(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 5, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments.)
Now that you're all going to be hiding the garden spade in the spring from now on, I'll go over some of my favourite annuals that come back faithfully every year.
Just in case you missed that article, here is a convenient link to "Spring is here, Don't Touch That Spade!!"
Just a little recap, most annuals will self-seed and come back in the spring. This is a wondrous way to save some money. All you need to do is be patient and wait, don't dig the beds every spring!!! You will have so many annuals you might have to give some away.
Cosmos. These dainty, many coloured annuals are wonderful when planted amongst tall perennials that stop blooming early in the year. They tend to be tall although the ones I planted in full shade maxed out at 7 inches. Some staking may be needed in windy areas. Last year I grew Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos "Double Click" (pictured above) for the first time and they were beautiful!! I let them go to seed in the fall, spreading them everywhere I could think of. I can't wait to see their pretty little leaves popping up all over the gardens this spring along with my regular ones.
Nicotiana. Ahhhh...the sweet scented Nicotiana. There aren't many annuals, if any, that can compare to the scent these guys exude in the evening. The scent, plus the fact that they are humming bird, and humming bird moth magnets, make them a must have annual every year.
Calendula. Lovely, bright flowers that stay short and compact. Great for containers and borders. Seeds sprout and bloom in as little as 7 weeks, then bloom all summer if kept dead-headed. No garden should be without them.
Portulaca. Wonderful little flowers that do an amazing job as a groundcover. You never know what colour you will get, always a beautiful surprise. They love full sun and bloom until frost. These little guys can also be used in hanging baskets and containers.
Cleome. I adore Cleome. Another tall annual, but sturdy enough to not need staking, as a rule. Butterflies love them. These guys are covered in blooms by mid-summer and branch out bushily. They come in a variety of colours. These lovers of full sun are reasonably drought tolerant and produce seeds by the thousands. Plant them once and you will enjoy them for many, many years to come.
There you have it. My favourite 5 self-seeding annuals. There are many more though that deserve an honourable mention. Stock and Balsam are nicely scented annuals. Good butterfly attractors. They occasionally come back for me but not with the guarantee that those mentioned above do. Batchelor's Button, another pretty annual. Good for drying and as a cut flower. They need full sun or they become scraggly. Petunias also come back from seed for me and I never know what colours I will get. I move them into hanging baskets or planters and also let them grow between my perennials as a bright ground cover.
Hopefully, this article has motivated you to plant more of these amazing, returning annuals. I guarantee you will enjoy them for many years to come. Annuals deserve a higher standing in the Perennial bed than they currently get, they provide much needed colour when the Perennials are fading for the summer. Stop just lining your sidewalks with them, put them in your gardens!!!.
Photo credits for this article go to myself, melody, poppysue and Sarahskeeper.