in place over the fall and winter, and pluck them in the spring to reveal seedlings.

Caladiums and Impatiens

View of a flowerbed with Caladiums and Impatiens growing. Caladiums showcase an exquisite appearance with lush, arrowhead-shaped leaves in shades of green adorned with intricate patterns and contrasting pink veins. Impatiens offer a charming appearance with compact, bushy plants bearing clusters of small, five-petaled flowers in shades of pink and red.
These foliage plants bring lushness and delicate blooms.

Caladiums

Bright caladiums enliven the annual design with distinct arrow-shaped leaves in decorative patterns and colors. Heights vary from low-growing to tall, in fancy and lance-leaved shapes. Fancy-leaved varieties are heart-shaped, whereas the lance-leaved are slightly strappier and elongated. Leaves are green, red, pink, or white – or combinations of each – with colorful veins, blotches, and splotches.

Easy to grow from small tubers, plant caladiums in a mass for the best display. When nighttime temperatures exceed sixty degrees Fahrenheit (sixteen degrees Celsius), scatter bulbs in the garden bed and cover them with a few inches of soil. Water well until established and water regularly throughout the growing season. Caladiums are fast-growers with foliage that will last til frost.

Impatiens

These are among the most popular annual bedding plants. Their sweet flowers in a myriad of colors bring options galore. Choose baby pink or whites for a pastel compliment, or go bold and tropical with coral, magenta, red, or yellow.

There are two main types of ornamental impatiens: Impatiens walleriana and Impatiens hawkeri, New Guinea impatiens. New Guinea impatiens feature larger flowers with elongated leaves, often deeper in color with a metallic sheen. They tolerate the sun better than the tuberous I. walleriana, the shade-loving garden classic, and are more resistant to mildew diseases.

For a sun-loving impatiens hybrid, look to the Sunpatiens series. Sunpatiens are bred to handle full sun, bringing the pop of the impatiens’ colorful bloom to the sunny annual garden.

All impatiens require organically rich soils and consistent moisture throughout the hot summer. Walleriana impatiens benefit from part to full shade.

Lobelia and Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’

Close-up of a flowerbed with Lobelia and Dichondra 'Silver Falls' growing. Lobelia (Lobelia erinus) displays a graceful appearance with trailing or upright stems adorned with clusters of small, delicate flowers in shades of blue. Dichondra 'Silver Falls' offers a striking appearance with cascading, silver-gray foliage that forms a lush, trailing canopy.
These cascading plants flow in silvery splendor.

Lobelia

Stunning lobelia features striking cobalt blue flowers not commonly found in blooming annuals. Tubular blooms cover gray-green leaves from late spring through frost. Additional bloom colors include dark blue, lavender, white, and pink on plants that trail or mound, depending on the variety. Masses of dainty flowers cover plants when in full bloom.

Cut plants back after each bloom period to encourage successive flushes. Lobelia thrives in full or dappled sunlight with moist, organically rich, well-drained soil. Look for heat-tolerant varieties like ‘Techno Heat Dark Blue’ for multi-season blooms. 

Dichondra ‘Silver Falls’

For a draping carpet of silver, add dichondra to the annual border. Small leaves line silvery stems that trail and cascade to form a dense, low-growing ground cover. 

While dichondra only reaches about four inches high, fast-growing runners reach three to four feet long. If dichondra gets a little spindly or spreads outside its bounds, give plants a trim to sculpt them back into shape. The leafy runners root easily, so pull unwanted stems to keep them in check.

‘Silver Falls’ thrives in full sun and tolerates dappled shade. It handles heat, humidity, and soils that are medium to dry as long as they are well-draining.

Angelonia and Mexican Heather

Close-up of a flower bed with plants such as Impatiens, Angelonia, Amaranthus tricolor and Mexican Heather. Impatiens bloom with purple-pink flowers. Angelonia and Mexican Heather also produce purple flowers. Amaranthus tricolor has medium-toothed, burgundy-red leaves.
Soft pastels mingle, creating an enchanting floral display in the garden.

Angelonia

The angelonia plant brings waves of colorful bloom spikes to the warm-season display in lovely blue, purple, pink, rose, white, and bicolor. Stems are loaded with petite two-lipped flowers atop fine, rich green foliage.

Angelonia features a long summer bloom and a mounded bushy habit and doesn’t need deadheading. Its lush but airy texture complements many garden annuals as a border or backdrop, including New Guinea impatiens, pictured above.

It thrives in full sun with rich soils and good drainage. Drought, heat, and humidity-tolerant, angelonia is ideal for sunny annual beds in hot summer climates. The ‘Archangel’ and ‘Serena’ series are highly disease-resistant to phytophthora fungus rot.

Mexican Heather

Lush Mexican heather is a lovely border plant in the annual display. Plants are compact and rounded, with branching stems densely covered in small leaves and lavender blooms. This false heather blooms profusely all summer until hard frost and, in mild climates, it may overwinter as an evergreen.

Mexican heather tolerates sun, heat, humidity, salt, and periods of drought, though it performs best in evenly moist, well-drained soils. A tough plant with a delicate aesthetic, Mexican heather is a pretty and lasting addition to the garden border.

Primrose and Stock

Close-up of a flowerbed with Primrose and Stock in bloom. Primrose presents a delightful appearance with low-growing rosettes of crinkled leaves and clusters of vibrant, five-petaled flowers in shades of yellow, pink, and red. Stock offers an elegant appearance with upright stems bearing dense spikes of fragrant, four-petaled flowers in shades of pink and purple.
Delicate blooms evoke an enchanting garden atmosphere.

Primrose

With over 400 primrose species, these herbaceous perennials (or annuals in warm climates) are among the first to bloom in late winter and early spring. Their bloom times range from February through May, some lasting into the summer, depending on climate. In many colors and shapes, most primrose feature clusters of tiny flowers on long stalks. Flowers rise above rosettes of dark, ruffled leaves. 

Bold shades of blue, green, orange, red, and pink make primrose an early standout in the garden. With a sweet, subtle fragrance and low-growing habit, primrose makes excellent border plantings in garden beds, along walkways, and in container arrangements. 

Primrose prefers organically rich, moist, well-drained soils depending on the variety. Primroses typically don’t tolerate wet feet, though consistent moisture is ideal, especially for woodland varieties. Once established, primrose needs little care except dividing if groups become crowded.

Stock

This plant is a cool-season bloomer with fragrant, jewel-tone flowers on stiff, upright spikes. An old-fashioned garden plant, stock features single or double blooms in white, red, purple, cream, and copper, among other hues. It makes a lovely cut flower with a scent to savor.

Stock grows well from seed, usually germinating in seven to ten days. To prolong blooms, sow successional plantings. 

Thriving in cool temperatures, stock doesn’t withstand hot summers. It does best in highly organic and well-draining soils, though it can withstand occasional wet soils. 

Cyclamen and Pansies

Close-up of blooming Cyclamen plants against a blurred background of blooming Pansies in blue and yellow. Cyclamen presents a graceful appearance with heart-shaped leaves and delicate, upswept flowers in shades of pink, red, purple, or white. These flowers have distinctive swept-back petals and a contrasting center, creating an elegant and refined look in the garden.
Cool-season favorites combine, bringing a burst of color to flowerbeds.

Cyclamen

Unique cyclamen, with mottled, heart-shaped leaves, offer a sweet choice of white, pink, purple, red, or bicolor flowers for winter and spring. They bloom from November through April, giving months of color and active growing until summer dormancy – when they thrive on neglect.

Cyclamen provide a profusion of upright blooms, rising in a bunch above deep green leaves. Hardy cyclamen Cyclamen hederifolium and Cyclamen coum are smaller relatives of the florist’s cyclamen (C. persicum) and are adapted for the garden. C. hederifolium is the hardiest and easiest to grow, with fragrant pink blooms in October and November. C. coum blooms mid-to-late winter with a profusion of pink-purple flowers.

Cyclamen make excellent options as cool-season annuals. As low growers, they are best in masses, borders, or along walkways in naturalized arrangements. Grow cyclamen indoors to protect it from extreme heat or cold temperatures.

Pansies

Known scientifically as Viola x wittrockiana, pansies offer larger flowers than violas over compact leaves. With a profusion of blooms, pansies create a lively border for the garden bed in almost endless shades and combinations. Consider petal tones like deep purple, velvety red, clear white, and blue for the winter landscape. Opt for trailing pansies for delicate blooms to spill over a bed edge.

Pansies are easy-care annuals that benefit from removing spent blooms. Deadheading directs energy to continued flowering rather than producing seeds. Pansies’ sweet, light fragrance, colorful flowers, and nectar attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.

Bacopa and Calibrachoa

Close-up of blooming Bacopa and Calibrachoa in a large garden container. Bacopa presents a delicate appearance with trailing stems adorned with small, five-petaled flowers in shades of white. These flowers have a dainty, star-like form. Calibrachoa offers a vibrant appearance with cascading stems bearing an abundance of small, petunia-like flowers in a wide array of colors, including red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and white.
Textured foliage contrasts with fragrant blossoms, enriching garden landscapes.

Bacopa

This plant is a showy little trailing groundcover, best used in the landscape as a cascading accent. Its cheery flowers are small but abundant, with flowers nonstop from spring through frost.

Virtually care-free, bacopa brightens the annual planting in flat-petaled white, blue, purple, or pink flowers with yellow centers. It needs no deadheading to keep its prolific blooming and tidy appearance.

Bacopa can fade in extreme heat or dryness. In climates with hot summers, look for heat-resistant varieties like ‘Tried and True’ or ‘MegaCopa,’ with more prominent blooms. It needs organically rich, evenly moist soils to thrive, though it tolerates drying out between waterings.

Calibrachoa

This cascading annual loaded with petite bell flowers, blooms from spring through late fall. Also called million bells, calibrachoa resembles a mini-petunia in flower and form. Bloom colors range from lavender to scarlet to copper to purple-black to bicolor. As with petunias, there is a calibrachoa color for every garden palette.

Calibrachoa keeps blooming throughout the warm season and handles hot summers better than petunias. They require fast-draining soils rich in organic matter and can withstand some drought. Mound garden beds to increase drainage, and use calibrachoa also in raised beds and containers. 

Million bells attract hummingbirds and butterflies with their abundant tubular blooms. It grows in sun or part shade, though at least half a day of sun will promote the most flowering.

Dusty Miller and Heliotrope

Close-up of Heliotrope and Dusty Miller in bloom in a flowerbed. Dusty Miller presents an elegant appearance with silvery-gray, felt-like foliage that forms a compact, mound-shaped plant. The foliage is deeply lobed and deeply cut. Heliotrope offers a charming appearance with bushy, compact plants adorned with clusters of small, fragrant flowers in shades of purple.
Textured foliage contrasts with fragrant blossoms, enriching garden landscapes.

Dusty Miller

This bedding plant showcases delicately-divided, silvery-white, fuzzy leaves. The thick, feathery leaves give great textural interest to annual displays, with silver, frosted foliage as the absolute highlight. Dusty miller provides an excellent contrast to deeper foliage and colorful seasonal annuals.

Use dusty miller as a cool-season annual in moderate climates to accent other flowers. In areas with mild summers, dusty miller grows all warm season long. Native to the Mediterranean, it performs best in full sun and tolerates heat and drought.

Dusty miller gives high contrast to annuals like heliotrope, cyclamen, snapdragons, pansies, and violas, stunning in violets, pinks, blues, and reds among dusty’s silver foliage.

Heliotrope

The sweet fragrance of heliotrope, coupled with its deep purple blooms and dark green leaves, make this old-fashioned annual a garden favorite. Pads of star-shaped blossoms in purple-blue, lavender, or white cover compact, mounded plants from spring until frost.

Heliotrope is low maintenance, though it does best when a few cultural requirements are met. It blooms best in sunny garden locations with protection from direct afternoon sun in hot summer climates. Intense heat stresses heliotrope, and high humidity leads to powdery mildew. 

Ensure good air circulation and mulch roots for protection. Take care not to overwater, as heliotrope prefers rich, consistently moist soils (not too wet or dry). With that, enjoy the garden’s carefree lilac blooms and vanilla scent (also evocative of cherries or grapes).

Pentas and Torenia

Top view of blooming Pentas and Torenia in a flowerbed. Pentas present a vibrant appearance with upright stems adorned with clusters of small, star-shaped flowers in shades of soft pink. Torenia offers a charming appearance with low-growing, spreading plants featuring clusters of small, tubular flowers in shades of blue and purple. These flowers have a delicate, snapdragon-like appearance.
Vibrant hues intertwine, attracting pollinators and delighting onlookers alike.

Pentas

Superstars of the annual flower bed, pentas burst onto the summer scene with star-shaped flowers in bloom clusters of red, pink, lavender, white, or all of the above. Red pentas are the top choice of hummingbirds in the annual garden, though they’ll be drawn to any penta available. 

The ‘Butterfly’ series of pentas brings top performers with low maintenance needs. ‘Butterfly’ pentas are bred for extended blooming and varietal colors, including pure white, lavender, rose, and violet. They’ll bloom nonstop til frost, with up to 20 bloom clusters per plant

Pentas tolerate some shade but flower best in full sun. Tough annuals that withstand hot and humid summers and periods of drought, pentas also aren’t a favorite of deer. This easy-care annual brings long-lasting, vibrant color and sweet nectar to the display.

Torenia

With its multi-colored bell flowers in bright pink, blue, yellow, magenta, and white, torenia brightens the annual border in true pigments. Blooms resemble snapdragons that drape elegantly on low-growing, trailing plants.

The ‘Summer Wave’ series features improved heat and humidity resistance and withstands heavy rains and drought. Other varieties may not tolerate high heat and humidity well. They benefit from afternoon sun protection and mulched soils for moisture and cooling.

Torenia perform best in part shade in moist, well-drained soils (avoid soggy soils). They grow from seed or bedding packs and, with the correct sitting, bloom from spring until frost.

Final Thoughts

A joy in the garden, annual plants bring dynamic visual interest to the garden arrangement. Their unique colors change a landscape’s look completely – at least for the season. Use them to highlight existing plants or in bold sweeps of color for impact.

As gardeners, part of the excitement is experimenting with new plants and varieties in exciting arrangements. Have fun incorporating beautiful annuals to revitalize the garden and punch up the existing display. The buzzing butterflies, birds, and bees will enjoy the blooms, too.

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