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Best Annual Flowers For Your Vegetable Garden

Annual Flowers, Vegetable Garden, Marigold, Calendula, Zinnia, Nasturtium, Alyssum, Sunflower, Cockscomb, Mexican Sunflowers, Ageratum

Vegetables love flowers. Aside from adding a splash of color, annual flowers planted in and near vegetable gardens and fruit plantings help bring pollinators and other beneficial insects into the garden that will protect and increase your crops. 

There are two main types of Annual flowers: cool-season hardy annuals and warm-season tender annuals.

Cool-Season Hardy Annuals

Cool-season hardy annual flowers bring a gorgeous array of bloom colors, shapes, and sizes to the garden for early-season pleasure. These early flowers attract beneficial insects and offer pollinators much-needed nectar early in the season.

Cool-season hardy annuals relish cool temperatures, growing best in spring or fall, and will tolerate a light frost. They sulk when summer sets in, especially in hot-weather areas, and will set fewer flowers or stop flowering completely until the cooler months of fall return.

When to plant cool-season hardy annuals

  • Find your winter hardiness zone. Not sure about your growing zone? Check here.
  • Find the first and last expected frost dates for your area (contact your local cooperative extension service or master gardener organization).

Planting cool-season hardy annuals in early spring

  • Prepare your planting area in the fall. The soil could be snow-covered or too wet in early spring. 
  • Clean up your summer vegetable garden by removing dead edibles and weeds and leave fresh, healthy soil for next year.
  • Make sure your soil is well-drained. Wet soils damage roots, causing the plants to die.
  • Cover or mulch to deter cool-season weeds.
  • Plant 6-8 weeks before the last expected spring frost.
  • Plant on time to give plants the time they need to get established.
  • Any hardy annual that is not winter hardy in your zone should be planted in early spring because it will not survive winter.
  • When possible, plant transplants in the garden rather than seeds. They have a better chance of success as it is more difficult to get seeds to sprout outdoors due to cold weather. Alternatively, use a row cover to increase temperature and facilitate seed sprouting.
  • Use hoops and row covers to protect young transplants from cold winds and hungry rabbits.

Planting cool-season hardy annuals in the fall

  • Make sure your annual flowers are hardy in your winter hardiness zone.
  • Plant 6-8 weeks before the first expected fall frost. They will spend the next few months growing a strong root system that will carry them through the following season.
  • Any hardy annual that is winter hardy in your zone can survive winter and be planted in the fall.
  • Use hoops and row covers to protect young transplants from cold winds and hungry deer.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 11
Plant Type Annuals
Genus Papaver, Helianthus, Tagetes, Calendula, Rudbeckia, Tropaeolum
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall

Cool-Season Hardy Annuals

Ammi majus (False Queen Anne’s Lace)
Anethum graveolens (Dill)
Antirrhinum majus (Snapdragon)
Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower)
Limnanthes douglasii (Poached Egg Plant)
Papaver nudicaule (Iceland Poppy)
Calendula (Pot Marigold)
Lathyrus odoratus (Sweet Pea)
Lobularia maritima (Sweet Alyssum)
Papaver somniferum (Opium Poppy)
Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan)
Tropaeolum (Nasturtium)

Warm-Season Tender Annuals

Blooming from late spring until frost, warm-season tender annuals bring their hot colors and attract an army of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Unlike cool-season annuals, they thrive when soil and air temperatures are warm to hot. As long as they are grown in adequate conditions and their pretty flowers are regularly harvested, they will reward you with abundant blossoms.

When to plant warm-season tender annuals

  • Find your winter hardiness zone. Not sure about your growing zone? Check here.
  • Find the first and last expected frost dates for your area (contact your local cooperative extension service or master gardener organization).
  • Plant when nighttime temperatures are staying consistently above 60ºF (15ºC) after the last expected spring frost date has passed.

Warm-Season Tender Annuals

Ageratum houstonianum (Floss Flower)
Borago officinalis (Borage)
Helianthus annuus (Common Sunflower)
Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican Sunflower)
Celosia
Cosmos Flowers
Gomphrena (Globe Amaranth)
Tagetes (Marigold)

Garden Examples

A Glowing Perennial Planting Idea with Rudbeckias and Garden Phlox
A Long-Lasting Summer Duo for your Borders: Lavender and Cosmos
A Stunning Plant Combination Idea
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 11
Plant Type Annuals
Genus Papaver, Helianthus, Tagetes, Calendula, Rudbeckia, Tropaeolum
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall

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