Making the case for annuals

A bright flowerbed with annuals such as spider flower (Cleome) and snapdragons (Antirrhinum)

If you grow perennials, people think, it means you’re a “real gardener.” Poor annuals, they’re thought of as second-class garden citizens. Yet for non-stop flower power, annuals can’t be beat. They may take a while to get going but once they do – with a little deadheading – they go on and on.

Many annuals, such as all the ones in this post, can be easily grown from seed. And if you’re going for sustainability, many (including these) can also carry on from year to year – either by self-seeding in your garden or by saving your own seeds. Check out this page from Chicago blogger Mr Brown Thumb for excellent how-tos, including videos, on saving all kinds of seeds.

A mauve, fringed opium or breadseed poppy (Papaver somniferum). Given sunshine and average soil, opium poppy will often self-seed, and the tiny seeds are also easy to save.
Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) is a tender perennial (in Toronto’s climate), meaning it won’t survive our winters. Yet the seeds are easy to save, and with luck may also seed themselves around.
Annual sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) will produce pea pods, just like edible peas, which you can dry and save for next year. Seeds from a mixed planting like this might not always come true (be the same colour as its parent), but, hey, they’re free.
In sun and average soil – it will even take some dryness – the tough little Zinnia is an easy annual. It makes a long-lasting cut flower, and is also generous as a seed producer (though save that for the end of season). Deadhead to extend blooms.



  1. I loved this post! I am feeling very inspired to add more annuals to my garden this summer. I also garden in the East of Toronto (East York) and I wondered if you have any recommendations for annuals that can be sown directly in the spring? We have both full sun and partial shade gardens, so I'm looking for any and all recommendations!

    1. Hi, there. Almost all the ones we list here can be direct-sown outdoors in spring. The sweet peas require a little more coddling, and if you wait till it's safe to plant them outdoors, they won't start blooming till the summer heats up, and that can slow down the flowering. Sarah wrote a good post on growing sweet peas a while back, which you can find through the search function at the top of the blog. Other great spring-sown annuals include cosmos (a sun lover; don't feed it too much), nasturtiums (a sun lover that I plant every spring in my part-shade garden; ditto on the feeding), California poppies (in sun), and love-in-a-mist (charming seed heads, too). Really, there are many more. Just read the seed pack of an annual you like, and the instructions will be clear. Have fun!

You might also like