Planting Annuals with Perennials

Combining plants for colourful effect

Annuals live for just one season, but make up for it with their spectacular display. Try mixing them with perennials in a border. This combination ensures endless variety, sizzling colour and impact throughout the summer.

Annuals flower more colourfully and for a longer time than any other plants. Mix them among your perennials to create a wonderful summer display.

Hardy perennials are the reliable old faithfuls of the garden. They are herba­ceous plants, which die back to ground level in win­ter and re-emerge in the spring. Once planted, perennials form the perma­nent backbone of any bor­der. After planting you simply need to divide them if they grow too big.

Immediate colour

Coneflowers (Rudbeckia hirta) combine well with annuals such as French marigolds and perennial daisies.Annuals last only one year and grow from seed each spring. They have a short life, but such a glori­ous one that they deserve a place anyway. By mixing them among perennials you can have the best of both worlds: a backdrop of solid favourites and the vibrant display of annuals.

Gardening with annuals is fun. Packets of seed are cheap and it is easy to get plants started. They make rapid growth and begin flowering quickly.

Long-term display

Perennials are permanent and they need more thought. The plants are more expensive and you cannot keep moving them about. But they are long-term investments and repay careful planning.



The term F1 hybrids, on some seed packets, means that the seeds have resulted from breeders selecting 2 parents for their individual and desirable qualities. The resulting hybrids give stronger plants with larger blooms. They have been selected for intensity of colour and prolific blooming. These seeds are more often costly, but well worth the expense.

Where to plant

Like all plants, annu­als have their favourite sites. Matching them up gives best results. Before you mix annuals through a perennial border, remember a few of their needs.

Most annuals hate cold spring nights, so resist the temptation to plant out too soon. They do well in most soils and some, such as French marigolds (Tagetes patula), flower well on very poor soil.

But perennials need well-drained, fertile soil and annuals planted in these conditions will grow much better.

Some annuals can flourish in partial shade and these include busy Lizzies (Impatiens), ageratum, tobacco plants (Nicotiana), pansies (Viola) and lobelia.


Loved for their riotous show and repeat-flowering, many annuals have eye-catching foliage. One of the most popular annuals grown for its leaves is cineraria (Senecio maritima ‘Silver Dust’). The  luminous silver leaves create a counterpoint in a border, as do the fluffy cream heads of the annual hare’s tail grass (Lagurus ovatus). Another favourite is the purple-leaved castor oil plant (Ricinus communis). Annual herbs are fragrant, tasty and lovely to look at. They also have attractive foliage. Try borage or purple-leaved basil.


Instead of growing annuals from seed, you can buy ready-established plants from garden centres in late spring. Look for compact, healthy plants and make sure all risk of frost is over before you plant them out. When buying half-hardy annual plants from nurseries and garden centres, always check that they are not root bound (roots entirely filling the pot). Such plants are hard to re-establish in the garden. Too many flowers on a plant is also a sign that it is under stress.

Combining plants for colourful effect



Annuals will survive until the first autumn frosts. As annuals approach the end of their life the flowers start to fade and seed heads form. They scatter the seeds for next year’s generation before they die. Pull up straggly or dry plants and put them on the compost heap. For an informal, unplanned look in borders and flower-beds, scatter the seed heads over the soil. Otherwise, save them until next spring and germinate them in seed-trays as for bought seeds.

22. August 2011 by admin
Categories: Annuals, Biennials and Perennials, Plants | Tags: , , | Comments Off on Planting Annuals with Perennials


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