Most of these flowers are true annuals, but a few are actually perennial plants that are treated as annuals; they might last longer than a season but are usually started over each year. The first part of this list includes those that are readily available at nurseries as small plants. The second part contains unusual annuals that may take some looking for.
Ageratum. Excellent six-inch, blue, flossy flower. Use in pots or as edging. Space plants nine inches apart, water regularly, and remove dead blossoms.
Alyssum. Low, spreading plant covered with fragrant blossoms. White is most popular, but also comes in rose, pink or purple. Volunteer seedlings appear next season; eventually volunteers become leggy. Nothing easier to grow.
Aster. Pretty but short-lived. Intense colors in purple, cerise or pink. Plant varieties range in size from six inches to three feet; taller varieties require staking. Best in cool climates.
Bachelor's button ( Centaurea cyanus ) . One-inch blooms on free-standing three-foot plants. Royal blue is best color, but also comes in pink or white. Successive plantings necessary for continuous bloom.
Bedding begonia. Nonstop small flowers bloom profusely on six-inch to one-foot plants with waxy, decorative leaves. Along coast, takes full sun or shade; partial shade inland.
Celosia. Crested (cockscomb) or plume-shaped blossoms on plants that range from 6 to 20 inches. Plume type adds valuable vertical effect to flower garden. Try 'Apricot Brandy' for unique color.
Coleus. Ornamental leaves with kaleidoscopic colors and crinkled, picotee or saber-toothed margins. Easy-to-grow plants reach two feet. Best in semi-sunny locations. Remove flower stems for long-lasting foliage.
Cosmos. Old-fashioned four-foot plants ( Cosmos bipinnatus ) with blooms that resemble daisies, in white, pink or crimson. New dwarf introductions ( C. sulphureus ) reach only two feet with bright orange-red or yellow flowers. Taller strains are softer in appearance. All cosmos thrive in poor soil with little care.
Creeping zinnia ( Sanvitalia procumbens ) . Miniature flowers on low, trailing plants. Yellow blossoms with brown centers last until fall. Good in baskets, pots or front of borders. Likes sun and heat; once established, tolerates drought.
Dahlia. Seed-grown bedding dahlias make compact 12-inch plants with 2 1/2-inch blooms in white, yellow, pink, red or orange. Well-grown plants produce tubers that can be lifted or left in the ground.
Dianthus (pinks). Blossoms of red, pink, white or bicolors on low-growing plants often with blue-green foliage. Magic Charms and 'Snofire' are most popular. Remove old blooms.
Dusty miller. Many silvery-leaved plants are called dusty miller; the most popular in our climate is Centaurea cineraria . Yellow one-inch globular flowers on one-foot plants appear in late summer.
Globe amaranth ( Gomphrena globosa ). One-inch papery flower cones on plants that are six inches high (for dwarf varieties) or 24 inches (for taller ones).
Gloriosa daisy. Fast-growing, tough biennial that blooms in one season. Single or double five-inch gold or mahogany blooms on three-foot plants. Excellent in borders.
Golden fleece or Dahlberg daisy. Exquisite golden daisies shaped like miniature marguerites borne in profusion on ferny, green six-inch plants. Performs well in heat, is disease free and blooms all summer.
Hollyhock. Double pompon flowers on tall spires in midsummer. Will tolerate poor conditions but performs best in rich, moist soil.
Impatiens. Free-flowering, symmetrical plants smothered in one-inch blooms. Easy care and long blooming period. Generally grown in shade, but some gardeners have great success with impatiens in sunny spots.
Lobelia. Low-growing, cascading plant with small flowers in intense colors. Most striking is deep-blue 'Crystal Palace,' but many other shades now available. Prefers cool climates. Shear old blooms.
Marigold. Despite their strong odor and stiff appearance, marigolds create a blaze of color in shades of orange, gold, yellow or mahogany red. Easy to grow and heat-tolerant.
Moss rose ( Portulaca ). Brilliant two-inch flowers on plants with succulent stems and small, cylindrical leaves. Low-growing, it thrives in hot weather. Blossoms on newer strains remain open all day.
Nasturtium. Orange, gold, maroon or yellow blossoms with long spurs. Round, bright-green leaves are aromatic. Foliage sometimes hides flowers. Vigorous, almost rank, growth.
Nicotiana. Limited supplies of sweet-smelling, flowering tobacco seedlings appear on the market in spring. Grows 10 to 36 inches, depending on variety. Blooms in sun or partial shade. Newer strains remain open in the day. Spray if tobacco budworms appear.