Planting Annuals for Cutting


You visited the Erie Basin Marina Gardens on Wednesday, so here is a closeup view of the Summer trial annuals. These annuals are being trialed under conditions that might be more trying on them. In your home garden, you may have less wind and heat.

The best time to plant annuals really depends on where you live. If the soil is still cool in Spring, you might try popping in:

  • Viola
  • Pansy
  • Primrose
  • Osteospermum
  • Alyssum,
  • Nemesia
  • Diascia
  • Snapdragons
  • Calendula
  • Cosmos like it a bit on the cool side too, but grown from seed, flower closer to Fall.

This grouping last as long as the sun is not too hot whereby they set seed and die back. The key is not planting either the cool or warm-season annuals too soon.


The warm-season annuals are usually much better in drought-like heat. Those I like…

  • Zinnia
  • Lantana
  • Verbena
  • Angelonia
  • Ageratum

My favorite perennials that take the heat are:

  • Coreopsis
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Blanket Flower
  • Caryopteris
  • Echinacea
  • Salvia

Thing about these though, they can act like annuals by seeding themselves or being short-lived perennials.

It is probably more important when planting annuals to make sure weeds are removed and soil is amended with compost and manure. Don’t skip this step. Annuals are more demanding than the shorter lived perennials listed above.

Annuals often need supplemental fertilizer because of the fast growth spurt needed to live their cycle. Most annuals are started in greenhouses in late winter or early spring, but when frost has passed, a number can be started from seed. Since they are started in a greenhouse, they are coming to you dependent on regular fertilization.


Something people often do wrong with annuals is improper or infrequent watering. In our dry summers, annuals and perennials have needed supplemental watering, especially when the sun was very hot.

What you are seeing in this post are annuals that went through last summer’s drought in the trial gardens. You might be seeing some of these pictured in your local nurseries this Summer.


It is a good sign bees are feeding. Some hybrids have little to offer.


Shade tolerant annuals are those that can live and grow in 6 to 4 hours of sun or less. Those I’ve grown include:

  • Torenia
  • Salvia
  • Snapdragons
  • Nicotiana
  • Diascia
  • Pelargonium
  • Lobelia

All annuals need some sun.

I will put my potted annuals in shade during periods of high heat and drought. They get a little late afternoon sun which keeps them blooming and moist. When days cool off, they go back into their sunnier location. I have had pelargonium in this shaded position all summer in constant bloom, even though they are listed as full sun.

I plant annuals kinda like a garden accessory. I buy additional ones late season at bargain prices to fill in where perennials are through for the season. By mixing them in, I vary the heights to give a looser feel that has a more subtle appearance and looks less like the bedding plants they were bred to be.


Large drifts of perennials woven together as a tapestry of texture and color looks gorgeous but is rarely sustainable in a traditional garden situation. With annuals mixed in, this English garden look is more sustainable throughout the growing season. The annuals are sacrificial in this case, being that I use them as a cutting garden too.

What gardener does not like having a fresh bouquet to liven up the indoors? From the time the tulips and daffodils bloom to when the mums close out the growing season, I am out in my garden picking flowers. Each bloom does play a part in creating the whole scene, yet I still do cut flowers knowing the more that are cut, the more lie in replacement.


Annuals are ideal for using in newly planted borders that have not achieved full stride.

I am not very fond of this petunia below. It must have looked better in a large mass for me to take its photo. I think it looks “over cooked”.


Look to begonias to replace Impatiens as a bedding plant, because Impatiens are plagued by downy mildew problems. It bewilders me that nurseries still sell them here.


I hope I helped you with how I use annuals. Many, including petunia, Ageratum and Osteospermum will reseed the next year. I only planted Alyssum once and have had it yearly thereafter.  I pick all summer long, but will add wildflowers picked from the meadows to my arrangements. Everything goes in my flower arranging.



Start with sunny yellow and end in yellow. Happy, happy, happy…Note the Japanese Beetle, not so happy.


Sunday, we step back into the reality of Winter with What’s in the Thicket. It is the last in the series on Conservation Landscaping.


About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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37 Responses to Planting Annuals for Cutting

  1. ….which reminds me – I have to tend to my little balcony garden!!!!
    Brilliant advice, Donna – thank you! 🙂
    Enjoy a blossoming weekend! 🙂

  2. Hi Donna, Great post on annuals & perennials. I actually loved the “over cooked” petunia. Or maybe it was just my screen on my laptop that made it look great. hahaha. Have a great week! Sue

  3. patricksgarden1 says:

    Good general info but was hoping for actual variety names. Will point out one of my new favorites is the Sunflower ‘Moulin Rouge’ that sports 5″ dark burgundy petals surrounding an ebony center. Looks great with white zinnias. And great news: its pollenless for indoor display.

    Speaking of zinnias, the dahlia-flowered Benary series has been my favorite for many years. Blows my mind but Johnny’s Seeds offer 16 (yep, count ’em, 16) different separate colors. Anyone can make a mix of their favorite colors.

    Hope springs breaks through for you up so north soon after this most challenging of winters for us all.

    • The plants in the trial are just that, Patrick. They may or may not ever be on the market. I did add plants I have had success with in my garden, but did not add the actual cultivar name. I guess I could have, but so many are great choices as you have noted. This year I will note the names with plants I choose. I usually do when I show my own garden. Thanks for the wish on Spring. Still digging out from the snowfall on Wednesday.

  4. Nell Jean says:

    Lovely Dahlias. This may be the year I order off for some Dahlia bulbs again, with a new plan.

    • I love Dahlia, but I have a harder time keeping them looking neat in the garden. The slugs do a real number on them since I don’t use pesticides. I have to lift them in Fall to replant in Spring which was fine before the perennials in the garden got so full. Now it is too hard to dig them up at season’s end.

  5. My Heartsong says:

    I am embarrassed to say that I cannot always identify the flowers in the photos, other than “pretty”. I usually plant in pots due to lack of space so am not that knowledgeable.I had luck with Dahlias and begonias in this area. Beautiful shots, Donna, when you see my blog on gardens I give you praise for your knowledge, skill and great eye for design as I do here.

    • Thank you so much. I don’t always know all the annuals because they don’t grow here, but somewhere much warmer. We get “new” ones each year I never saw before and it is fun to give them a try. I rarely pick the same from year to year, that is why my lists are long. The ones that seed are my favorite and I get surprised to see plants from Africa for instance popping back in the garden later in the year. The problem is they always show up very late in the year and unless we get a warm fall, they just don’t last long.

  6. Phil Lanoue says:

    What absolute beauties! Every one!

  7. Great post! We have a lot of the same favorites. I am definitely trying to integrate more annuals into my beds. I would only add three more of my favorites: Tithonia for the orange daisies, sweet alyssum for fragrance in early summer, and stock for fragrance in spring.

  8. eloratour says:

    Like it,
    All flower pictures so beauty …
    Great job Donna (Y)

  9. I do the same thing–plant annuals for cutting. Actually, I have a mix of annuals, perennials, and vegetables in my potager. They all perform better because of the companion planting. And the pollinators, attracted to the flowers, help with the crops. 😉 Most of the potager flowers I’ve chosen over the years are ones that stay fresh as cut flowers for a week or more. Annual planting time is about two months away for me–yay!

    • I also mix my veggies in the garden. I kinda mix in the tomatoes and peppers like I would an annual and had the spinach and lettuce edging beds. Last year they were mixed all in pots though. I change out the indoor arrangements frequently so I don’t mind those flowers that only last a few days. Most of the wild flowers are short lived in a vase. Here we have our garden club’s annual garden sale in mid-May. I am hoping the snow and cold weather are gone by then. Few shoppers when the plants are not more than a nub in their pots. Our area plants May 30th, but I have planted in late March one year recently. Not likely this year.

  10. Annette says:

    Very nice post, Donna, and it includes lots of my favourites. Have only sowed some umbellifers up to now because the others will do better later or in situ. Do Americans strive for English gardens? Can I see your own garden anywhere here? Have a nice weekend 🙂

  11. Jennifer says:

    Just starting to think about annuals. Canada Blooms is on this week and I will probably pick up some seed packages. Nice post Donna.

    • I only think about them when I go to the nurseries for clients unfortunately. Little planning for my own garden. My garden gets the plants that never make it to client gardens. I toss seed in early and hope they make it on their own. In summer I am always too busy with others to get my own garden in shape, but still get in plants left over from the client groupings. I never let the landscaper pick the perennials and annuals. If I don’t skid them at the wholesaler, I store them in my own yard until use. It is why some photos of my rear garden have many, many pots of flowers.

  12. bittster says:

    Nice overview of annuals! I’ve been adding more lately for the late season color, but I’m always turned off by the way annuals are becoming so expensive. Growing from seeds seems to have become too much work for gardeners and a $4 blooming zinnia has become acceptable. I feel silly paying that much for a pack of 30 seeds for something easily grown! I pay that much for some of he really exceptional cutting grown plants, but usually only for high impact container plantings. I think this trend has been fed by the DIY instant makeover shows…..
    Sorry to seem so negative, fantastic photos as usual! (even the overcooked petunia)

    • I agree with you the prices are high. I work with many growers and know the cost of growing the plants so I do understand what you think is a high cost. The loss of plants is weighed into the market cost too. High wind, too wet of Spring soil, too dry, pesticide use, fertilizer, all contribute to growing costs as does labor, irrigation, equipment costs etc. Many plants are left over each season too and the end up as compost.

      I know many gardeners save seed each year. I just let the flowers seed themselves. But I don’t pay for most of my plants, so cost for me is minimal. That is why my garden is always in change. I get my plants and hardscape materials from growers and landscapers, so even if I do pay, it is never retail cost. Last year, my hanging baskets were $12 and retail was $36 – $40 for instance. Another grower, I get them for free.

      • bittster says:

        Oh, I think my comment gave the wrong impression and was poorly worded. I don’t think growers are charging too much, I think I disagree with some of the “product lines”. A $12, 10 inch pot of 3 blooming marigold plants seems like a silly buy for something I’d rather get as a packet of seed or even a 6 pack. Mature blooming plants seems to be the sales trend, even with vegetables. Buying an expensive planter with tomatoes and peppers already in bloom and fruiting seems to pass as gardening these days, but to me seems a little shallow and disposable…. Plus makes for an expensive tomato salad!

        • Maybe I read into it wrong myself. I know those marketing techniques too. Here they pop in a few starters from cells and ask a high price because buyers view it as one “bigger” plant and pay more. I have stopped people from buying by pulling them out and showing them the plants are immature and from a six pack. I work with these growers too, so I am doing them no favor by “informing” customers. It bugs me they do this. The vegetables are a different story in a way. We have a shorter growing season than many and buying tomatoes with tiny balls of fruit is not such a bad idea. I have grown them from seed and it is iffy to get good ripe fruit later in the year. Some years they do well, other years not so much. I buy small, 4 to a pack tomato plants now from a very old farmer that grows only heirlooms. He is 90 and has been growing these varieties all his life. Taste and texture is wonderful, yet he has no idea what is the variety he is growing, so no name to give you.

    • Nell Jean says:

      Expensive plants are for those willing to pay for someone else to do all the work except put a grown plant in a hole. In addition to growing from seeds, there are many plants that can be easily grown from cuttings. If price is an issue, buy a single plant and take cuttings. It isn’t instant gardening but it is very satisfying.

      I carry over Alternanthera cuttings in 2 colors all winter, several dozen cuttings jammed into a coffee mug kept filled with water. There is a difference between tender perennials grown as annuals and true annuals which are best grown from seeds. Snapdragons are an example. Nobody ever mentions growing them from cuttings. I’ve done it.

      • Ha, that is kinda my job. I am the designer, yet do all the purchasing from nurseries for a job. The installers do the work and people get instant gardens. Ironically, I take many cuttings and raise them to salable size to put in these client gardens. Many of my hydrangea and roses made their way to client gardens either as cuttings or layered. Others I let seed and raise them, like Caryopteris and foxglove. Some are divided like hosta and Rudbeckia. My garden has been “transferred” to many other gardens. It saves the installer money on his billing of the job too, so we keep prices down. I too carry over annuals, like the Pelargonium. I had one geranium for 5 years and it got taller than me. Finally I let it die out one year because it was such a beast to winter over. It was fun to see a tiny garden plant become a “shrub”.

  13. acuriousgal says:

    Thanks for this, Donna. I can so use this!!!

  14. Pat says:

    Thanks for the great tips. Love the yellow, end to end.

  15. debsgarden says:

    Great information! Here, annuals are great for a mid-summer pick me up when everything else is retreating from the high temps and humidity. Bring on the heat-loving, hot-colored, party-loving annuals!

  16. connie661 says:

    I don’t have much luck growing a cutting garden because the flowers look so pretty outside that I can’t bear to pick them!

  17. I am always looking for new ideas for annuals in the garden. I love to experiment with new ones too so I hope to a see a few in the nurseries this year. I am also looking to plan just a cutting garden in the future.

  18. alesiablogs says:

    I am just getting around to reading this post. I am going to really put this one into use..I have a landscaper helping me now and will use your tips to plant around my big trees . I have some tricky areas when it comes to sun because of the trees, but it will be fun to do some experimentation this year….thank you as always for informative posts.

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