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10 Easy Annual Flowers to Start From Seeds

Whether you like to start your flower seeds indoors to get a head start on spring or sow them directly in the garden, many annual flowers have seeds with high germination rates and quick maturation rates to bring you armloads of summer blooms in your sunny or shady landscape. These annuals include giants for expansive gardens, petite flowers for container gardens, and vines for vertical drama.

Here are some of the easiest annuals to grow from seed.

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Sweet alyssum seeds may germinate in as little as four days, maturing quickly to produce masses of tiny fragrant flowers for your spring garden. Start them indoors five or six weeks before​ the last frost, or outdoors after frost. You don’t need to cover the seeds, just sow them thickly and press them lightly into the soil with your finger. Use a spray bottle to keep the seedbed moist until the plants germinate.

Sweet alyssum grows 3 to 9 inches tall and makes for a good edging and bedding plant. If you shear the plants back after the first bloom, a second flush of flowers follows. The flowers often fade, though, in the heat of summer. Some gardeners remove them in the heat of summer, then replant when the weather cools in the fall.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9; usually grown as annual
  • Color Varieties: White; pink, purple, and apricot cultivars also available
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Celosia or Cockscomb (Celosia argenta, C. cristata)

This annual doesn’t enjoy the popularity of sunflowers or marigolds, but celosia’s unusual blooms that may resemble brain coral or feathers deserve a featured spot in every sunny garden. Although the seeds are tiny, they have a quick and high germination rate, and the plants may even self-sow in favorable areas. Start the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Sow three to four seeds per pot. Press the seed lightly into the soil to ensure contact and keep moist.

The celosias commonly planted as garden annuals are usually somewhat complicated hybrids of two or more species, but the cultivars are generally categorized into four groups:

Plumosa Group: Often called feather celosias or cock’s comb, this group has feathered, bright red flowers.

Cristata Group: Cultivars in this group have crested flowers with convoluted ridges that resemble brain corral. Flowers can be red, purple, or pink.

Childsii Group: This group, rarely sold at garden centers, has rounded flower heads that resemble twisted balls of yarn.

Spicata Group: Cultivars in this group cylindrical pink or rose flower heads with e a metallic sheen. ‘Flaming Series’ cultivars are members of this group.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; usually planted as an annual
  • Color Varieties: Bright red, pink, purple
  • Sun Exposure: Bright red, pink, purple
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus, C. bipinnatus)

Cosmos flowers are as tough as nails from the day they germinate until fall’s first frost. Plant them once, and then watch each year for the ferny foliage that will let you know the self-seeded plants have volunteered in your garden again. Sow them directly in the sunny garden anytime in the spring; the plants know when to germinate, so these flowers are truly a no-brainer for beginners.

There are two forms of annual cosmos: C. sulpherous is an upright daisy-like flower that grows 1 to 3 feet tall, with yellow-orange flowers. C. bipinnatus has delicate threadlike foliage and daisy-like flowers of pink, red, or white. It can grow to 4 feet. Both plants are natives to Mexico.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; grown in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Yellow (C. sulphureus); red, pink, white (C. bipinnatus)
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil

Hyacinth Bean (Lablab purpureus)

Hyacinth bean is a beautiful flowering vine that’s easier to grow than a weed. This plant will cover your chain link fence or pergola for the summer, without self-seeding everywhere or becoming a nuisance. Push the plump seeds just under the soil’s surface when day temperatures average 75 degrees Fahrenheit and keep them evenly moist until germination occurs, about 10 days later. The vines will be a source of interesting pods and flowers for the vase by late summer.

The seeds inside the bean pods can be collected in the fall for spring planting, but be aware that they are toxic unless thoroughly cooked.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; usually grown as an annual
  • Color Varieties: Rose purple, white, pink
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

Although impatiens seeds are tiny, avoid buying the pelletized version of the seeds covered with a substance that makes them easier to handle. This coating slows down germination considerably. Impatiens need light, warmth, and moisture to germinate. Sow seeds directly on top of the soil indoors about two months before the last frost. The well-branched plants will light up your shade garden all summer. Planting directly in the garden is less practical, since the plants take quite a long time to mature into flowers—about 3 months.

For some time, impatiens vanished from garden centers because of downy mildew, a devastating fungal disease that killed virtually all seed stock plants. Recently, however, several disease-resistant cultivars have been developed, so you can once again use this plant freely in your shady garden beds.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 10 to 11; usually grown as an annual
  • Color Varieties: Pink, red, purple, salmon, orange, white, bicolors
  • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

Marigold (Tagetes spp.)

Most of the familiar garden varieties of marigolds fall into one of three species:

African marigolds (Tagetes erecta): These have large pompom flowers. The plants can grow to 4 feet, and the flowers can be as much as 5 inches across. Colors are various shades of yellow and orange.

French marigolds (Tagetes patula): French marigolds have the longest bloom periods, and the plants tend to be short and bushy. They have purple-tinged stems with double flower heads in yellow, orange, and mahogany, about 2 inches across.

Signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia): These look much different than other bedding marigolds, with lacy leaves and small, single, daisy-like flowers. They come in yellow and orange.

If you’ve had trouble growing marigolds from seed in the past, try growing some of the French varieties, which are more disease-resistant than the American types. ‘Queen Sophia’ is an All-America winner to try. Seeds germinate in less than a week in warm, moist soil. It takes about 8 weeks for plants to bloom from seeds, so you may want to start them indoors.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; used in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Dry to medium moisture, well-drained soil; prefers rather barren soil

Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea)

Don’t be intimidated by the hard seed coats of morning glories. Just soak them overnight in warm water, and plant the swollen seeds under a quarter-inch of soil indoors two weeks before your last frost. Make sure the transplants have something to cling to when you set them out. Are you a night owl and not a morning person? Just swap morning glories for moonflower seeds and get the same results.

Morning glories grow quickly when planted directly in the garden, but for a headstart on blooms, you can start them indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost date.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; grown in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Purple or blue with white throats; cultivars in white, pink, red, magenta also available
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Common Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

What’s not to like about nasturtiums? They’re edible, they scramble over eyesores in the landscape, they have interesting foliage and brilliant flowers, and they thrive on neglect. The size of peas, nasturtium seeds are easy to handle and plant. But they don’t like transplanting much, so stick them in moist soil in a sunny spot as soon as the danger of frost is past. Or, start them indoors about four weeks prior to the last frost.

Nasturtiums are a complicated group featuring many cultivars derived from hybrids of different Tropaeolum species. There are both low mounding types and vining varieties within this group, so carefully research the types of seeds you buy to make sure you get what you want.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11; usually grown as annuals
  • Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, creamy white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Poor to average soil that is slightly acidic

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

There’s a reason these flower seeds are included in every pre-packaged children’s garden kit you’ve ever seen. Sunflower seeds are raring to go as soon as a child’s pudgy finger pushes them into warm, moist soil. These seeds are best started directly in the ground outdoors, as the seedlings get large and gangly fast in a little jiffy peat pot. If you must start them indoors, give them a strong light source to keep them stocky.

Different sunflower varieties have different growth habits, from about 3 feet to as much as 10 feet—make sure to buy the variety appropriate for your needs. Leave the flower heads in place after they fade to provide food for birds.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; grown in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, red, mahogany, bicolors
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Dry to average moisture, well-drained soil

Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)

If you like the look of dahlias but don’t want the fuss, grow zinnias. This is the way to go if you want an entire cutting garden of ruffled blooms from one packet of seeds. Zinnias are eager to germinate and perform in your summer garden, but the trick in getting them to grow is to give them warm conditions. They will wither away from damping-off fungus in your cold spring soil. Plant them outside about the time you set your tomatoes out when evening temperatures average 60 degrees Fahrenheit. You can start them indoors a month before​ the last frost if you desire earlier blooms.

The many cultivars of zinnia are derived from one of several species:

Zinnia elegans (common zinnia): Plants 1 to 4 feet tall on hairy branching stems produce flowers ranging from daisy-like single blooms to dense pompoms (depending on variety).

Zinnea angustifolia (creeping zinnia): With many low-growing varieties, creeping zinnias also have narrower leaves than the common zinnia.

Zinnia grandiflora (Rocky Mountain or prairie zinnia): This group includes small narrow-leaved plants about 6 inches tall with yellow-orange flowers.

Zinnea haageana (Haage’s zinnia or Mexican zinnia): These are narrow-leaved plants up to 2 feet tall with 1-inch flower heads containing yellow rays and orange center disks.

  • USDA Growing Zones: True annual; grown in all zones
  • Color Varieties: Red, yellow, orange, pink, rose, lavender, purple, green, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil

Annual flowers such as marigolds and zinnias offer an easy way to create an inexpensive, quick garden. These 10 plants are easy to grow in any climate.

12 Best Annual Flowers to Grow From Seed

You can grow a lovely flower garden simply by directly sowing seeds of annual flowers. Starting seeds in the garden is easy, though it does require some patience. You won’t see many flowers for the first couple of months. But after they arrive, they often will bloom until frost hits. Unlike perennial flowers, which generally take two years to start blooming, annuals are quick growers and eager to get down to the business of blooming. Here are 12 of the easiest annual flowers to grow from seed.

It’s highly cost-effective to grow flowers from seed, as you’ll get more plants than if you purchased seedlings. Plus, depending on the conditions, some of these plants might reseed, giving you free plants for the next growing season.

Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus)

Although most Centaurea species are perennials, such as mountain bluet (Centaurea montana), the old-fashioned bachelor’s button (also known as the cornflower) is an easy-growing annual. These flowers can be sown in early spring around your last frost date. The seeds like a chill, and the young seedlings can handle cooler temperatures. They take about 10 days to germinate and 50 to 60 days to bloom. You can reseed them in midsummer for a succession of blue blooms. Furthermore, bachelor’s button attracts beneficial insects, including ladybugs and lacewings.

  • Color Varieties: Blue
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

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Calendula, or pot marigold, is another lover of cool temperatures. Sow the seeds in the early spring right after your last frost date. They take approximately 10 days to germinate and 45 to bloom. These flowers are no relation to common marigolds (Tagetes sp.), though they are often yellow or orange and look vaguely similar. The flowers are edible with a citrus-like flavor. Older varieties are single flowered, but now there also are frilly double-flowered varieties. The singles seem to reseed more readily but not to the point of being a nuisance.

  • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)

You won’t find an easier flower to grow from seed than cosmos. They will grow in the worst soils, springing up into tall, frilly plants with flowers ranging from pastel to neon colors. They take between three and 10 days to germinate and 70 to 84 days to bloom. Cosmos are quintessential cottage garden flowers and make themselves useful when scattered in the vegetable garden to attract pollinators. Sow the seeds once the soil has warmed a bit after your last frost date. Cosmos bipinnatus is the most commonly available species, with daisy-like blooms on branched stems.

  • Color Varieties: Yellow, white, pink, orange, red
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Flax (Linum usitatissimum)

Besides patience, annual flax requires little effort on your part. It takes around 18 to 21 days to germinate and 50 to 60 days to bloom. Mark the planting area, so you don’t accidentally plant something else where you’ve put its seeds. Sow the seeds after your last frost date. Flax plants can be floppy, so it helps to interplant them with sturdier flowers for support. Deadheading (removing spent flowers) will keep them blooming throughout the summer, and they will often reseed themselves.

  • Color Varieties: Blue, blue-violet, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Fertile, medium moisture, well-draining

Marigolds (Tagetes sp.)

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Marigolds have become somewhat ubiquitous, and that should tell you something about how easy they are to grow. Their large seeds are easy to handle, and they are very reliable growers. Sow the seeds directly in your garden after all danger of frost has passed, or start them indoors four to six weeks prior to your last frost date. They take around four to 12 days to germinate and 60 to 70 days to bloom. Pinching off spent blooms from young plants can encourage them to bush out and set more flower buds.

  • Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, red
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea)

If you’re seeking a fast-growing vine, look no further than morning glories. This flower doesn’t transplant well, so seeds should be directly sown in your garden after your last frost date. The seeds have a hard outer covering that germinates faster if it’s scarified (nicked or rubbed with sandpaper) and then soaked in water overnight. Germination can take around 10 days. Morning glories are late bloomers, often not flowering for around 100 days after they’re planted. Some people refer to them as back-to-school flowers because they bloom in August.

  • Color Varieties: Violet and white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

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The plump, round seeds of nasturtiums are easy to plant, germinating in around seven to 10 days. They tend to produce a mound of round leaves first and then nonstop bright, cheerful flowers after around 60 days. The whole plant is edible—even the seeds, which make great fake capers. Plant the seeds in your garden after the ground has had a chance to warm in the spring. Soaking and scarifying the seeds will improve germination.

  • Color Varieties: Red, orange, yellow, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, slightly acidic, medium moisture, well-draining

Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena)

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Directly sowing love-in-a-mist plants in your garden is best. Plant them early in the spring by just sprinkling seed on the ground. They need light to germinate, so don’t cover the seed with soil. It takes them around 10 to 15 days to germinate and 65 to 75 days to bloom. The plants tend to tire out, so reseeding monthly will extend their blooming period. With luck, some will reseed for you. The blooms work well as cut flowers, and the seed pods dry well for displays.

  • Color Varieties: Blue, white, pink, purple
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Poppies (Papaver sp.)

Poppy plants are worth growing just to watch the drooping buds burst open and raise their heads high. Annual poppies don’t like being transplanted, so directly sowing in the garden is optimal. You can sow in early spring, even before the ground has thawed. The seeds need some light to germinate, so don’t cover them. Just press down on the seeds for them to make good contact with the soil. They take about two weeks to germinate, but when the weather warms they will shoot up. Blooming occurs in around 65 days. After the seed pods dry, you can shake the flat-topped seed heads throughout the yard to reseed.

  • Color Varieties: Red, purple, pink, white, yellow, orange
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-draining

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

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With sunflowers, you get to plant a seed and watch it grow 6 feet tall or more. Some of the tallest varieties produce only one flower, but it’s usually a very large bloom. If you want more flowers, look for the branching varieties. Sow your seeds after the soil has warmed. They will take about two weeks to germinate and 75 to 100 days to bloom. Young seedlings often need protection from animals, such as birds. Plus, the taller varieties can get top heavy and might need staking. Deadheading the branching types will encourage more blooms.

  • Color Varieties: Yellow, red, copper, orange
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Average, medium moisture, well-draining

Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus)

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Sweet peas like cool but not cold temperatures. Gardeners in areas where spring goes right into a tropical heat wave typically have the toughest time growing sweet peas, so they should consider starting them indoors a few weeks before their last frost. The seeds take around 10 to 28 days to germinate and 50 to 65 days to bloom. Scarifying and soaking the seeds before planting can speed growth. Also, deadheading the plants can help to prolong their blooming period.

  • Color Varieties: Pink, blue, red, purple, peach, white
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-draining

Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)

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Colorful zinnias are one of the fastest-growing plants from seed. They are true annuals, not just tender perennials grown for a single season. They seem to know they only have a limited amount of time to grow, so they get to work quickly. Seeds take only around four to seven days to germinate and 50 to 55 days to bloom. Because they don’t like being transplanted, directly sow them outdoors as soon as the soil has had a chance to dry out and warm up.

  • Color Varieties: Pink, red, purple, yellow, orange, white, green
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-draining

Annual flowers offer blooms throughout the summer and are easy to start from seed. From marigolds to zinnias, here are 12 flowers to grow from seed.