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Annuals for Nebraska

Source:  Nebraska Cooperative Extension, G84-739-A (Revised May 1999)

Donald H. Steinegger, Extension Horticulturist
Susan Schoneweis, Extension Coordinator-Home/Environmental Horticulture
Steve Rodie, Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist
Dale Lindgren, Extension Horticulturist
Anne M. Streich, Extension Horticulturist-Outreach Programs


An annual flower is defined as a non-woody plant that completes its life cycle in one growing season, ending with seed production. Most annuals have to be planted each spring, although some such as portulaca, California poppy or alyssum may self-seed. Most also provide color from early summer until frost, an advantage over most perennial flowers which tend to have a shorter blooming season. This allows for a great deal of variety in creating colorful landscape displays from year to year. The cost and time of replacing plants each year is one disadvantage of annual flowers.

Annuals can be used in beds, borders, rock gardens, window boxes, hanging baskets and container gardens. They can add color to uninteresting settings, or temporarily screen a problem site.

When developing a landscape design with annual flowers, design factors, as well as site preferences, must be considered. Annuals generally are incorporated into a design for their color, but texture, form and mass characteristics also contribute to the overall effect. Evaluate the planting site's sun exposure, wind, soil type, fertility and plant requirements, and choose plants accordingly.

For more information on site preparation, planting and cultivation, refer to NebGuide G84-721, Growing Annual Flowers. Copies are available from your Cooperative Extension office.



Abelmoschus Abelmoschus moschatus Sun 12-16" Red, dark pink Direct seed or transplant after frost. Needs hot weather, blooms mid-summer, self-seeds.

African Daisy Arctotis stoechadifolia Sun 10-12"
30" species
Yellow, red, pink, bronze, white, orange Transplant after frost. Drought-resistant; needs well-drained soil.

Ageratum Ageratum x hybrid Sun, semi-shade 6-12" Blue, lavender, white Direct seed or transplant after frost. Trim off old flowers.

Amaranthus, Joseph's coat Amaranthus tricolor Sun 18-48" Colored foliage Direct seed or transplant after frost. Accent, background in border, difficult to transplant, best direct seeded. Suitable for poor soil.

Baby's breath Gypsophila elegans Sun 12-18" White, pink Direct seed or transplant after frost. Small flowers; short season; excellent filler for arrangements.

Balsam, garden balsam Impatiens balsamina Sun 6-24" White, purple, red Direct seed or transplant after frost. Prefers moist, rich soil. Self-seeds easily.

Begonia, wax Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum Shade, semi-shade 6-15" White, pink, red Transplant after frost. Various foliage colors; often grown from cuttings.

Bells of Ireland Moluccella laevis Sun 24" spikes Green Direct seed early, needs cool, then warm temperatures for germination. Grown for the green shell-like calyces on tall spikes. Self- seeds.

Butterfly Flower Poorman's Orchid Schizanthus spp. Sun, part-sun 12-24" Pink, fuchsia, purple Transplant while cool; protect from frost. Prefers cool temperatures. Usually dies during July heatwave.

Calendula, Pot marigold Calendula officinalis Semi-shade 10-24" Yellow, orange Direct seed or transplant in April. Flowers best in cool spring and fall.

California poppy Eschscholzia californica Sun 8-12" Yellow, orange, red, white Direct seed after frost. Naturalizing, self-seeds; tolerates dry conditions; avoid over-watering.

China aster Callistephus chinensis Sun, semi-shade 12-36" Assorted Direct seed after frost. Short period of bloom, will not rebloom; very susceptible to aster yellows and fusarium wilt. Prefers cool summers.

Celosia; Cockscomb Celosia cristata
Celosia argentea
var. cristata
Sun 6-36" Red, pink, orange, yellow, salmon Direct seed after frost. Heat and drought tolerant; excellent for drying; crested form resembles rooster's comb. Plumed form also available.

Clarkia (Godetia)
Farewell to Spring
Clarkia amoena Sun, part shade 12-18" White, pinks, salmon Direct seed or transplant while cool and protect from frost. Hates the heat but worth growing for the crepe-myrtle-like blooms. Usually dies during July heat wave.

Coleus Coleus x hybridus Semi-shade 12-30" Green, purple, red variegated foliage. Transplant after danger of frost. Grown for foliage; easily propagated by cuttings; remove flower spikes.

Coneflower Rudbeckia hirta Sun 12-25" Yellow Direct seed or transplant after frost. Long season of bloom; perennial often treated as an annual.

Cornflower, Bachelor's-button Centaurea cyanus Sun 20-30" Blue, lavender, red, pink, white in April. Direct seed or transplant For continuous bloom make repeated sowings; will self-seed.

Cosmos Cosmos sulfphureus Sun 12-36" Red, yellow, orange Direct seed or transplant after frost. Some cultivars are quite compact.

Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus Sun 18-60" White, pink or crimson Direct seed or transplant after frost. Avoid overwatering; sprawling habit.

Creeping zinnia Sanvitalia procumbens Sun, semi-shade 6" Yellow Direct seed or transplant after frost. Prostrate growth with tiny flowers; good ground cover, tolerates drought.

Dahlia Dahlia x hybrid Sun 6-36" Assorted Transplant after frost. Perennial grown as annual; requires well-drained moist soil; heat tolerant; taller varieties need staking; grown from seed or tuberous roots.

Dusty-miller Senecio cineraria Sun 12-18" Gray foliage Transplant after frost. Excellent edging plants; grown for foliage, tolerates drought; remove flowers that develop.

Flowering cabbage and kale Brassica oleracea Sun 12" Red, white, blue-green variegated foliage Transplant in April and/or August. Best in cool season; fall is best. Control cabbage looper and cabbage worm.

Four-o'-clocks Mirabilis jalapa Sun 24-36" Pink, red, white, yellow Direct seed after frost. Blooms in late afternoon; withstands heat and drought. Will self-seed. Forms tuberous roots that may be dug and stored over winter.

Gazania Gazania rigens Sun 8-12" White, yellow, orange, red Transplant after frost. Needs well-drained soil. Likes heat, tolerates dry soil.

Geranium Pelargonium x hortorum Sun 12-25" Red, pink, white, salmon Transplant after frost. Easily propagated by cuttings. Some cultivars can be grown from seed.

Globe amaranth Gomphrena globosa
Gomphrena haageana
Sun 18-30" Purple, white, pink, orange, red Direct seed or plant after frost. Clover-like straw flower, mound forming plant. Excellent for drying. G. Haageana tends to sprawl.

Hollyhock Alcea rosea Sun 12-72" Assorted Transplant after frost. Background of borders; tall varieties for background or screen plantings. Rust susceptible. Will self-seed.

Impatiens, Sultana Impatiens wallerana Semi-shade 6-25" Purple, red, pink, white Direct seed or transplant after frost. Will bloom indoors as houseplant.

Kochia, Burning bush, Summer cypress Kochia scoparia
var. tricophylla
Sun 12-30" Green foliage changes to red in the fall. Direct seed after frost Hedge, border, accent; grown for foliage; upright bush form.

Larkspur Consolida ambigua Sun 25-30" Pink, blue, white Direct seed or transplant after frost. Cut and dried flowers; may be self-seeding; keep well watered.

Linaria, Toadflax Linaria maroccana Sun, part-sun 16" Pink, white, magenta Transplant while cool or direct seed as soon as soil can be worked. Prefers cool temperature.

Lobelia Lobelia erinus Semi-shade 4-10" Blue, red Transplant after frost. Prefers cool temperatures.

Marigold, African Tagetes erecta Sun 12-40" Yellow, orange Direct seed or transplant after frost. Brilliant color, tall cultivars suited for mass plantings and cuttings; red spider mite may be problem.

Marigold, French Tagetes patula Sun 6-12" Yellow, orange, bronze Direct seed or transplant after frost. Bushier, more compact plant; smaller flowers, problems with red spider mite and aster yellows.

Medallion Daisy
Melampodium cinereum
Melampodium paludosum
Full sun 15-18" Yellow-gold Transplant after danger of frost. Extremely heat tolerant 1" blooms.

Mexican Tulip
Poppy, Golden Cup
Hunnemannia fumariifolia Sun 12-20" Bright clear yellow Transplant in April/May
soil can be worked in spring.
Grayish-green dissected leaves.

Mexican Sunflower
Torch Flower
Tithonia rotundifolia Full sun 4-6 ft. Reddish-orange Direct seed or transplant after danger of frost. Makes a nice annual screen; attracts butterflies.

Monkey flower Mimulus x guttatus
Mimulus x hybridus
part sun
12-14" Yellow, orange, red, scarlet, wine Transplant after danger of frost. Prefers moist soil, cool temperature, light afternoon shade prolongs bloom.

Morning-glory Ipomoea sp. Sun +72" White, pink, red, blue, purple Direct seed after frost. Screens, trellis plant. Soak seed overnight before planting. Vining plant; tolerant of dry soils. Self-seeds.

Moss rose, Portulaca
Rose Moss
Portulaca grandiflora Sun 6" Red, yellow, white, rose, orange, magenta Direct seed or transplant after frost. Thrives on poor, dry soil; easily self-seeds. Avoid high nitrogen soils.

Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus Sun, part-sun 8-12" Yellow, orange, red Direct seed after frost. Tolerates poor soil. Edible buds, blooms and foliage.

Nemesia Nemesia strumosa Sun-part shade 8-18" White, yellow, pink, orange, red purple Transplant after danger of frost. Needs a long, cool growing season.

Flowering tobacco
Nicotiana alata Sun, part-shade 12-36" White, pink, red Direct seed or transplant after frost. Prefers moist, well-drained soil.

Nigella, Love-in-a-mist, Devil in the Bush Nigella damascena Sun 12-18" Pink, blue, white Direct seed. Self-seeds readily. When seed pod forms it is called "Devil in the Bush"; seeds edible.

Ornamental pepper Capsicum annuum Sun 12-25" Fruit; red, black, yellow, orange, purple Transplant after frost. Grown for colorful fruit; some cultivars have colorful foliage.

Pansy Viola x wittrockiana Semi-shade 8-12" Assorted Transplant in April. Hardy annual; flowers best in cool season. Best if seeded in late summer and trans- plants overwintered in cold frame for early planting.

Petunia Petunia x hybrida Sun, semi-shade 12-18" Assorted Transplant after frost. Shear in mid-summer to induce blooms. See NebGuide G93-1127, Petunias, for additional information.

Phlox, annual Phlox drummondii Sun, semi-shade 6-15" Red, pink, white, purple, peach Direct seed or transplant Easy to grow; long after frost. blooming season.

Blue Pimpernel
Anagallis monelli (L.)
Anagallis arrensis

var. caerulea
Sun 12" trailing Blue Transplant after frost. Bright blue flowers on heat-tolerant plants.

Velvet Flower
Painted Tongue
Salpiglossis sinuata Sun, part-sun 12-24" Blue, yellow, red, magenta, purple, veined flowers Don't disturb roots when transplanting. Start plants early. Transplant two weeks before last frost. Prefers cool temperatures, usually quits blooming in mid-summer.

Salvia, Scarlet sage Salvia splendens Sun, semi-shade 12-24" Scarlet, red, pink, white, salmon, purple Transplant in April or direct seed after frost. Blooms freely in late summer and fall; spike flower.

Snapdragon Antirrhinum majus Sun 6-36" Assorted Direct seed or transplant after frost, prefers cool weather. Excellent cutting flower, semi-tall and dwarf varieties require no staking; use rust-resistant cultivars.

Spiderflower, Cleome Cleome hasslerana Sun 36-48" Pink, purple, white Direct seed or transplant after frost. Use in large beds, tall borders; heat tolerant; will self-seed.

Standing cypress Ipomopsis rubra Sun 2-3' spikes Red, yellow, orange, white Transplant after danger of hard frost. Spike flower attracts butterflies. Biennial grown as a half-hardy annual.

Statice, Sea lavender Limonium sinuatum Sun, semi-shade 18" White, lavender, yellow, pink, blue Transplant after frost. Rosette of foliage; flowers excellent for drying.

Strawflower Helichrysum bracteatum Sun 10-30" Yellow, pink, white, red Direct seed or transplant after frost. Excellent dried flower, dwarf cultivars available.

Sunflower Helianthus annuus Sun 12-84" Yellow, bronze, red, gold, cream Direct seed or transplant after frost. Background or screen planting, dwarf cultivars available. Make multiple planting for continuous blooms.

Sweet alyssum Lobularia maritima Sun, semi-shade 4-6" White, lavender, burgundy Direct seed or transplant after frost. Low trailing plant with tiny flowers. Very fragrant.

Sweet pea Lathyrus odoratus Semi-shade 18-60" White, purple, lavender, pink Direct seed in April. Grows best in cool, moist conditions; not well suited to Nebraska's climate.

Wishbone flower
Torenia fournieri Semi-shade 8-12" Purple, blue, pink, white Transplant after frost. Prefers cool, moist site. Light afternoon shade improves growth.

Verbena Verbena x hybrida Sun, semi-shade 12" Blue, red, white, peach Direct seed or transplant after frost. Easy to grow; water moderately; intense colors, loves heat.

Viola Viola cornuta Semi-shade 6" Blue, gold, red, apricot Transplant in April. Prefers cool, moist conditions.

Zinnia Zinnia elegans Sun 6-40" Assorted Direct seed after danger of frost. Excellent cut flower and bedding plant. Powdery mildew may be a problem in late summer, keep the foliage dry.

Zinnia Zinnia angustifolia Sun 12-16" White, gold, orange Transplant after frost. Excellent for hot dry areas. Powdery mildew less of a problem than for Zinnia elegans. Can be dried.

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A-25, Ornamentals
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