(Family Features) - Annuals are a great addition to any garden. There are many varieties to choose from and many are easy to grow. Annuals flower all summer long, many until frost. Here are five of the most popular, long blooming annuals.
Geraniums. Technically a Pelargonium, geraniums are hugely popular in gardens. They are very easy to grow, so are great for beginning and expert gardeners alike. In warmer climates, geraniums are perennials, but in much of the country, they are treated as annuals. They bloom from spring to frost. There are three types of geraniums: zonal, ivy and scented. The zonal geraniums are the most familiar. They have flower clusters which rise above soft, velvety leaves. The flowers come in colors of red, white, pink, violet and rose. This variety will generally grow twelve to eighteen inches tall. Ivy geraniums have branches that stretch out and droop, making them perfect for containers. The foliage is glossy and smooth. The ivy variety flowers come in pink, lavender, red and white. The scented geraniums are more grown for the fragrance than the flowers. Gently crush the foliage in your hands to release the scent. The fragrance can range from rose, to chocolate, to mint! These geraniums are best planted in containers where you can reach out and rub the foliage.
Petunias. Petunias come in such a wide variety of colors and types that it can be difficult to decide which one to pick! Petunias bloom from summer until frost and come in colors ranging from red, white, yellow, purple, pin and multi colored. The two main classes of petunias are multifloras and grandifloras. Multifloras are compact with smaller flowers. The flowers can be either single or double petaled. The grandifloras are the larger of the two classes, growing up to twenty four inches tall. This class is often used for hanging baskets or containers. The flowers can be single or double petaled. Remove the dead flower blooms in order to keep the petunias producing flowers all season.
Marigolds. Marigolds are the work horses of the garden. They are not fussy, very easy to grow right from seed and produce many flowers from spring to frost. The four common types of marigolds to use in your garden include: African, French, Triploid and Signet. African marigolds, which are also referred to as American marigolds are the tallest type. They grow up to 3 feet tall, with large double petaled blooms. Best used in the back of a border. Flower colors range from cream to orange with other yellow shades in the middle. French marigolds are smaller than the African. They grow six to twelve inches tall and have either single or double petaled blooms. Shades range from maroon, to orange to bright yellow and some bi-colored flowers. Triploid hybrids are a cross between the French and African varieties. The plants are a compact twelve inches with large three inch blooms. These are also a seedless variety, so will continue to bloom even without dead heading. Signets are the tiniest of the marigolds. They are bushy plants that grow up to twelve inches and produce masses of tiny colorful flowers.
Sunflowers. Sunflowers bloom in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Easily grown from seed, they are perfect to teach children about plants. From giant ten foot tall plants to compact garden varieties, there is sure to be a sunflower that will fit your garden. For the giant size, staking will probably be necessary to keep the flower from toppling over. Often times the flower head itself will grow to over twelve inches across! The garden varieties can have single large blooms on each stem, or be a more bushy plant with many smaller flower heads. If you want sunflowers for cutting, try growing the hybrids with a long single stem.
Snapdragons. Snapdragons are available in a wide variety of sizes and colors. They are difficult to grow from seed, so starting out with plants from your local nursery is the easiest way to add them to your garden. There are three typical sizes for snapdragons: dwarf, medium and tall. The dwarf size are twelve inches or shorter. They come in a wide range of colors, but due to their size, are not good for cutting. The intermediate size grows up to eighteen inches. This size is good for cutting flowers for bouquets and for using anywhere in the garden bed. The tall variety of snapdragons grow up to three feet tall. These will require staking to maintain straight stems. These are best to use for the back of the border, or for cutting.
Planting annuals can be a great activity for the whole family. Using any of these annuals can provide months of blooms for cutting, or just enjoying in the garden!
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Gardening