Annuals for Nebraska Landscapes
I. Flowering Plants

This NebGuide describes those annual flowers that can be grown in Nebraska for use by the home gardener in landscape design.

Dale T. Lindgren, Extension Horticulturist
Anne M. Streich, Extension Horticulture Educator
Kim A. Todd, Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialis
Steven N. Rodie, Extension Landscape Horticulture Specialist

Annuals are non-woody plants that complete their life cycle in one growing season, ending with seed production. Annuals provide color from early summer until frost, an advantage over most perennial flowers, which usually have a shorter blooming season. Certain annuals, such as moss rose, California poppy and alyssum, may self-seed, but most annuals must be planted yearly. Some perennial plants that live from year to year in warmer climates, such as begonias and snapdragons, are included with annuals in Nebraska since they are not winter-hardy and must be replanted each year.

Annuals allow different colorful landscape displays to be created from year to year using a wide variety of available plant material. The cost and time required to replace these plants each year, as well as the additional irrigation and fertilization typically required for healthy establishment and growth, are potential disadvantages of using annual flowers.

Annuals can be used in beds, borders, rock gardens, window boxes, hanging baskets and container gardens. They can add focal color to entrances or enhance monotonous landscapes. Annuals can be used in newly planted perennial or shrub beds and borders, filling the vacant spaces with color until the permanent plantings mature.

Consider site conditions and the preferred growing requirements of annuals when designing with them. Annuals are generally incorporated into a design for their color, but texture, form, size and mass characteristics also contribute to the overall effect. Evaluate the planting site’s sun exposure, wind patterns, water requirements, soil type and fertility, and then choose plants that will perform well in these conditions.

The following list of plants contains suggestions for annuals that are grown for their colorful flower displays. These annuals can be directly seeded into the garden but are usually purchased or grown as transplants.

Common Name(s) Botanical Name Site Height Flower/Foliage Color Comments
Abelmoschus Abelmoschus moscheutos Sun 10-14” Red, dark pink Needs hot weather, blooms mid-summer, self-seeds
African Daisy Arctotis venusta, Dimorphotheca aurantiaca Sun 12-18” Yellow, red, pink, bronze, white, orange Drought-resistant, needs well-drained soil
Ageratum Ageratum houstonianum Sun, part shade 6-12” Blue, lavender, white Trim off old flowers for repeat bloom
Amaranthus; Joseph’s Coat; Summer Poinsettia Amaranthus tricolor Sun 18-48” Colored foliage Accent, background in border, difficult to transplant–best direct seeded, suitable for poor soil
Ammobium; Winged Everlasting Ammobium elatum Sun 18-20” White Used as a dried flower
Angel Flower; Summer Snapdragon Angelonia angustifolia Sun 18-24” Purple to white Aromatic, smooth-textured foliage, very long season of bloom
Angel’s Trumpet Brugmansia x hybrida, Datura metal Sun, part shade 3 6-60” Assorted All parts highly toxic, trumpet-like flowers, good container plant
Baby’s Breath, Annual Gypsophila elegans Sun 12-18” White, pink Small flowers, short season, excellent filler for arrangements
Bachelor’s Button Centaurea cyanus Sun 6-24” Blue, lavender, red, pink, white For continuous bloom make repeated sowings, will self-seed, likes cool weather and dies in summer heat
Bacopa Bacopa x Sun, part shade 6” Pink, white Trailing, spreads 15-24”, foliage is yellow to green to variegated
Balsam; Garden Balsam Impatiens balsamina Sun 12-30” White, purple, red Prefers moist, rich soil, self-seeds easily
Begonia, Angel Wing Begonia x hybrida Shade, part shade 12-20” Red, pink, white Bring indoors as a houseplant during cold temperatures
Begonia, Tuberous Begonia x tuber hybrida Shade, part shade 9-12” Red, yellow, orange, white, pink Store as a tuber during winter
Begonia, Wax Begonia x semperflorens Shade, part shade 6-15” White, pink, red Various foliage colors, often grown from cultorum cuttings
Bells of Ireland Molucella laevis Sun 24” Green Grown for the green shell-like calyces on tall spikes, self-seeds, good cut flower, dry conditions
Black-eyed Susan; Gloriosa Daisy Rudbeckia hirta Sun 24-36” Yellow, brown, rust Upright, adaptable to almost any type soil, sometimes a biennial or short-lived perennial
Blanket Flower, Annual Gaillardia pulchella Sun 12-18” Red, orange, yellow Short-lived, drought-tolerant, long season of bloom
Blood Flower Asclepias curassavica Sun, part shade 36-48” Red, orange Prefers moist, fertile soils, milkweed family, good cut flower
Blue Lace Flower Trachymene coerulea Part shade 18-24” Blue, violet Dead heading is recommended, can be used as a cut flower
Bush Violet; Browallia Browallia speciosa Part shade 12-18” Purple, blue, violet Rich, moist, well-drained soils
Calendula; Pot Marigold Calendula officinalis Part shade 10-24” Yellow, orange Flowers best in cool spring and fall, good container plant
California Poppy Eschscholzia californica Sun 8-12” Yellow, orange, red, white Naturalizes, self-seeds, tolerates dry conditions, avoid over-watering
Calla Lily Zantedeschia spp. Sun, part shade 24-48” White Planted outside as a tuber in early summer, dig and store tubers for winter
Candy Tuft Iberis amara Sun, part shade 6-12” White, lilac, pink, red Moist sites, fragrant
Canna Canna x generalis Sun, part shade 36-48” Yellow, orange, red Needs to be dug and stored in a non-freezing location each fall, good in water gardens and containers
Celosia Celosia argentea var.plumosa and var. spicata Sun 12-36” Yellow, orange, apricot, pink, purple, red Vertical, feathery flowers, prefers dry conditions, dead head to prevent reseeding
Celosia; Cockscomb Celosia cristata, C. argentea var. cristata Sun 18-30” Red, pink, orange, yellow, salmon Heat and drought tolerant, excellent for drying, crested form resembles rooster’s comb, plumed form also available
Chrysanthemum Chrysanthemum carinatum Sun 12-18” Assorted, tri-colored Well-drained soils
Cleome; Spiderflower Cleome hassleriana, C. serrulata Sun 36-48” Pink, purple, white Use in large beds, tall borders, heat-tolerant, will self-seed
Cobbity Daisy Argyranthemum frutescens Sun 15-18” Magenta, fuchsia Daisy-like flowers, attracts butterflies
Coreopsis Coreopsis tinctoria, C. hybrida Sun 18-24” Yellow, red Requires consistently moist soils, attracts butterflies, reseeds
Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus Sun 18-60” White, pink or crimson Avoid overwatering, good cut flower
Cosmos, Sulphur Cosmos sulphureus Sun 18-24” Red, yellow, orange, pink Some cultivars are quite compact
Creeping Zinnia Sanvitalia spp. Sun, part shade 6” Yellow Prostrate growth with tiny flowers, good ground cover, tolerates drought
Dahlia Dahlia spp. Sun 6-36” Assorted Requires well-drained moist soil, heat-tolerant, taller varieties need staking, grown from seed or tuberous roots, requires digging and storage in non-freezing area
Dianthus; China Pinks Dianthus chinensis Sun, part shade 6-18” Pink, red, white Many cultivars, fragrant, tolerant of cool conditions
Diascia Diascia spp. Sun 12-15” Rosy, coral pink, yellow-green spots Dainty flowers, related to snapdragons, high moisture requirements
Eyeball Plant Spilanthes oleracea Sun 12-15” Red, yellow Red and yellow color, floral contrast
Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana alata, N. sylvestris,
N. sanderae
Sun, part shade 9-36” White, pink, rose red, mauve, lime green Prefers moist, well-drained soil, fragrant, reseeds
Four-o’-Clocks Mirabilis jalapa Sun 24-36” Pink, red, white, yellow, bicolor Blooms in late afternoon, withstands heat and drought, will self-seed, seeds are poisonous
Fuschia Fuschia magellanica Part shade 12-15” Fushia, purple Pendulous flowers, good for hanging containers
Foxglove, Annual Digitalis purpurea Sun, part shade 15-20” White, cream, yellow, pink, rose, purple Prefers moist, well drained soils, biennial
Gazania Gazania rigens Sun 8-12” White, yellow, orange, red Needs well-drained soil, likes heat, tolerates dry soil
Geranium Pelargonium x hortorum Sun 10-25” Red, pink, white, salmon Easily propagated by cuttings, some cultivars can be grown from seed
Gerbera Daisy Gerbera jamesonii Sun 9-12” Cream, red, orange, pink Deeply lobed leaves
Globe Amaranth Gomphrena globosa, G. haageana Sun 18-30” Purple, white, pink, orange, red Clover-like straw flower, mound-forming plant, excellent for drying, G. haageana tends to sprawl
Heliotrope Heliotropum arborescens Sun 8-24” Violet, lavender, white Attracts butterflies, very fragrant
Impatiens Impatiens spp. Shade, part shade 6-12” Assorted Many species and cultivars from which to choose
Lantana Lantana camara Sun 12-18” Yellow, orange, red, lavender Likes warm sites, attracts butterflies, good container plant
Larkspur Consolida ambigua, C. ajacis Sun 25-30” Pink, blue, white Cut and dried flowers, may self-sow, keep well watered, likes cool conditions
Laurentia Laurentia hybrida Sun, part shade 18-24” Blue Tolerant of heat, must have good drainage, best for western Nebraska
Linaria; Toadflax Linaria maroccana Sun, part sun 15-24” Pink, white, magenta Prefers cool temperature, will reseed
Lisianthus Eustoma grandiflorum Sun 12-24” White, yellow, pink, lavender, bicolor A biennial which acts as an annual, good for cut flowers, start indoors very early
Lobelia Lobelia erinus Part shade 4-10” Blue, white Prefers cool temperatures, good container plant
Love-in-a-Mist; Devil in the Bush; Nigella Nigella damascena Sun 12-18” Pink, blue, white Self-seeds readily; when seed pod forms, it is called “Devil in the Bush”
Love-Lies-Bleeding Amaranthus caudatus Sun 36-60” Red, gold Long slender spikes of drooping to upright flowers, new selection is “Hot Biscuit”
Marigold, African Tagetes erecta Sun 12-40” Yellow, orange, cream 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 Bushier, more compact plant, smaller flowers, problems with red spider mite and aster yellows
Marigold, Signet Tagetes tenufiolia Sun 6” Yellow Good for edging borders and outdoor edible containers, flowers
Melampodium; Medallion Daisy Melampodium cinereum, M. paludosum Full sun 1 5-18” Yellow-gold Heat tolerant, 1” blooms, reseeds
Mexican Heather Cuphea hyssopifolia Sun 9-12” Pink/violet Flat feathery sprays of foliage, small flowers, good for small spaces and containers
Mexican Sunflower; Torch Flower Tithonia rotundifolia Full sun 4-6’ Reddish-orange Makes a nice annual screen, attracts butterflies
Mexican Tulip Poppy; Golden Cup Hunnemannia fumarifolia Sun 12-20” Bright clear yellow Grayish-green dissected leaves
Million Bells Calibrachoa x hybridus Sun 9-12” Assorted Fragrant flowers, suitable for containers, moist soils
Monkey Flower Mimulus x hybridus Shade, part sun 12-14” Yellow, orange, red, light scarlet, wine Prefers moist soil, cool temperature, afternoon shade prolongs bloom
Moss Rose; Portulaca Rose Moss Portulaca grandiflora Sun 6” Red, yellow, white, rose, orange, magenta Thrives on poor, dry soil, easily self-seeds, avoid high nitrogen soils
Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus Sun, part sun 12-24” Yellow, orange, red Prefers poor soil and sun, edible buds, blooms and foliage
New Guinea Impatiens Impatiens x hybrida Shade, part shade 10-24” Assorted Good for containers, dramatic foliage
Osteospermum; Cape Daisy; Sun Marigold Dimorphotheca pluvialis, D. sinuata Sun 9-18” White Bushy plant, can self seed
Pansy Viola x wittrockiana Part shade 8-12” Assorted Hardy annual, flowers best in cool season, best if seeded in late summer and transplants overwintered in cold frame for early planting
Pentas; Star Cluster Pentas lanceolata Sun, part shade 15-30” Red, pink, white Attracts butterflies, can be used in containers, combines well with other annuals
Persian Shield Strobilanthes dyerianum Sun, part shade 12” Blue Shiny dark purple/bronze foliage, short spikes of funnel-shaped flowers
Petunia Petunia x hybrida Sun, part shade 1 2-18” Assorted Shear in mid-summer to induce blooms
Petunia; Supertunia Petunia x hybrida Sun 6-9” Assorted Trailing habit, heat and drought tolerant
Petunia, Wave Petunia x hybrida Sun 6-8” Assorted Low-growing, ground cover-like
Phlox, Annual Phlox drummondii Sun, part shade 6-15” Red, pink, white, purple, peach Easy to grow, long blooming season, prefers cool sites
Pimpernel; Blue Pimpernel Anagallis monelli (L.), A. arvensis var. caerulea Sun 12”
Blue Bright blue flowers on heat-tolerant plants
Plectranthus; Silver Spur Flower Plectranthus argentatus Sun 6-12” White, pale lilac Leaves large, velvety, gray and succulent, deep veins
Primula Primula spp. Part shade 10-12” Lavender, red, pink, yellow, white Bedding, edging, attracts butterflies
Salvia; Mealycup Salvia farinacea Sun 18” Blue, white, purple Multiple spikes, leaves are long, soft, light green to silver
Salvia, Scarlet Sage Salvia splendens Sun, part shade 12-24” Scarlet, red, pink Blooms freely in late summer and fall, white, salmon, purple spike flower
Salvia, Texas Salvia coccinea Sun 18-30” Red, pink, white, bi-colored Blooms from early summer to frost, attracts hummingbirds
Scabiosa; Pincushion Flower Scabiosa stellata, S. atropurpurea Sun 12-24” White, light blue, pink, burgundy Flower heads useful in dried arrangements, good cut flower, heat-tolerant
Scaevola; Blue Fan Flower Scaveola aemula Sun 6-9” Blue, violet, white Thick, coarsely toothed leaves, tolerates some drought, good container plant
Snapdragon Antirrhinum majus Sun 6-36” Assorted Excellent cut flower, semi-tall and dwarf varieties require no staking, use rust-resistant cultivars, cool conditions
Standing Cypress Ipomopsis rubra Sun 2-3’ Red, yellow, orange, white Spike flower attracts butterflies, biennial spikes grown as a half-hardy annual
Statice; Sea Lavender Limonium sinuatum Sun, part shade 18” White, lavender, yellow, pink, blue, apricot Rosette of foliage, good for drying
Strawflower Helichrysum bracteatum Sun 10-30” Yellow, pink, white, red, orange Excellent dried flower, dwarf cultivars available
Sunflower Helianthus annuus Sun 12-84” Yellow, bronze, red, gold, cream Background or screen planting, dwarf cultivars available, make multiple planting for continuous blooms
Sweet Alyssum Lobularia maritima Sun, part shade 4-6” White, lavender, burgundy Low trailing plant with tiny flowers, very fragrant
Sweet Annie Artemisia annua Sun 48-72” Inconspicuous Grown for foliage, fragrant, foliage can be dried
Trachelium; Blue Throatwort Trachelium caeruleum Part shade 24-36” Blue, violet Attracts butterflies, drought-tolerant, small flowers, cut flowers
Verbena, African Verbena bonariensis Sun, part shade 48” Purple, violet Erect growing, creates ‘airy’ element, attracts butterflies, self-seeds
Verbena, Garden Verbena x hybrida Sun, part shade 12-15” Blue, red, white, peach Easy to grow, water moderately, intense colors, loves heat
Vinca; Madagascar Periwinkle Catharanthus roseus Sun 10-14” Pink, rose, red, purple, white Glossy leaves, tolerates poorer soils, works well in containers, good heat tolerance, good bedding plant
Viola Viola cornuta Part shade 6” Blue, gold, red, apricot Prefers cool, moist conditions
Zinnia Zinnia elegans Sun 6-40” Assorted Excellent cut flower and bedding plant, powdery mildew may be a problem in late summer, keep the foliage dry, select mildew resistant cultivars
Zinnia, Mexican Zinnia angustifolia Sun 12-16” White, gold, orange Excellent for hot dry areas, powdery mildew less of a problem than for Zinnia elegans, can be dried


The authors would like to thank Susan Schoneweis for her work on an earlier version of this publication.

Visit the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Publications Web site for more publications.
Index: Horticulture
Issued October 2007