Favorite Spring-Blooming Annuals

Welcome spring with flowering annuals that paint the landscape in living color.
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Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

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Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

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©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

Photo By: Image courtesy of SelectSeeds.com

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ball Horticultural Company

‘Sugar and Spice Mix’ Stock (Matthiola incana ‘Sugar and Spice Mix’)

You’ll savor a spicy clove scent when you include flowering stock in your spring garden. This old-fashioned annual prefers cool weather and boasts frost tolerance. Flowers linger until temps hit the 80-degree mark. Tuck stock into pots and beds near entries so you can enjoy the fragrance.

Flirtation Orange Diascia (Diascia ‘Dala Oran’)

Meet a cousin of the snapdragon: diascia. This pretty bloomer unfurls tangerine-orange flowers that look great in pots or planting beds. The flower show continues through late spring frosts, offering early season pollinators a nectar source. Plants shift out of bloom when night temperatures stay above 70°F.

‘Maryland Lavender’ Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus ‘Maryland Lavender’)

A classic cottage garden flower, snapdragon thrives in early spring’s cool temperatures. While some snapdragon varieties have a shorter stature that’s perfect for planting beds, ‘Maryland Lavender’ is a cutting variety that soars 32 to 60 inches tall. Plant extra so you can snip stems to fill vases.

‘Jumping Jack’ Viola (Viola ‘Jumping Jack’)

Viola brings on early spring color with plenty of personality. The cute flower faces start opening while hints of frost linger, and this variety keeps the blossoms coming all season long. ‘Jumping Jack’ is a winter hardy perennial to Zone 4.

Sweet Pea (Lathyrus odoratus)

Take early spring color to new heights with the climbing vines of sweet pea. This pretty bloomer opens flowers in a rainbow of hues, from deep purple-black, to pastel pink, to rose-red. Give plants a trellis or fence to climb to savor a tower or wall of color. Look for heirloom sweet pea varieties with long stems that are ideal for cutting and slipping into vases.

Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea cyanus)

Carefree and colorful, bachelor’s buttons create drifts of flowers in early spring. Plants are undemanding and toss open blooms from spring into summer. Look for varieties in shades of blue, pink and white. Also known as cornflower, this annual self-sows readily. Once you grow it, let a few plants go to seed to have volunteers popping up in future years.

‘Dynasty Purple’ Dianthus (Dianthus barbatus ‘Dynasty Purple’)

Velvety petals sparkle in wine-red shades on this early spring bloomer. Dianthus flowers also bring a clove fragrance to the garden. Stems are long enough to supply blossoms for bouquets. Blooms beckon pollinators, and deer dislike them.

‘Precious Bronze’ Wallflower (Erysimum ‘Precious Bronze’)

One of spring’s strongest bloomers, wallflower pumps out the flowers from early spring until summer starts knocking on the garden gate. The sunny yellow blossoms beckon butterflies and bees. Use this pretty annual in pots or planting beds.

Painted Tongue ‘Little Friends’ (Salpiglossis sinuata 'Little Friends')

Painted tongue is an old-fashioned annual that starts flowering in spring and doesn’t stop until summer heat arrives. The petals resemble stained glass when backlit with spring sunbeams. Pollinators can’t leave these pretty flowers alone. Let a few plants set seed, and they’ll self-sow in your garden.

‘Poetry Deep Pink’ Nemesia (Nemesia foetans ‘Poetry Deep Pink’)

Nemesia, the pretty pink bloomer in the front of this container, is a strong spring performer. This annual grows quickly in the season’s cool air to fill beds and containers with sparkling blooms. Plants slip out of flower when night temperatures stay above 70°F.

Flowering Cabbage (Brassica oleracea)

This leafy beauty is one of the season’s strongest cool-weather performers. Flowering cabbage withstands light snows, the thick, colorful leaves shrugging off chill with ease. Look for varieties that unfurl leaves with shades of lavender, pink, purple and white.

‘Matrix Red Blotch’ Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana ‘Matrix Red Blotch’)

‘Matrix Red Blotch’ pansy was developed specifically for cool-season color. The perky burgundy blooms smile with deeper burgundy-black faces. Expect this pansy to bounce back from light frosts without missing a blooming beat. This annual is versatile in the garden and looks equally enchanting in containers or planting beds.

‘Blue Cloud’ Larkspur (Consolida regalis ‘Blue Cloud’)

As the name suggests, ‘Blue Cloud’ forms a beautiful drift of blue in the spring garden, offering a flowering complement to spring daffodils and tulips. Blooms linger into early summer, bridging the seasons with steady, sparkling color. Stems hold up well in the vase and also self-sow reliably, provided you let a few stems set seed.

‘Clear Crystal Mix’ Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima ‘Clear Crystal Mix’)

Sweet alyssum is a cottage garden favorite and actually an old-fashioned annual that’s been around for years. New breeding efforts have yielded plants like ‘Clear Crystal Mix’, which opens larger flowers with even more fragrance than the original. This ground cover annual isn’t fazed by light frosts and beckons bees by the dozens.