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Common Annuals For Sun and Shade

Common Annuals For Sun & Shade



Are easily the most common annual. They have been bred and cross bred to come in many different varieties and almost every color of the rainbow. There are two general groups of petunias: Grandiflora petunias and Multiflora petunias. Grandiflora petunias tend to have larger flowers but Multiflora petunias tend to have more.


Another very common annual flower usually found in yellows to reds. Because this flower has been around so long it is available in many a variety of sizes from 6 inches to almost 4 feet. Marigold flowers have ruffled petals adding excellent texture contrast.

African Daisy

Also called Osteospermum, African Daisies are beautiful delicate flowers that come in an assortment of vibrant colors ranging from oranges to whites and two-tone flowers. They grow between one a two feet tall.


Possibly only second to the petunia the Geranium is widely used in hanging baskets, flower beds, pots, and all types of containers. Most Geraniums will only reach a height of about 12-18” with some reaching as much as 24”. These plants do best in full sun and are moderately drought tolerant. Dead heading and fertilizer will encourage rapid reblooming.


Salvia comes in a host of different colors AND textures. Some salvia flowers can be short but topped with a large flower stalk to produce a sea of color. Other Salvia flowers are more delicate producing fewer flowers on taller stalks. Both varieties are considered to be drought tolerant and will attract both humming birds and butterflies. Taller Salvia can reach up to 2-3 feet tall where shorter varieties can be as compact as 8 inches making them more ideal for mass plantings in flowerbeds.

Sweet Potato Vine

One of the most prolific of the annuals sweet potato is a hanging vine that can easily grow 6 feet in a single season. This lush plant is not a climber but can mound 2’ in flower beds. Vines can be shades of green or purple and have lush round leaves or more delicate cut leaves adding blazing contrast to any container or planter bed. Plant size can be controlled with pruning and densely planted pots, but don’t be surprised when these little guys spring to life faster than the rest. Although a sweet potato vine doesn’t often flower, it can produce a very pretty white to pink trumpet shaped flower similar to a morning glory. Sweet potato vines have been known to handle full sun in Colorado, but it is best to protect them from extreme heat and wind as this will cause burning of the leaves. Although it is considered an annual in Colorado it is a true sweet potato and will develop large sweet potatoes in the soil. These can be dug up after frost forces dormancy and stored in a cool protected place such as a basement for replanting next spring. Or you could just simply eat them.  Good companion plants in containers for sweet potato are Coleus and Purple Fountain grass, which offer more upright growth and will produce spectacular texture and color contrast.


Also called Million Bells. These flowers look like smaller versions of petunias. They are commonly used in hanging baskets since they flower profusely and “self-clean” meaning spent flowers tend to fall off. They can also be used as ground covers in beds. These plants grow low across the ground or hang over borders. Calibrachoa do best in full to part sun. They are considered to be drought tolerant but are often packed densely into hanging baskets and will need more moisture due to the quantity of plants. Because they such an abundance of flowers it is advisable to add a high phosphorus fertilizer to watering schedule.  

Common Annuals For Shade


Begonias tend to be fairly compact plants with the larger varieties only growing around 18” tall and slightly smaller in width. Their small stature makes them great choices for beds, hanging baskets and containers. In Colorado Begonias do much better in areas that are protected from heat and afternoon sun. They are also very sensitive to frosts. So in early spring and fall protected your Begonia either by covering them or by bringing the pot into a house or a garage. Begonias can be purchased either by tubers in the spring or as plants. Because some varieties are tuberous they can be dug up and stored over winter, but will NOT survive a Colorado winter if left out. Other non-tuberous varieties can also be saved through the winter by bringing them inside. With glossy leaves and compact shapes begonias make great houseplants as well and should be provided with filtered but bright sunlight.


One of the most popular annuals for shady areas, impatiens come in many colors. Some varieties even have almost red foliage adding great contrast to bedding areas. Typical impatiens varieties tend to stay smaller around 6-8” but some mound on themselves up to around 12” making the larger varieties great for hanging baskets as well. Impatiens like to be kept moist and will not handle hotter temperatures. Be sure to plant them in a location with afternoon protection and not too much reflected heat.


Is known for its remarkable foliage color which comes in many striking arrays. Coleus grows very fast fairly tall reaching around 3 feet on average. With over 60 species being propagated you can easily find some that stay shorter or maybe get even taller. The striking colors Coleus produce can be used in containers or flower beds to create dazzling contrast. Coleus flowers are insignificant and not ornamental, simply pinch them back to showcase the stunning leaves. These plants are used primarily for foliage color. Coleuses are very susceptible to frost and heat. While it has been claimed that some coleus can adapt they are primary from humid tropical regions and should be protected from our dry Colorado sun and wind. Morning sun or dappled to deep shade is the best exposure to ensure your coleus thrive.

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Availability varies and Nick's may be out of stock of various Annuals at particular times throughout the year.