17 Native Annual Flowers You Can Still Plant This Season

Are you looking for a way to add some color and interest to your garden without waiting years for your perennial plants to establish and start showing off? Native annuals are a great way to spruce up the garden quickly. Here, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares 17 of her favorite North American native annuals for the flower garden.

native annuals

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One of the wonderful things about native annual flowering plants is many of them self-seed, and others are not difficult to harvest seeds from. Once you have them in your garden, it is easy to keep them there with just about the same amount of effort that goes into starting seeds for the vegetable garden each spring.

I must admit, when selecting new plants for my garden, I tend to gravitate toward perennials. That is the most sensible way to garden, isn’t it?

While my practical side nudges me toward the plants that will reliably return year after year, not too far beneath the surface is my whimsical, instant gratification side that revels in the idea of adding flowering annuals to my garden. They bring such an explosion of color, if even for just one season!

Let’s look at some of my favorite native annual plants that will bring a big and beautiful show of color to your garden this season.

American Basket Flower

Close-up of a flowering Centaurea americana, commonly known as American Basketflower or American Star Thistle, against a blurred green background. The plant grows upright, has a strong stem covered with thin hairs. The leaves are lanceolate and grayish green in color. The flower is formed at the top of the stem. The flower head is large, spherical, resembling a basket or thistle. Each flower head is made up of many tiny tubular buds in various shades of lavender. The base of the flower head is surrounded by spiny bracts.
This native is a low-maintenance, showy annual with fern-like green foliage and bright purple blooms.
Botanical Name: Centaurea americana
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: up to 6’
  • Native Range: Great Plains, Central United States
  • Zones: 2-11

To kick off our list, the American Basket Flower is a great, low-maintenance, showy annual with a wildflower vibe. Fern-like foliage in bright green is a great textural element that highlights large, bright purple flowers with a basket weave pattern of petals. This is where these flowers get their name.

Basket Flowers can tolerate a variety of climates. They are native to the Great Plains and gracefully handle hot, dry summers. They also don’t mind a bit of humidity and thrive in subtropical climates. A bit of extra water in the spring will make these plants take off and bring tons of blooms in mid-summer.

American Marigold

American Marigold, scientifically known as Tagetes erecta, is a vibrant and popular annual plant renowned for its beautiful flowers and aromatic foliage. The plant has sturdy stems that branch out to support an abundance of flowers. The leaves of American marigold are dark green in color and have a fern-like or lace-like appearance. The flowers form in clusters at the tops of the stems, pom-pom or double-layered, with numerous petals creating a full and rounded shape. They are bright yellow-orange.
These native marigolds repel pests and thrive in sunny gardens, making them a vibrant addition.
Botanical Name: Tagetes erecta
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 6”- 4’
  • Native Range: Subtropical America
  • Zones: 2-11

Formerly believed to be native to Africa, Tagetes erecta, or American Marigold, is native to subtropical areas of the Americas. They are commonly referred to as African Marigolds but are native to the Americas. In contrast to French Marigolds, American Marigolds are tall, with much larger flowers. They can grow up to 4’ tall and make a great choice for sunny flower beds.

Marigolds may repel garden pests, so can help to protect vegetable gardens and other pest-prone plants. They are low maintenance and relatively drought tolerant, although they will wilt if left for too long in hot weather without sufficient water. These colorful flowers are a great annual to add to the garden. Deadheading will prolong the already lengthy blooming season.

Annual Phlox

Close-up of flowering Phlox drummondii in the garden. The plant forms thin and branching stems with numerous flowers. The leaves are narrow, lanceolate, arranged oppositely along the stems. They are dark green in color with a smooth texture. The flowers are formed in clusters or heads on the tops of the stems, forming a profuse bloom. The flowers are a rich pink hue. They consist of five petals that have a thin and slightly ruffled appearance.
This charming, low-maintenance flowering plant captivates with delicate, plentiful blooms in various shades.
Botanical Name: Phlox drummondii
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 12”
  • Native Range: Texas, introduced to the Southeastern United States
  • Zones: 2-11

Annual Phlox is a wonderful staple in the garden. This sweet-smelling, compact, and low-maintenance flowering annual will surely capture the gardener’s heart. The flowers are delicate but plentiful, in shades of pink, white, blue, and red. They have a gentle fragrance that makes them excellent cut flowers.

Phlox is a perfect container plant to keep close to outdoor living spaces. They are reliable bloomers and have a habit of reseeding, so you may see them pop back up in the spring if you let them. Another wonderful thing about this plant is its heat tolerance. For such a dainty and lovely little flower, phlox plants really stand up to the summer heat.

Blood Sage

Close-up of a blooming Salvia coccinea in a garden. The plant grows upright and bushy. It has square stems covered with fine hairs. The leaves of Salvia coccinea are ovate or lanceolate, arranged oppositely along the stems. They are dark green in color and have a slightly textured surface. The flowers form in terminal clusters at the tops of the stems. The flowers are bright red and tubular in shape. They have a delicate and velvety texture, the petals are open and showy.
Salvia is a fast-growing plant, popular as an annual in cooler climates but a perennial in its native range.
Botanical Name: Salvia coccinea
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 2’-3’
  • Native Range: Southeastern United States
  • Zones: 8-11

Salvia is technically a perennial when grown in its native range, but its fast growth rate makes it popular as an annual in cooler climates, where it dies off in the winter. Blood sage is the only red-flowering sage native to the United States, making it all the more desirable.

Also known as tropical sage, S. coccinea is a gorgeous wildflower or pollinator garden addition. Its delightful red blooms will draw a variety of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to the garden. The prolific blooming habit of this Salvia will keep them coming back. South of zone 7, this plant is a perennial.

Blue Gilia

Close-up of a Gilia capitata flower in a garden, against a blurred green background. The Gilia capitata plant has a compact and round shape, it has thin stems that branch out. The leaves are deeply divided and feathery in appearance, giving them a delicate and airy texture. They are greyish-green in color and arranged alternately along the stems. The flowers form dense spherical clusters at the tops of the stems. The flowers are a distinct blue color with hints of lavender and consist of tiny tubular inflorescences. Inflorescences resemble globes or spheres.
The easy-to-grow blue gilia is an herbaceous annual with a long blooming season, unique blue pollen, and attracts bees.
Botanical Name: Gilia capitata
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: 6”-2’
  • Native Range: Western North America, from WA to Mexico
  • Zones: 7-10

This herbaceous annual is related to phlox and is native to the west coast of North America from Alaska to Mexico. It is very easy to grow from seed and has no problem taking root in rocky and sandy soil conditions. Its long blooming season makes this a great addition to the garden, bringing flowers from May through September.

Blue Gilia has unique blue pollen. Since bees favor blue and violet, you will see many species of bees frequenting this plant.

While bees regularly fly about wearing cute little pollen pants, it is rare to see one with blue pollen clinging to their legs. If you plant blue gilia, you will have the pleasure of adding this fun feature to the wardrobe of local bees.

California Poppy

Close-up of blooming Eschscholzia californica, commonly known as California Poppy, in a sunny garden. The plant grows low, curly. It has thin and wiry stems with pinnate leaves. The leaves of Eschscholzia californica are blue-green and finely divided into several lobes or segments. The flowers form at the tops of the stems singly or in clusters, forming a carpet of vibrant colors. The flowers have four delicate petals, bright orange. The petals have a satiny texture and a slightly wrinkled or ruffled appearance.
With its vibrant orange blooms, the California poppy is a stunning native flower that freely reseeds itself.
Botanical Name: Eschscholzia californica
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: 6”-12”
  • Native Range: United States West Coast
  • Zones: 8-10

The state flower of California is a spectacular sight to see in its native habitat. Entire hillsides bursting into bright orange bloom have made for more than one Pinterest-worthy photoshoot. The feathery grey-green foliage perfectly complements the bright orange flowers that this plant is known for.

In cultivation, the orange flowers are joined by white and pink hybrids. The native wildflower is nearly always a shade of creamsicle orange.

California Poppy is perennial in warm climates and annual in colder climates. Still, it freely reseeds itself, so replanting these pretty flowers in successive years is rarely needed.

Common Sunflower

Close-up of blooming Helianthus annuus, commonly known as the Sunflowers, in a sunny garden. The plant grows upright, has large heart-shaped leaves with a rough texture. They are arranged alternately along the stem and are bright green in color. The flowers are large and have a characteristic appearance. The flower head, known as the capitulum, consists of numerous individual flowers arranged in a dense spiral pattern. The outer ring of flowers, known as ray florets, are bright yellow and resemble petals. The center of the flower head is composed of tiny tubular disc florets that can vary in color from yellow to brown.
The common sunflower attracts pollinators, feeds birds, and benefits humans through its oil and seeds.
Botanical Name: Helianthus annuus
  • Sun Requirements:  Full sun
  • Height: Up to 12’
  • Native Range: North America
  • Zones: 2-11

This next plant needs no introduction. The common sunflower certainly ranks among the top 5 most recognizable flowers ever. It is easy to grow from seed. This towering, flowering pollinator favorite is native to nearly the entire North American continent. It’s no wonder that this sunflower is such a super plant.

Pollinators are highly attracted to these yellow blossoms for their abundance of pollen and nectar. Leave the seed heads on the stalk for overwintering birds as a food source. Even humans benefit from this awesome annual. We use its oil for many purposes, and sunflower seeds can be a delicious snack.

‘Elegant Clarkia’

Close-up of a blooming Elegant Clarkia, also known as Clarkia unguiculata, is a charming annual wildflower. The plant grows upright, it has thin stems and lanceolate leaves with smooth edges. They are dark green in color. The flowers form loose clusters or spikes at the top of the stems, creating a profuse bloom. They have delicate cup-shaped petals of pink color.
This low-maintenance woodland flower is from California and produces pink, white, or purple flowers.
Botanical Name: Clarkia unguiculata
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 3’
  • Native Range: California
  • Zones: 1-12

This pretty woodland flower is endemic to California but regularly appears in wildflower seed mixes as it is low-maintenance and performs well in most climates. This upright, herbaceous annual blooms for a long period between early spring and late summer.

Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are all partial to the pretty flowers of the elegant clarkia. The flowers are typically pink, white or purple, sporting 4 petals and bourne along a tall stem with lanceolate leaves.

The flowers are wonderfully long-lasting as cut flowers and have a light and pleasant fragrance. They also have a habit of reseeding, so this plant will likely return year after year.

‘Farewell to Spring’

Close-up of blooming Clarkia amoena in a sunny garden. The plant has thin stems, covered with lanceolate leaves of grayish-green color, which are arranged alternately along the stems. The flowers form loose clusters at the tops of the stems, producing a profuse bloom. The flowers have four deep pink petals and a white center.
A fast-growing annual variety of Clarkia, Farewell to Spring produces lovely pink flowers with red interiors.
Botanical Name: Clarkia amoena
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: Up to 6’
  • Native Range: North American West Coast
  • Zones: 1-12

Another variety of Clarkia, ‘Farewell to Spring,’ is simply lovely. These fast-growing annuals jump up and bloom by the end of spring, continuing through the summer months.

The native range encompasses most of the North American West Coast, with the most common environment being dry, open spaces, meadows, and prairies, but also growing closer to the coast on bluffs and roadsides.

Their pretty pink flowers are splashed with red interiors. These blooms mingle with attractive grey-green foliage with an herbal quality. The flowers give way to seed capsules, and they, like most Clarkia, reseed freely, returning the following year with no need for human intervention.

Golden Tickseed

Close-up of a blooming Coreopsis tinctoria, commonly known as Plains Coreopsis or Golden Tickseed, in a garden, against a blurred green background. The plant forms a bushy and upright habit. It has thin stems with numerous branches. The leaves are pinnatipartite, thin, green. The daisy-like flowers of Coreopsis tinctoria have bright golden yellow petals with dark red centers.
Coreopsis is an enchanting and low-maintenance flowering annual that attracts pollinators and thrives in sunny spaces.
Botanical Name: Coreopsis tinctoria
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: up to 5’, an average of 2’
  • Native Range: South Central North America
  • Zones: 2-12

This pretty flowering annual can turn any space into an enchanting meadow with very little time and effort. If you’re looking for a native plant that blooms big and draws a lot of pollinators, coreopsis is perfect for the job. Native to nearly all of the United States, it likes full sun and is great for spaces that don’t have the greatest drainage.

Golden tickseed is very easy to grow and can be planted in spring or fall. It flowers quickly and is excellent at reseeding itself. The stems and foliage are delicate in appearance but stand up well to wind and heat. The flowers are bright yellow with a deep mahogany center. This is the official State Wildflower of Florida.

Indian Blanket

Top view, close-up of blooming Gaillardia pulchella in the garden. Gaillardia pulchella, commonly known as the Indian Blanket or Firewheel, is a colorful and charming annual wild flower. The plant grows in clumps and has thin and hairy stems. The leaves of Gaillardia pulchella are lanceolate or oblong, with jagged edges, green. The flowers are large and showy, reminiscent of colorful blankets or fire wheels. The daisy-like flowers have a prominent central disk with tubular florets surrounded by bright ray florets.
Indian blanket is a native annual known for reseeding and vibrant colors.
Botanical Name: Gaillardia pulchella
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: 2’
  • Native Range: Upper Great Plains, Western United States
  • Zones: 2-11

Named for their habit of reseeding and forming a spreading blanket of flowers, the Indian blanket is another great, native annual that will self-seed and add tons of color to the garden.

Native mostly to the Western United States and Northern Great Plains regions, some varieties can also be found naturalized on the East Coast.

Indian blanket seeds can be sown in spring or fall and will produce many attractive red flowers with toothy yellow edges. The center of the flower is a deep mahogany color and attracts many local pollinators with the promise of pollen and nectar. Gaillardia reseeds freely if the seed heads are left intact to dry.

Jewelweed

Close-up of a blooming Impatiens capensis, commonly known as Jewelweed or Touch-Me-Not, in a sunny garden. The plant has a bushy and upright form. The leaves are alternate and have a characteristic shape. They are oval to lanceolate with scalloped edges and bright green in color. The leaves have a slightly waxy texture. The flowers are small, orange in color, uniquely shaped with a curved spur at the back, resembling a small helmet or hood.
A native summer-blooming annual, jewelweed has dense foliage and unique orange flowers that attract pollinators.
Botanical Name: Impatiens capensis
  • Sun Requirements: Partial to full shade
  • Height: up to 5’
  • Native Range: Most of the United States, and parts of Canada, bordering Alaska
  • Zones: 2-10

Jewelweed is a summer-blooming annual native to most of the United States. It has attractive, dense foliage and unique orange flowers commonly dusted with deeper orange freckles.

When these flowers are fertilized by pollinators, which are highly attracted to them, they produce a seed pod. If allowed to dry on the plant, the seed pods will burst open and freely reseed, bringing the plant back next season.

Large groupings of jewelweed are a great addition to shade gardens and rain gardens. While many native flowering annuals will not bloom without full sun, jewelweed actually prefers to be in the shade.

Lacy Phacelia

Close-up of a flowering plant Phacelia tanacetifolia, commonly known as Bee's Friend or Lacy Phacelia. in a sunny garden. The plant grows upright and has slender stems covered with soft hairs, giving it a slightly fluffy appearance. The leaves of Phacelia tanacetifolia are deeply dissected, fern-like, resembling tansy leaves. The flowers form into oblong clusters at the top of the stems, forming a dense inflorescence of purplish-blue flowers. The tubular flowers have five petals and are very attractive to bees and other pollinators.
Lacy phacelia is a native annual that attracts pollinators with abundant nectar.
Botanical Name: Phacelia tanacetifolia
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: up to 3’
  • Native Range: Western United States
  • Zones: 2-10

Also known as purple tansy, lacy phacelia is a great little native annual that produces tons of nectar, attracting pollinators from far and wide. Bearing a slight resemblance to thistle, the green stems support purple flower heads with a fuzzy appearance.

This is a great plant if you are looking for an annual to add to a butterfly garden. Bees and butterflies can’t get enough of lacy phacelia.

Lacy phacelia is native to the Western United States, where it commonly grows in dry and rocky soil, along roadsides, and in open meadows. Although considered an annual, phacelia spreads by self-seeding and rhizomes, so if you give it some space, you will see it come back in successive years. It makes a great container plant that can be moved around the garden as pollinators follow it.

Lemon Bee Balm

Close-up of a flowering Monarda citrodora plant against a blurred green background. The plant itself grows upright, has square stems with a slight purple tint. The leaves of Monarda citrodora are lanceolate or elliptical in shape, with serrated edges. The flowers form in dense clusters at the tops of the stems, resembling a bright and colorful explosion. Pale pink to lavender tubular flowers with a purple tint at the tips.
Lemon bee balm is a fragrant and showy plant that attracts pollinators and thrives in sunny or partially shaded conditions.
Botanical Name: Monarda citriodora
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Height: 2’
  • Native Range: Central and Southeastern United States
  • Zones: 2-11

Monarda, or bee balm, is a regular addition to most pollinator gardens. These typically short-lived perennials are highly attractive to pollinating insects and hummingbirds with their fragrant and showy clusters of tubular flowers. Lemon bee balm is typically grown as an annual and often used as an herb.

Lemon bee balm has narrow, edible, toothy leaves that have a citrusy scent and are commonly used in teas and salads. It’s easy to grow, preferring full sun, but part shade is also fine. This plant is drought tolerant and native to Central and Southern United States.

Rocky Mountain Bee Plant

Close-up of blooming Cleome serrulata in the garden, against a green blurred background. The plant itself is erect, it has thin branching stems covered with small hairs. The leaves of Cleome serrulata are palmately compound, usually consisting of 5-7 leaflets. The leaves have serrated edges, giving them a serrated appearance. Flowers are arranged in elongated clusters at the tops of the stems, resembling spider legs or fireworks. The flowers have long delicate petals in various shades of pink, lavender or white. The stamens of the flower extend beyond the petals, giving them a cobweblike appearance.
The Rocky Mountain bee plant is a vigorous native annual that serves as a valuable pollinator food source.
Botanical Name: Cleome serrulata
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: 1’-4’
  • Native Range: Northern and Western North America
  • Zones: 1-10

This vigorous annual is native to most of the North American continent except the Southeastern states. Historically, it has been used both as a medicine and a food source by Native Americans, and it is a significant food source for pollinators in its native range. Its blue-violet flowers are used for making dyes and paints as well.

The Rocky Mountain bee plant is a shrubby, herbaceous plant that is sometimes called stinkweed, as its scent is known to be rather unpleasant. It may be best to plant this one where it can be seen and not necessarily smelled. Its odor does make it resistant to deer and rodents, and its large purple flowers are showy and attractive.

Texas Indian Paintbrush

Close-up of blooming Castilleja indivisa in a sunny garden. The plant has erect stems and narrow, lanceolate, greyish-green leaves. The flowers are composed of long tubular structures with colorful bracts that resemble brushes dipped in bright pigments. Bracts are bright red.
Texas Indian Paintbrush is a stunning native annual or biennial that produces white flowers surrounded by eye-catching red bracts.
Botanical Name: Castilleja indivisa
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: 18”
  • Native Range: OK, TX, LA, AR
  • Zones: 6-11

Native to South Central United States, Texas Indian Paintbrush is a stunning annual or biennial plant, depending on how you look at it. The seeds need to overwinter in the ground, so they must be planted in the fall to flower in the spring.

Texas Indian Paintbrush reaches about 18” tall and produces small white flowers in the spring. The flowers are not particularly showy, but they are surrounded by bright red bracts, which stand out in any flower garden. This plant can be hemiparasitic, stealing water and nutrients from surrounding plants, so it is best planted in containers or spaces of its own.

Zinnias

Close-up of blooming zinnias in a sunny garden. Zinnias are vibrant annuals with attractive foliage and beautiful flowers. The leaves of zinnias are green, lanceolate or ovoid in shape and arranged alternately along the stems. Zinnia flowers come in a wide variety of colors, including shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and white. They are similar to daisies with several layers of petals radiating from a central disk.
These flowers are low maintenance, drought tolerant, and come in various sizes and colors that attract pollinators.
Botanical Name: Zinnia
  • Sun Requirements: Full sun
  • Height: Up to 4’
  • Native Range: Southwestern United States
  • Zones: 2-11

Zinnias are one of the most well know, loved, and easy-to-grow annuals on the list. They are very low-maintenance and drought-tolerant. Also, although they will reseed, they do not have any tendency to become invasive.

Zinnias come in many sizes and even more colors. They are beloved by pollinating insects, and deadheading them will keep them blooming all summer and into fall.

If you are looking for a low-maintenance, versatile annual for the garden, zinnia checks all the boxes. In addition to its ease of care, and value to pollinators, it makes an excellent cut flower with a long vase life and long individual stems. I highly recommend purchasing zinnia seeds if you only plant one annual this year.

Final Thoughts

Annual plants bring a lot of color and interest to your garden. Although they won’t always return the following year, many of these plants are self-seeding, and most others can be propagated from cuttings or by saving the seeds from dried seed heads. If you want to add some quick color to the garden this year, these native annuals are just the plants for the job!

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