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Tips for Growing Annuals and Biennials

Choosing Annuals and Biennials
Home gardeners have many lovely varieties of annuals and biennials to choose from. The following tips will help you choose the best annuals and biennials for your garden.

  • In informal gardens, plant nonhybrid annuals that may return from self-sown seeds allowed to mature and fall to the ground. Suitable annuals include the heirlooms love-lies-bleeding and kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate; wildflowers such as cornflowers, California poppies, and verbenas; and open-pollinated annuals such as snapdragons, portulaca, cockscomb, and spider flowers.

    Pot of flowers
    When selecting annuals and biennials,
    choose plants with bright green foliage.

Choose healthy plants when shopping at the garden center or nursery in spring. Here is a checklist to use before buying any new plant:

  • Leaf color: The foliage of naturally green-leafed plants should be bright green, not faded yellow or scorched bronze or brown.
  • Plant shape: The sturdiest seedlings will be compact, with short stretches of stem between sets of leaves. Slenderness may be an admirable quality on high-fashion models, but a lanky, skinny seedling is weaker and less desirable than a short, stocky one.
  • Pests: If you shake the plant, no insects should come fluttering off. Inspect the stem tips and flower buds for aphids, small pear-shaped sap suckers. Look for hidden pests by turning the plant upside down and looking under the leaves and along the stem.

  • Roots: An annual with ideal roots will have filled out its potting soil without growing cramped. When roots are overcrowded, the plant is root-bound -- the roots have consumed all soil space and grown tangled and ineffective. The best way to judge root quality is to pop a plant out of its container (or ask a sales clerk to do this) and check to see how matted the roots have become.

In the next section, we'll give you some great garden design ideas involving annuals and biennials.

Heirloom Flowers

Heirloom flowers are flowers your ancestors may have enjoyed. Some heirlooms are only slightly different from modern flowers -- taller, larger- or smaller-flowered, or more fragrant. But other heirlooms are quite distinct and unusual. Here are some examples:

  • Love-lies-bleeding: Long, dangling, crimson red seed heads form colorful streamers.
  • Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate: These six-foot-tall plants have pendulous pink flowers.
  • Balsam: This impatiens relative sprinkles flowers amid the foliage along the stems.
  • Sweet peas: Vining pea-shaped plants that bear colorful pink, white, purple, and red flowers with delightful fragrances.

Want more gardening tips? Try:

  • Gardening Tips: Learn great helpful hints for all of your gardening needs.
  • Annuals: Plant these beauties in your garden.
  • Perennials: Choose great plants that will return year after year.
  • Gardening: Discover how to garden.