Some of the best types of annuals you can grow in the garden are the ones that have been around for years. Examples would be snapdragons, petunias, marigolds, zinnias, alyssum and cosmos. All have great qualities and will bloom non-stop from the time they begin to bloom until the first autumn frost.
Mostly native to Mexico, the Cosmos is one of the best flowers for the garden. Whether you are trying to make an accent in the background or one along the border, this is the one to grow. It is also as easy to grow from seed as a marigold, with the same quick results upon warm soils and a little moisture.
Available in various flower shades of light to deep orange, white, pink and nearly red. Flowers will range in size from an inch and a half to nearly 6 inches across depending on the variety selected. They are daisy-shaped in a slightly bowl form and are semi-doubled in petal structure. They are also great attractors of birds, butterflies and bees.
The foliage is a flat and scalloped leaf in the orange selections and ferny in the white, pink and red choices. Planted along with deep-colored leafed plants, they contrast well.
This plant doesn’t need to be planted early, because once it emerges it grows fairly quickly. Sow seeds in the soil after the last threat of frost has passed, about a quarter-inch deep in well-drained soil and water lightly. The location should receive full sunlight and never be fertilized in order to promote numerous blooms.
About seven weeks after the plants have emerged, they will develop flower buds and bloom profusely until the autumn frosts arrive. As long as the faded blooms are removed, these durable plants will not cease to produce gorgeous flowers.
Most of Cosmos selections are relatively drought tolerant, but are intolerant of wet soils that will tend to rot the roots if it is wet for the long term. Poorer soils also tend to produce more blooms with this plant. Fertile and composed sites tend to produce more leaves and fewer flowers.
Some great varieties to try are ‘Double Take’ with its frilly blooms that are semi-double at about 4 inches across in pink and white mixed. They grow to about 4 feet tall. ‘Bright Lights’ produces semi-double blooms in lemon yellow, gold, orange and scarlet and reach about 3 feet tall. The ‘Sensation’ and ‘Sonata’ mix have pink, white, and hot pink blooms with yellow centers and reach around 4 feet tall also. These types have ferny foliage. ‘Double-click Bicolor Pink’ has 100% double blooms unlike any of the others on sturdy stems in shades of pink and white. A more recent one is called 'Lemonade' which is a nice pale yellow bloom that only reached 24 inches tall or 'Xsenia' which is a rosy iridescent color that is about 2 feet tall also. The colors are exquisite!
If you are looking for a dwarf selection, try the ‘Diablo’ mix that reaches about 12 to 18 inches in height and blooms heavily in shades of orange, rust and scarlet on compact plants.
Many of the larger varieties make great cut flowers for vases and other arrangements. The flowers tend to last about a week’s time in a vase. They are very showy but do not have a great deal of scent.
The large ones really fill the back of a flower bed nicely when planted in groups or in mass. The shorter ones tend to make great border plantings and also look good in small groupings.
In the fall season, the remaining seed heads will have a sharp black or brown point in a floret that will fall right off if touched. Collect these when they are dry and place them in a Ziploc baggie for planting next year. Seeds stay viable for a long time if kept in a cool and dry location.
Nothing says it better in the garden than a patch of glorious cosmos. Full of life and constant color, these annuals are the perfect people pleaser. It might be a bit late to plant this year, but keep them in mind for next year’s growing season. If you are lucky, you might just be able to collect some seeds from a neighbor’s bed. Check it out and see if any are available in your neighborhood!