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Our Summer Annuals Cheat Sheet

Annuals are the eye candy of the summer garden. Who can resist all of those racks and tables maxed out with instant color?! Fanciful visions of cascading window boxes, edge-spilling containers and hanging baskets, and blank spots instantly filled in, dance in you head. It’s magic time! And every year, you get to create an whole new “plant painting” without breaking the bank.

Before you head to the nursery, here’s a quick cheat sheet of a few of our favorite annuals, and ideas about how to use them. Which ones spark your creativity? Are there others that you love?


Full Sun

Many of the annuals we love to use for summer color originated in warmer climates like the southern United States, Mexico, and South America. That’s why (with a bit of care) they sail through the heat of summer, even in full sun. Here are just six of the amazing variety of full sun annuals you’ll find in stores this summer. We chose these for their chameleon-like ability to work in just about any design scheme.

Summer Snapdragon

Angelonia is a heat-lover that’s perfect for upright, spiky interest. Mix the rainbow of colors–white, pink, purple, rose, red–or mass in a single hue. Deer and rabbit resistant! Up 14″ tall and wide.

Ideas: Hummingbird gardens, cottage planters, rose gardens.

Million Bells

Calibrachoa’s petunia-like blooms are a billowy mass of color that thrive all summer, even in heat and humidity. Great in pots, but also a excellent, unexpected bedding plant. Up to 15″ tall and wide.

Ideas: Suspend hanging baskets in groups of three at different heights.


When it comes to quickly softening hard surfaces or covering bare spots, few annuals do it better than verbena. Pillow-y and spill-y, it’s a spreading low grower. Butterflies go nuts for it. Up to 8″ tall and 3′ wide.

Ideas: Hanging baskets, of course, but also gentle slopes and berms.


Pelargonium (annual geraniums) are THE classic choice for containers and window boxes. Sun and heat lovers, they also tolerate partial shade. And the colors!! Up to 16″ tall and 24″ wide.

Use: Juxtapose it’s formality by planting in a blowsy cottage garden.


Continuous summer color from large flower clusters on a compact, waterwise, sun-loving plant that tolerates heat and humidity. Perennial in mild winter region, annual elsewhere. Up to 16″ tall and wide.

Ideas: Use in wildlife gardens to attract bees and butterflies.