What are Annuals

Petunia at Sensible Gardening and Living

Everyone is talking about starting flower seeds indoors, a very hot topic in January and February. My last few posts talked about this process, from seed selection, through seed planting and growth to transplanting out into the garden. Although any type of flower can be grown from a seed of some sort, most of us will be planting up annual flowers and annual vegetables.

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An annual flower is a plant that completes it’s entire life cycle in one growing season. A seed is usually planted in the spring, sprouts and grows to maturity, then sets flowers which go to seed so the cycle can be repeated the following spring. Once seeds are produced the plant generally dies. By deadheading the flowers that are produced you can greatly lengthen the life span of an annual as it continues to produce more flowers in order to ultimately reproduce itself.

Northern gardeners also treat many plants as annuals when in fact they are really perennials. Since these ‘tender perennials’ can only survive in warmer temperatures, we grow them to enjoy their fast growing and flowering abilities for one long season then loose them to frost in the fall.

Hardy Annuals

These are annuals that can withstand a few degrees of frost, the amount differing from plant to plant. Because of this they are often sown directly into the garden soil in the spring, or even started in the fall. Hardy annuals are great since you will often get a frost in the early fall only to be followed by several more weeks of frost free temperatures. These plants will survive and continue to produce flowers extending your garden season. If you would still like to give them a good head start in the spring, the seeds can be started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost date.

Half-hardy Annuals

These are annuals than can withstand one or two degrees of frost but no more, and definitely less than the hardy annuals.  Because of this they cannot be planted outdoors in the fall in northern gardens.

Annual Petunias / Sensible Gardening and Living

Tender Annuals

Most annuals fall into this category, and they cannot handle any frost at all. You will not be able to start these spring annuals in the ground, nor set out any seedlings until all danger of frost has passed.  These annuals must be started indoors a good 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost free date in order to reach enough maturity to withstand the outdoor elements.

Annual Garden / Sensible Gardening and Living