What are Hardy Annuals you may ask?  From Cool Flowers, “Hardy Annuals live for one year and survive cold temperatures.  Many are planted in the fall to winter-over and produce blooms the following spring and summer.  These flowers prefer growing in cool conditions.”  These differ from Tender Annuals in that they won’t die with a frost.  Some of the more common hardy annuals are foxglove, black-eyed susan, snapdragons, lisianthus, pansy, poppies, and sweet peas.  

The tricky part is knowing when to plant your seedlings outside.  Most of them can be planted in the fall if you plan to cover them, but if you plan to leave them out in the elements, which is possible with many, you have to be a bit more choosey.  Last year, we did not cover any of our hardy annuals through the winter.  The ones we grew were foxglove, dianthus, snapdragons, feverfew, and rudbeckia.  They all survived and thrived!  You will be amazed because they might look mostly dead, but once spring hits they put on a ton of new green growth.  I was sure my snapdragons were totally dead last year, but each plant ended up producing several blooms!  

So when exactly do I plant them in the fall and spring?  In the fall, you want to plant them in the ground around 6 weeks before the first frost date to give them some good root growth before the weather turns cold.  For us, this was around the beginning of September.  In the spring, you want to plant them about 6-8 weeks before your last frost date.  We plan to plant them out the first week of March.  If you plant them out too late in spring, they won’t get enough of the cool weather that they like for growing and won’t produce as abundantly.  We will plant out cress, poppies, calendula, dianthus, stock, feverfew, bee balm, Queen Anne’s Lace, more snapdragons, bachelor’s buttons, strawflower, ranunculus, and several more varieties around March 1.  We will also have frost cloth near by to protect from those frigid nights.     

Hardy Annuals are some of my favorite flowers because they are super productive and easy to grow, once you know the right timing with planting.  Especially the ones you can plant in the fall and forget about until you have more blooms then you know what to do with in May! 🙂

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