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Most flowers, and some non-flowering plants, can be divided into annuals, perennials and biennials. Biennials bloom only every other year. Perennials will lose their flowers, but then come right back the following year – often for many, many years. Annuals, by contrast, bloom one year and never again, typically dying out entirely.

As a result, annuals have to be freshly planted every year – hence the name. But as a kind of reward, they offer gardeners and landscapers the widest array possible of stunning color and style choices. Annuals are the brightest, the most intense and among the most beautiful flowers available.

If you want a garden that is full of the deepest colors – shocking yellows, deep purples, vibrant reds – annuals are your best bet. If you want to pack your garden with an effusion of flowering plants, annuals will give you what you’re looking for. Just don’t forget you will have to re-do the effort every year. But then, for some, that’s part of the fun!

Annuals can be further divided into Spring, Summer and Fall annuals. Spring annuals such as pansies, violas or snapdragons can be planted in early Spring. Summer annuals, such as petunias or impatiens should be planted later, in order to avoid exposure to any late cold snap.

Unless you grow from seed, you’ll pick up some annuals already growing, probably already in bloom. Look for soil that has been kept moist but not wet. Excessively wet soil promotes diseases and harmful growths that often don’t show up until after you’ve had the plant for a while. Soil shouldn’t be too dry, either. That leads to sickly plants that sometimes don’t survive transplanting.

Young annuals are fragile and if the conditions in which they were raised before you acquired them aren’t right, they often won’t last very long. Best to invest your time and money in ones that have the best chance for survival.

Give them that chance by planting in loose, well fed soil. For fertilization, fish emulsion or other commercial mixtures containing the right amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and other nutrients are a good start. Just follow the directions on the package.

Annuals can be planted close together, provided each has adequate soil, water and nutrients. A good guideline is to observe wild flowers in a densely packed area. Nature has figured out long ago how much room, sunlight and water a plant needs to thrive.

Many annuals are best acquired before they’ve begun to blossom. When you find young ones that have many healthy looking buds, you can bet you’ll have lots of flowers before long. Since they haven’t blossomed yet, they’ll have the maximum life span.

Picking out healthy plants isn’t hard. If it looks healthy, it usually is. Straight sturdy stalks (for those that grow that way naturally), no wilting, bright greens (with little or no browning), and other obvious signs rarely lead you astray.

Don’t worry too much if your first experiments aren’t 100% successful. In some cases, plants will die no matter how well you treat them. Annuals are relatively inexpensive and you’ll have plenty of room in your budget to create that carpet of color you want.


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