12 Easy Annuals Beginner Gardeners Should Plant

These straightforward varieties are simple to care for—and add major visual interest to your yard.

family gardening together
Photo: Ariel Skelley / Getty

The term "annual" refers to any plant that can be sowed, achieve germination, blossom, and wither over the course of a year. Offering almost endless variety and near-instant gratification, annuals are the heroes of the flower garden. Most are easy to grow from seed or seedlings, making them perfect for beginners.

Whichever type of annual you introduce into your garden, proper planting is critical in order for them to flourish throughout the growing season. The University of Illinois Extension recommends deep, infrequent watering over light watering, a basic initial fertilization during soil prep, and applying a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch to your annual beds.

Select annuals are suited for cutting, so you can create arrangements all season, says Adam Dooling, the curator of Outdoor Garden and Herbaceous Collections at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx, N.Y. "To grow healthy cut flowers, any sunny, well-draining site will do," he says. Because most annuals require regular deadheading to promote flowering, cutting flowers for arrangements also clears the way for the next flush of blooms.

If you adore annuals but crave simplicity, these are the easy varieties that demand little attention.

celosia flower in bloom
Robbie Ross / Getty


Known for their statement shapes (wheat, plumed or crested) and vibrant hues, these plants grow well in all zones, but primarily in ones with mostly warm, full sun, and dry conditions, say Jennifer and Adam O'Neal, the owners of PepperHarrow Farm and co-authors of Small Farm, Big Dreams: Turning A Flower-Growing Passion into a Successful Floral Business. "These flowers are annuals, so they don't come back each year, but we've found that they readily self-seed and will continue to proliferate in the garden year after year, which makes them a great option for beginner gardeners," they say.

pink yellow and orange lantana
stockcam / Getty Images


This hardy annual is a favorite of Teri Speight, a master gardener, writer, podcaster, blogger, and the author of Black Flora: Profiles of Inspiring Black Flower Farmers and Florists. The flower grows in zones 6 to 10 in sunny conditions. It's also drought and heat tolerant and loves lean soil with a light mulch. "Feeding every two weeks enables this plant to grow and sometimes become shrub-like," she says, adding that these fragrant, colorful florals can grow in a pot, a window box, or in the ground.

Getty / Alastair James


Our experts recommend salvias, which grow best in zones 8 to 10 with full sun to partial shade and drier conditions. These are known for their bright hue that stays vibrant through summer heat—so long as they get a weekly, deep watering. "We love to grow salvia blue bedder at the flower farm, because of its 'true' blue color," say the O'Neals. "It's great for drying and it's also a positive plant to have in the garden to attract birds, bees, and butterflies."

Pink Helichrysum in a summer garden
Photos by R A Kearton / Getty


For the O'Neals, the strawflower is a must for a beginner garden because of their bright hues (like peach and hot pink), durability to varying conditions, and pollinator-attracting qualities. "Strawflower also likes warm, sunny, and drier growing conditions, but it can tolerate some partial shade," they say. "Although it is an annual, it can act as a tender perennial in zones 9 to 11, but it can be grown in any zone as long as it receives the requirements stated." For colder, wetter climates, they advise growing strawflowers in a covered area.

big red poppies in bloom in a flower garden
Tennessee Witney / GETTY IMAGES


The classic poppy, or Papaver, has bright orange or red flowers, and most will self-sow regardless of environment. However, poppies perform best in sunlit plots with hydrated, but well-drained soil in zone 7b.

Nasturtium growing in garden
Stefan Sutka/Getty Images


An edible flower with bold blooms, the nasturtium plant is simple to grow and maintain. This annual thrives in well-drained soil and full sunlight in zones 10 and 11. Martha likes to plant hers along the stone walls of her property for a brilliant pop of color, and she loves it for the spicy flavor it lends to recipes.

zinnias in a garden
Getty / Chuanchai Pundej / EyeEm


Zinnias have bright, cheerful flowers and are the perfect annual for novice gardeners. The deer-resistant plant thrives in elevated temperatures and full sunlight with minimal care in zones 3 to 10. Zinnias must not be overwatered, or they'll develop a powdery mildew.

begonias in white planter
Lisa Hubbard


Annual begonias are an excellent choice for beginner gardens. Plant in partial shade to avoid leaf burn, and be careful not to overwater. These should grow well in zones 9 and 10; check your soil for proper drainage.

marigolds in garden next to lettuce
Philippe S. Giraud / Getty Images


Marigolds are yet another edible annual with vivid petals ranging in color from red and orange to flaxen and cream. The plant's sun-loving blooms are long-lasting and deer resistant. They will add a burst of color to any yard in zones 2 to 11.

Chocolate cosmos flowers in full bloom
teine / Getty Images


A cost-conscious and lovely annual, cosmos are easy to care for. The seeds can be sown directly into outdoor soil and require little water in order to multiply. Balmy temperatures and full sunlight encourage cosmos to thrive in zone 9.

Sunflower Fields Around the Country
Mitch Boeck / EyeEm via Getty Images


When planted directly in fresh soil outdoors, sunflower annuals can be expected to flourish in a myriad of conditions, mainly in zones 4 through 9. The tall plants yield a significant number of seeds per bloom, remain fresh for over a week when cut for an arrangement, and provide food for birds.

marigold plants at-home spa
Getty Images


A half-hardy annual with striking orange-yellow petals, calendula can be sown in very early spring to produce multi-purpose blooms. The plant offers many medicinal uses and grows best in zones 9 through 11.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles