Top 5 Annuals for the Southeast

A zinia flower in a garden
Zinneas are especially interesting because they can have single or multi-colored petals. See more annual flower pictures.

­If you're wondering what annuals will thrive best in the Southeastern region of the United States, you've come to the right place. Not only will this article shed some light on the topic, but it will also help point you in the direction of great research tools.

Annuals are plants that have a flowering lifespan of one season. As you read on, you'll learn discover which five plants have proven popular in the states of the Southeast. Some people claim that the Southeast comprises only the states below Virginia that border the Atlantic Ocean. Other peopl­e say the Southeast can also include Alabama and a few more inland states from the Eastern seaside.


For the purposes of this article, we'll concentrate on three Southeastern states -- Georgia, Florida and South Carolina. From there, we can assume that whatever flowers are recommended for these three states will be a good indicator of what will work in the general region of the Southeast -- however it is divided. Taking that approach, the top five flowers we'll discuss are marigolds, pansies, petunias, vincas and zinnias.

If you have heard much about flowers or gardens in general, you may have heard about or seen maps of different zones found in the United States. A zone in the field of landscaping and horticulture refers to the overall temperature of an area, marking the annual lows. This zone map helps you match a plant to a specific region. The zones for the United States range from three to 10, with three only appearing at the coldest parts of the North near Canada and 10 showing in some parts of places like Florida, Texas and California. Our Southeastern region includes zones eight, nine and 10 [source: Pondkoi].

5. Marigolds

Marigolds, calendula
Marigolds are a gardener's dream because they're easy to care for and have a lengthy blooming period.

­If there is one flower you can expect to see in a garden in Georgia, you can bet it will be a marigold. Considering the name of this annual, you might be under the impression that it's always yellow or gold. This is not the case, though, as marigolds come in a variety of warm colors including yellow, gold, orange and deep red. There are two major species of marigolds, the African Marigold (Tagetes erecta), which is also known as the American marigold, and the French Marigold (T. patula). African Marigolds have the largest, tallest and fullest flowers. Of course, as with most plants, there are hybrid species­ such as the Triploid Marigolds that are a cross between the French and African Marigolds. The size of marigolds range from 6 to 36 inches (15.2 cm to 91.4 cm) tall [source: Thomas].

Marigolds are considerably easy to maintain indoors and out. Your best results for growing marigolds will come if you put them in full sun. The Southeast yields great marigolds because of the heat. Marigolds traditionally bloom in the summer and autumn, but in warm regions like the Southeast they can bloom into winter. To protect against frost dangers, some gardeners may first plant their marigold seeds in a pot indoors. Before you transplant the plants to the outdoors, you want to make sure there is no longer a chance of frost. You also want to take care to space the plants out properly, which means 8 to 16 inches (20.3 cm to 40.6 cm) depending on the variety of marigolds you have.


Some things to keep in mind about marigolds when planning your garden is that they have a long flowering period and they have a potent and often unpleasant smell. Marigolds do need a healthy amount of water in the Southeast, where summers tend to get dry and hot. A good method of containing moisture within the soil is to cover the soil with mulch so it is not directly exposed to the sun. The water needs to get deep into the soil, so regular watering will help you fulfill this need [source: Garden Guides].

4. Pansies

Bold, brilliant color and sharp focus on these blue pansy flowers
Pansies come in a wide variety of colors and are a popular annual in the Southeast.­

­Pansies may look delicate but they are the most popular hardy flowers planted and grown in Georgia, according to The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The pansy is a dependable flower that can bloom in the fall and winter in the Southeast region.

The neat thing about pansies is that the diversity in their petal color is quite large. First of all, the flower can be either a single color, ­or two to three colors with a face. The variety of colors include black, purple, lavender, blue, yellow, bronze, apricot, orange, maho­gany, red and white.


A pansy has five rounded petals and comes in three different bloom sizes or categories, including large, medium and multiflora. Large blooms are 3 to 4 inches (9 to 11.5 cm), medium blooms are 2 to 3 inches (6 to 9 cm) and multiflora blooms are 1 to 2 inches (4 to 6 cm). There are several varieties within each category of pansy that might be good to research if you are looking for certain sizes, colors or other characteristics. Multiflora pansies are recommended most for landscaping [source: Plant Answers].

When you are planning your garden, you should realize that the pansy plant is not very large i­n general. The height and width of the pansy plant does not exceed 9 inches (22.9 cm). As part of the plant, there are oval or heart-shaped leaves attached to the many green stems.

Scent or odor might be another factor when you are considering what will match your garden well. The pansy does not emit an odor constantly throughout the day, but its perfume is best detected at dawn and nightfall. Another point to keep in mind is that not all pansies have a similar, strong fragrance. The blue and yellow pansy flowers are recommended the most if you are looking for a scented flower. Your best bet at getting a pleasant fragrance is if you grow many plants together, rather than spreading them out [source: Plant Answers].

3. Petunias

Pink petunia
Petunias are durable flowers that will bloom from early spring to late fall in full sunlight.

­The petunia performs well in heat and along the coast. These traits make it perfect for the Southeastern region. Like the two other flowers discussed previously in this article, the petunia is quite easy to grow and maintain. Especially because of the warmer temperatures you find in the Southeast, the petunia will have an extensive flowering stage. You can count on a petunia to flower from the moment spring has s­prung until the first frost.

The petunia flower has five petals that vary slightly between the different varieties. Some petunia petals have points at the tips of each petal, where other petunia petals are more rounded at the tip. The flowers may have a ruffled or fringed look to them. Flowers can come in different sizes, differing between 1 inch and 6 inches (2.5 cm to 15.2 cm) in diameter [source: Russ].


The color choices for the petunia are just as numerous as the pansy color spectrum. The color scheme of the petunia varies. Some petunias have one solid color on the flower, some have different colored veins or outlines and some have a five-pointed star color pattern. If you are specifically looking for a fragrant flower, you should seek out the white and lavender varieties, which appear to have the most perfume-like scent.

The best-suited varieties for the Southeast are the multiflora petunias, the milliflora petunias and the spreading petunias. Multiflora types are good for the garden because they have prolific flowers that grow in masses. Multifloras are also good because they do not get sick with petal diseases that may affect other types. Milliflora petunias are good for the garden because they do not require much upkeep in order to thrive. Milliflora petunias have the smallest flowers of all the petunias but typically have more flowers in one plant than other types. Spreading, also known as trailing, petunias aren't as tall as they are wide. They are suitable for window boxes, hanging baskets or landscaping as groundcover.

2. Vinca

Purple Vinca Minor flowers
Purple Vinca Minor flowers

­You may have never heard of a vinca, but it is catching on as a perfect annual for the Southeast because of its heat and drought tolerance. Vinca is not fussy about its soil ratings, either, and actually fares well in poor soils.

Vinca is also known as Madagascar periwinkle. It is a full, rounded plant that grows to be 1 or 2 feet (30.5 cm to 61 cm) tall and typically a similar width. Since vinca is making its way into the gardens of many Southeastern homes, horticulturists are experimenting with new colors and new shapes. There is now a spreading variety of vinca tha­t will not grow as tall as the first type but will grow to have a bigger width.


Lilac, blue, white, lavender, apricot, raspberry, orchid, red, pink and rose are some of the color choices open to you when selecting a vinca plant. While vinca does not flower as long as the aforementioned annuals in this article, it does flower from June to the first frost. In the Southeast, particularly in the more southern regions, the flowering period could be quite long since the frost comes later.

Vinca is a multi-functional piece to use in landscaping. It grows well in beds with proper spacing between the plants. It can be used as a border or edge for gardens, lawns and driveways. Vinca also can do well in containers or hanging baskets. If you want the vinca to perform the best it can, make sure to start the seeds inside [source: Russ].

1. Zinnias

A zinia flower in a garden
Zinnias are especially interesting because they can have single or multi-colored petals.

­The zinnia, Zinnia elegans, can withstan­d heat, dry conditions and hard sun, and they are easy to grow. [source: Thomas].

Zinnias have full flowers with multiple petals on each stem. The zinnia flower can have single or multi-colored petals. They come in varying sizes, ranging from 6 to 40 inches (15.2 cm to 101.6 cm) in height and just shy of 1 inch to 7 inches (2.5 cm to 17.8 cm) in diameter.


If you want the zinnia to per­form and flower to the best of its ability, it is a good idea to start the seeds indoors. A zinnia will not do well if it is planted outside before the warm weather begins, but if the last frost is past, you need not worry. You can start the seeds of the taller zinnia types in a three-inch (9 cm) pot. When you decide the weather is warm enough to transplant outdoors, zinnias do well in flowerbeds, borders, containers and rock gardens. Because of a zinnia's height, it also does well as a background plant or in a fresh-cut floral arrangement. Butterflies are attracted to zinnias -- an added bonus for the overall aesthetics of your garden [source: Garden Guides].

For more information on annuals for the Southeast and related topics, visit the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles

More Great Links

  • Garden Guides. "Marigold." (Accessed 1/16/09)
  • Garden Guides. "Zinnia." (Accessed 1/16/09)
  • Jauron, Richard. "Marigolds." (Accessed 1/16/09)
  • Plant Answers. "Pansy." (Accessed 1/16/09)
  • Pondkoi. "United States Department of Agriculture Zone Map." (Accessed 1/16/09)
  • Russ, Karen. "Annual Vinca." (Accessed 1/16/09)
  • Russ, Karen. "Petunia." (Accessed 1/16/09)
  • Thomas, Paul A. "Flowering Annuals for Georgia Gardens." (Accessed 1/16/09)