Spring annuals thrive in the cooler, moist weather of the season. Using annual plants requires a bit of pre-planning as they are generally not winter hardy and may require a long indoor starting period to ensure flowers at the right time. A better bet is to purchase plants from a good nursery or garden center. Choose plants that will self perpetuate for economic value and those which will tolerate any spring chills. One of the best ways to use spring annuals is in containers. They also make great border and accent plants. Creeping or trailing plants add interest to hanging planters or blend into colorful ground cover among paving stones. Varieties such as Sweet Allysum, English daisies and Lobelia will quickly fill in garden spaces with vibrant color. Clusters of pansies and violas achieve the same effect when massed tightly in containers or along pathways and in rockery cracks.
Many spring annuals are low growing specimens but variety is the spice of life and some architectural interest is fun for the spring planting bed. Some of the most intense colors come from the many Snapdragon cultivars. They are perennial in some milder climes but reseed readily in cool zones and will provide you with years of enjoyment from just a few plants. Their height is a welcome addition to the back of a flower bed. Larkspur is another annual with a high profile. The bright blue petals resemble Delphinium but Larkspur is more suited to colder regions. Calendulas are similar to Marigolds and fare well throughout the growing season. Their cheery golden and orange colors bloom early and well into fall. Pericallis produce big daisy-like flowers which can survive temperatures down to 35 degrees Fahrenheit, making them well suited for northern areas where late frosts are not uncommon.
Wildflowers are strong plants and their variety and resilience provide an easy and fairly inexpensive way to add spring color. Because they are suited to their particular region, it is usually as simple as preparing a seed bed and spreading the seed for a carpet of interesting hues and forms. Purchase a wildflower mix for your region and plant in fall or choose just a few of your favorites for specific impact. Your local county extension office can help you pinpoint which varieties are native to your zone. Wildflowers are hardy to their particular zone, which provides a nearly fool-proof flower choice. Bachelor's Buttons, Love in the Mist, Indian Blanket, Blue Bonnets and others will dance across any prepared soil for an energetic display of native color.
Late winter of early spring is the time to start snow or snap peas. It is also the time to direct sow their cousin, the Sweet Pea. In warmer climates you can start the seeds outdoors in fall for super early blooms. The majority of the United States' zones will want to start the seeds indoors 6 weeks before the date of the last frost or outside as soon as soil has warmed up. The goofy brightly colored flowers are perfect for frolicking up a trellis, over a fence, or simply swirling up a stake.
Seed starting is an important issue unless you want to purchase potted plants annually. Most annuals will germinate readily and do well when sown in flats. The exact time will depend upon when you will be planting them out and expect flowers. The usual rule is 6 to 8 weeks before the date of the last frost but the actual sowing period will also depend upon the time from seed to bloom. This is often indicated on the seed packet. Savvy gardeners will save seed that they harvest in fall, so they only have to purchase seed once. In temperate and warmer climates, allow the seed to self sow at the end of summer. This is perfect for the lazy gardener since no collection, planting or even deadheading is required. Just let the flowers go to seed, ripen and dry on the plant and the weather will disperse the seeds for you. If you are unsure of your skills for starting indoors, often those seeds planted directly in the garden will quickly catch up to their transplanted brethren, so don't be timid about sowing seeds directly.
Some more varieties for you to try:
And many more...
Local nurseries are and excellent source of appropriate plant material and seed. Even big box stores offer a wide selection of transplants for very little money. Seeds are also relatively inexpensive, so try a few experimental varieties for an early color show. Most annuals are quite easy to grow and forgiving of less than optimum soil if they get enough water. However and whatever you decide to plant, spring annuals are an effective way of dispelling winter doldrums with their promise of summer and verdant life.
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