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6 Easy to Grow Summer Annuals

Annual plants and flowers are ones that survive for only one season. Because they are short-lived they are fast growing and they are an excellent way to quickly fill in empty spots between your shrubs or perennials. They often create a great show of bright flowers and they are relatively little work to maintain. Summer annuals are often planted in the spring (the exact sowing time, depends upon the plant), and they tend to thrive in a variety of hardiness zones, but you may want to check with your local garden center if you have concerns or want to find flowers that will last the longest in your particular region.

A few annuals are known to be “self-sowing,” such as cleomes (cleome hasslerana) and pot marigolds (calendula officinalis). You will be able to enjoy these for many years to come if they are successfully planted the first time around. The plants will die each year come the colder seasons, but the seeds they produce that fall will then bloom the next summer. It is also possible to save your other plants’ seeds and then plant them again by hand. Some of these popular summer-blooming plants are actually resistant to deer and some are even disliked by rabbits – the two most common nuisances to gardeners.

The cleome (cleome hasslerana) is a popular summer annual and is also known as the “spider-flower” due to its unique flower shape. Its flowers will actually last for weeks in moderate climates, usually until the first frost. In winter the flowers turn into seed capsules, which fall in the spring, producing a brand new batch of these vibrant and interesting blooms. Hummingbirds love these. Deer and rabbits, on the other hand, do not because they have more prickly flowers and leaves than are unpleasant. They will rarely eat cleomes and only as a last resort.


Marigolds are actually flowers spanning two genuses: the common marigold (tagetes) and the pot marigold (calendula). They are related, both being in the sun flower family, and both are extremely fragrant. Common marigolds are native to North and South American and pot marigolds are thought to be European in origin. There are both annual and perennial varieties, and according to some, pot marigolds (calendula officinalis), are actually “short-lived annuals.” Marigolds normally bloom mid-summer and the more resilient varieties will continue into the fall. If pot marigolds are hardy they will self-sow like the cleome and continue for several years with little work on your end. Marigolds are a flower that deer will not touch because of their intense fragrance, but depending on the rabbits in your area, they may still end up a snack. To keep rabbits at bay, use I Must Garden’s All-Natural Rabbit Repellent or Granular Animal Repellent.

Cosmos (cosmos bipinnatus) are another group of flowers related to sun flowers with annual and perennial varieties. They are brightly colored, very fast growing and attractive to butterflies. They make great beginner flowers, but deer love them and depending upon whom you ask, rabbits either love them or hate them, so repellents are the safest bet. I Must Garden provides two varieties of Deer Repellent. Growing Season is an excellent choice for use on spring and summer plants because its all-natural ingredients also aid in plant growth. All Season is the equally effective alternative that can be sprayed on all of your plants, all year round.

Available in a huge variety of colors, impatiens (impatiens walleriana), are another popular annual that blooms in the summer. They have interesting shoe- or horn-shaped flowers. Aside from requiring a bit more watering than some of the other flowers mentioned here, they are otherwise low-maintenance. Interestingly, in most areas deer are not interested in these flowers until the end of summer or the fall when they begin to end their life cycle anyway, so in most cases later repellent spraying is all that is needed. To contrast they need to be protected from rabbits all season because they will gobble them up anytime.

A favorite hanging basket annual, the tropaeolum, commonly called nasturtium (tropaeolum majus) has an appealing habit of trailing and the flowers are actually edible. They are often ornamental, but the blooms can be used in salads or stir-fries. They should not be confused with the watercress (nasturtium) in the mustard family, but they produce oil similar to the watercress and this is how they got their name. They are attractive to both butterflies and humming birds, and are listed by many places as being both deer and rabbit resistant.

The zinnia (zinnia angustifolia) is another popular and easy flower to grow. They produce large flowers that are both drought and heat tolerant, so they are very durable. Zinnias are well known as being deer-resistant. Deer may take a taste, but they do not seem to enjoy them and will not try again. They are most vulnerable to rabbits when they are first sprouting. It is possible to start them inside and then transplant them outside, but if that is not an option, frequent repellent application is recommended during the growth period. I Must Garden’s application tips can provide you with pointers for that very topic.

These six annuals will add variety and excitement to a garden with their vibrant summer blooms. Many attract butterflies and humming birds, and marigolds and nasturtiums can be used as companion plants to repel some types of insects and other pests. For the plants that deer and rabbits view as viable food sources, I Must Garden’s all-natural repellents will protect their bright flowers all summer long.

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