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Annuals Buying Guide

Colorful Annual Flowers

If you consider a landscape as a canvas, then blooming flowers are the paint you use to color it. Whether you seek calming, kaleidoscopic or somewhere in between, color your garden with annuals this year.


Blooming Annuals

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The biggest appeal of growing annuals is color. Planted in borders, beds or containers, annuals offer an almost endless variety of bloom colors and foliage. The combinations are practically limitless.

For mass plantings, most gardeners opt for "instant" color and choose small bedding plants in trays. Larger plants in individual containers offer you a head start in landscape planting and work great when used in containers.

When shopping for annuals in the garden center, seeing the color helps us to know what we are buying. However, when shopping, you need to look for more than just pretty colors. For most blooming annuals, look for:

  • Compact size and lots of flower buds. Buds mean more flowers later after you've planted them at home.
  • Green foliage without a lot of spots or holes.
  • Moist soil, not dried out or too soggy. Don't worry about the little white beads in the soil, they're part of a quality potting mix.

If you're not sure about color combinations, take a look at the color wheel and learn how to use it for maximum impact in your flower garden.

Of course you want to choose plants that grow well in your region of the country. Lowe's takes the guesswork out of that part of shopping. Our garden centers stock plants that are proven to succeed in your USDA growing zone.

Most blooming plants need sunlight to produce vivid color. Therefore you should select plants that match the existing growing conditions at your home, especially the available sunlight and water. You can find the plant's growing requirements and other information on the plant tag.

Planting annuals is easy. Remove the entire soil plug from the container and plant at the same level as in the pot or tray. If there are a lot of roots wrapped around the soil, gently loosen them, spread them out a little and then plant. They will quickly acclimate to the flowerbed. Always water after planting.

If you buy bedding plants in trays but can't plant them as soon as you get home, keep the trays in light shade and water the plants regularly until you can get them in the ground.

Annuals are only with us for one growing season. They germinate from seed, grow, flower, produce seed and die when the weather turns cold. This takes a lot of energy. Provide adequate water, food and sunlight during the growing season. To get the best results from your planting bed, use a bagged premium garden soil with organic matter, fertilizer and insecticide included in the mix.

If you want masses of color, plant annuals close together. Check the plant tag for spacing recommendations. To keep your plants looking their best, deadhead spent blossoms. Taller plants can be pinched back to promote more blooms. A layer of mulch can keep down weeds and conserve soil moisture.

Shop Annuals

If you'd like to "test drive" some plants to see how they look in the landscape, the good news is they're inexpensive. Another option is to try some annuals in a container. If you like them, buy more and use them in the landscape. If not, put the container on the patio or give it away.


Vegetables

Most garden vegetables are annuals too.  Many form their edible parts after blooming, so blooms like we see on tomato plants are good. Blooms on vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage or spinach are not. Their blooms mean that they have begun to put their energy into producing seed (known as bolting) and not producing foliage (the part we enjoy). Bolting is most often caused by warm weather, so there is not a lot the gardener can do to prevent it. The good news is that most of these crops (lettuce, spinach and other leafy greens) can be grown as both spring and fall crops while temperatures are cooler.

Leafy herbs will also go to seed and lose their flavor. These plants will continue to produce tender foliage if you keep the seed stems pinched back.

If you're planting annuals early in the season, take notice of your area's frost dates. You may need to provide protection on a few cool nights. If you plant in warmer (or hot) weather, try to plant in the cooler part of the day if possible.

You don't have to wait for plants to arrive in the garden center to start gardening with annuals. Starting seed indoors is one way to get a head start on the season. Seedlings will be ready to transplant when the weather warms up. Some annuals are such fast growers that they are planted directly into the ground when soil temperatures warm. Nasturtiums, sunflowers, and poppies are good examples of these.


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