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What is an Annual?

Published on March 23rd 2021
A close up of a flower
Ever wondered why some plants need to be sown every year while others burst into flower year after year? The answer lies in a plant’s life cycle.
What is a life cycle? The period of time a plant takes to grow from seed to finally form seeds of its own, or complete reproduction.

What is an annual?

Annuals are plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season. For example, seeds planted in spring, flower through summer, turn to seed, and with their reproductive mission accomplished, they die when the first frosts in autumn arrive.
A close up of text on a white background
Tip | Deadhead annuals throughout the summer to prevent them from going to seed and encourage reblooming.

Annuals in the garden

Annuals grown from seed are quick rewarders and can turn any naked patch of soil into a frenzy of colour and delight in just two or three months.
Most annuals are sown in spring to flower that same summer, some are sown in autumn when it's time to plant bulbs, and others are sown in early summer so that buds can form before the weather becomes too cool and they will produce flowers in winter or early spring.
A close up of a flower
Plant annuals in massed beds or fill in gaps between perennials and shrubs. They also bring great pleasure and colour when planted in containers and hanging baskets. These plants are economical and need little time or attention before producing wonderful results.
Annuals can be classified as hardy or half-hardy. Hardy annuals will tolerate cold weather and can be sown earlier than half-hardy annuals. Do keep in mind that what may be hardy in one climactic zone may not be hardy in another. Also, in warm coastal regions, this is often irrelevant.
Most annuals can also provide excellent cut flowers!
A close up of a purple flower

Annuals to sow now!

Winter rainfall and frost-free areas:
Hardy summer-flowering annuals

Corn Cockle

Agrostemma githago


Alcea rosea


Anagallis spp.


Anchusa capensis


Anchusa capensis

A close up of some purple Campanula medium flowers

Canterbury Bells

Campanula medium

A close up of some purple Centaurea cyanus flowers


Centaurea cyanus

Wild Carrot

Daucus carota

Sweet William

Dianthus barbatus

Purple Foxglove

Digitalis purpurea


Iberis umbellata

Virginia Stock

Malcolmia maritima

A close up of some blue Nigella damascena flowers in a garden


Nigella damascena

Shirley Poppies

Papaver rhoeas (Shirley Series)

Annual phlox

Phlox drummondii

A close up of a green Tropaeolum majus plant with a red flower


Tropaeolum majus

Winter-flowering annuals
Summer rainfall:
Winter-flowering annuals

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