Planted in early winter or late fall, winter annuals (also called hardy annuals) germinate in early winter when the ground cools. They bloom by later winter or early spring, then die after flowering and creating seeds. Since they grow low to the ground, they use snow cover for protection, and grow after the snow melts and the temperature warms the soil. Shorter days and lower temperature cause winter annuals to grow more slowly than annuals grown during spring and summer, and therefore require less water and fertilizer.
Pansies and Violas
These hardy close cousins thrive in cold weather, and if planted during the fall in milder climates, will bloom the entire winter season. Although they prefer shade during early spring and fall, they favor full sunlight in winter.
Dianthus grows well in the South and requires plenty of sun. Like pansies and violas, the low-growing variety called "pinks" mature and flower during the winter months and, if the blooms are left on the plant, will self-seed. With good drainage and regular fertilization, these spice-scented flowers, which come in numerous shades of pink, grow less than 1 foot tall.
Most people know the colorful calendula as "Pot Marigold" even though it is not related to the African and French annuals that grow during the summer months. A flowering herb cultivated since the Middle Ages for medicinal and seasoning purposes, this hardy flower can withstand short periods of temperatures below freezing and will sometimes re-grow from its roots after a severe frost. Interestingly, calendula is also known as "Herb of the Sun," not only for its yellow color, but because its flowers face the sun and follow the sun's daily trek across the sky, like sunflowers.
Pink, red, white and blue cornflowers (also known as bachelor buttons) thrive in winter and require minimal care.
Red, pink, blue, violet, cream or coral sweet peas love cold weather and bloom in the short winter days.
Fragrant and hardy, the long-lasting blooms on spikes known as snapdragons also thrive in cooler temperatures and bloom in early spring. These pink, white, yellow, bronze, purple or crimson beauties have a tendency to wilt during the hot months, but perk up and blossom again in the fall.
- Photo Credit purple pansies image by Adam Fuller from Fotolia.com
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