A Dozen Native Annuals and Biennials for Your Garden

If you overlook the possibility of using native plants in landscaping your home grounds, you are missing a real pleasure. 

Not only are there wildings suitable for almost any soil and climatic condition, but there are plants that are excellent for borders, beds, rock gardens, hedges, covering walls and trellises, dried arrangements, backgrounds, and shade. 

Native AnnualsPin

Please don’t get the impression that it is difficult to grow wildflowers. It is quite simple.

Because of prolonged droughts, overgrazing of lands, and the reckless gathering of flowers before seeds mature, a great many of our once plentiful plants are rapidly disappearing from their native haunts.

Conservation Of Wild Plants

Would it not be a worthy project if each flower lover would give some time to the conservation of wild plants? It is not necessary to set aside a certain plot—instead, merely scatter the natives among other plants, placing them according to their various light and soil requirements.

No matter how badly you might wish to do so, it is never advisable to dig up plants, or even to gather blossoms or seeds without permission from the owner of the property where the plants are growing. 

Further, gathering seeds for yourself is no longer necessary because many seed houses and nurseries carry large stocks of wildflower seeds and started plants.

Planting Of Wildflower Seeds

Generally speaking, wildflower seeds need the same care and attention as those domesticated flowers. Hardy annuals and biennials may be planted in summer, fall, or early spring. 

Late summer or autumn planting is preferable so that plants can become better established before winter. 

Another advantage of planting during summer or fall is that seeds are fresh then. The fresher seeds arc when planted, the more quickly they are likely to come up.

It is difficult for me to select just a few out of so many desirable annuals and biennials for the home ground because I find practically all of them interesting. 

The following 12 are plants that I have successfully grown from seeds.


Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis), the state flower of Texas, does not require rich soil, but well-drained soil. This plant does equally well in sun or semi-shade. It does not grow tall and is an excellent border or bedding plant. 

The bluebonnet is lovely in small groups but is much more beautiful in large masses. Flowering season is usually in May and June, but sometimes earlier, depending on climatic conditions. 

No other known flower possesses the peculiar coloring of the bluebonnet. The purplish-blue, sweetly fragrant, erect clusters of flowers will last many days when cut if the water is changed daily.

Planting Bluebonnet Seeds

For best results, bluebonnet seeds should be planted during the natural seed-ripening period, late spring and summer.  Sometimes it takes seeds 2 years to germinate, and all the seeds planted the first year will not likely come up. 

Thus, it is best to sow the seeds thickly. Do not plant to a depth of more than two inches—be very careful in this respect.

Once established, bluebonnets need not be re-seeded if you will just let plants die in the garden, then pull them up and let them lie for a few days so the seeds may fall into the soil.

Young plants are seldom damaged by cold because they are protected by tiny bristles which cover the stems and leaves. When small, bluebonnets may be transplanted, but roots should be disturbed as little as possible.


The bluebell (Eustoma Russellianum), also known as blue gentian, is a hardy annual which makes a vivid blue spot from mid-July to September. 

The large blossoms, described as the exact color of the back of the bluebird, keep much longer than most flowers when cut. 

This plant is not to be confused with Virginia bluebells, (Mertensia virginica) or bluebells of Scotland (Campanula rotundifolia).

Best Time To Plant Bluebells

September is the best time to plant bluebells. The exceedingly fine seeds should be mixed with a meal or fine sand before planting. Scatter the mixture over the top of a box or pot of finely prepared soil. 

Press gently and water with a syringe, or if in the pot, set the pot in a pan of water until moisture rises to the top of the soil. Seeds require at least two weeks to germinate, and constant moisture must be maintained.

When plants have grown several leaves, they can be set in open ground, and a loose mulch of straw should be put over them through the winter months. The growth of plants is halted during winter but becomes rapid when warm weather sets in.

When given enriched soil and plenty of water, the bluebells reach a height of from 1’ to 2’ feet and lend themselves exceptionally well to the cultivated flower garden.

In its native habitat, the bluebell is most often seen in low, wet ground, sometimes in full sunlight and sometimes in partial shade. Started plants are available at nurseries and may be set out in the spring. 

And although young plants must be well watered, the older plants endure dry weather exceptionally well.

Sometimes bluebells do not bloom until the second year after the sowing of seeds, but usually, they bloom in the summer following autumn planting. 

When established, these plants do not have to be re-seeded annually if seeds are allowed to mature. It is a temptation, however, to cut flowers before seed pods form so that two and three crops of blooms may be had.

Indian Plume

The Indian plume (Gilia rubra), standing cypress or Texas star, is a lovely plant and does well in ordinary soil and full sunlight. 

Flowering in mid-spring, when about 3’ feet high, the plants cover their upper stems with tubular flowers resembling those of the cultivated cypress vine. A peculiar trait of this plant is that the flowers blossom down the stem instead of upward.

The pretty feathery foliage and numerous flowers of a most unusual rich shade of red make the Indian plume a showy garden plant and a long-lasting cut flower.

Frequently cultivated in gardens, the Indian plume can be grown from seeds planted in the fall or from small started plants in the springtime. Caution should be used in sowing these seeds, not to plant them too deep.

Although considered an annual, when it does not receive sufficient moisture or if the top is bitten out by livestock, this plant may remain a rosette for a year before storing enough food to send forth its flowering stem.

Prickly Poppy

White prickly poppy (Argemone alba), or Mexican poppy, is a hardy, robust annual growing of 3′ to 4′ feet. It has a long flowering season if old flowers are kept cut.

Sometimes mistaken for a thistle, the prickly poppy can be identified by its poppy-like flowers, yellow sap, and unique floral buds with its three upright horns.

The deeply notched and spiny foliage of bluish-green, together with the large, pure white, crinkly blossoms with knobs of golden stamens, combine to make the prickly poppy very attractive. 

The petals drop quickly, and this plant is of no value for cut flowers. However, a clump, or even one large plant, adds charm to any garden.

Barely covered seeds should be planted in late summer in sandy loam, where there will be plenty of sunlight but not much water.


Eryngo (Eryngium Leavenworthii), sometimes called blue thistle, is a colorful member of the carrot family. The plants are usually branched, and each stem is tipped with oblong flower heads in varying shades of violet, purple and blue. 

Green, leaf-like, spiny bracts emerge from the center top of each flower head, giving it a striking appearance.

Sowing Eryngo Seeds

As with most wildflower seeds, the eryngo seeds should be lightly covered and sown in late summer or early spring. Seeds germinate unevenly and lie about eight to ten weeks before sprouting. 

This plant is not at all particular as to soil requirements but shows a preference for full sunlight. If given a little water from time to time, the eryngo will reach a height of two to four feet.

Used in Winter Bouquets

This spectacular plant is used extensively in winter bouquets. If flower heads on long stems are dried in the shade, the vivid colors remain for an entire season or longer. 

Or if the sun has faded the colors, the flower heads are very attractive when sprayed with gold or silver paint. The deeply cut foliage, a bright green, also retains its color when dried in the shade.

Flowering Straw

The flowering straw (Lygodesmia texana) milk pink, or pink dandelion, is a hardy annual that thrives in poor, dry, rocky soil. With its brittle, leafless flowering stems, this plant looks somewhat similar to the common dandelion. 

Its flowers, about one inch across, are in pastel shades of pink, lilac, and lavender. It has a long flowering season, requires no special care, and is well suited for the rockery.

When planting, either in autumn or spring, cover lightly but press soil firmly over tufted seeds. Unlike the dandelion, the flowering straw does not spread rapidly to become a pest. It will reseed itself, but unwanted plants are easily controlled.

Black-Eyed Susan

The black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), also known as cone-flower, thimble flower, and “sombrero,” is a hardy annual known and loved throughout the nation, both in its native habitats and in gardens.

The black-eyed Susan is said to have traveled from one side of the country to the other in bales of hay and with clover seeds. 

The rough, hairy plants, topped by showy flowers with bright yellow petals and brown cone-shaped centers, are in full bloom in late spring and early summer.

Seeds may be planted almost any season, in practically any kind of soil, in either full sunlight or semi-shade. 

The black-eyed Susan will thrive without pampering but responds when set in rich soil by producing larger blossoms. It is suitable as a border plant and excellent for cutting purposes.

Rudbeckia bicolor has shorter ray flowers and purplish brown spots at the base of bright yellow petals. It blooms continuously during summer and autumn and is very effective when grown in masses.

Wild Ageratum

Wild ageratum, (Eupatorium coelestinum)—mist-flower or floss flower —is a multipurpose plant, equally at home in semi-shade or full sun. 

It is fine for borders, beds, or rockery. It shows a slight preference for sandy loam and likes plenty of water during the flowering season.

The wild ageratum seldom reaches a height of more than 30” inches and is flat-topped. The deep lavender flowers, each composed of numerous tubular florets and protruding stamens, give a fluffy appearance, explaining the common names of mist and floss flowers. 

The sweetly fragrant blossoms start early and are seen until late autumn.

This plant is a tender perennial and should be treated as an annual. Seeds may be planted in autumn or spring, and the only precaution is not to cover them to a depth of more than 1” inch.

Sticky Head

The sticky head, (Grindelia squarrosa), or gum plant, attains a height of 2’ or 3’ feet and is attractive in a rough sort of way. 

It is easily identified by its rough stems, small leaves, which are spiny-toothed, sticky floral buds, and bright flowers measuring more than two inches across. 

The stiff petals range from shades of white through pale pink to bright yellow, but each flower has a dark brown, cone-shaped center.

This plant is admired because of its hardiness and because it blooms during the very hottest weather. It likes dry soil, especially limestone ledges, and is unexcelled for rock gardens, hillsides, or anywhere that many other plants would not survive.

Plant seeds at any time convenient by merely raking them in the soil. If necessary, plants may be transplanted.

Spider Flower

The spider flower (Polanisia trachysperma) (listed in some seed catalogs as an electric light plant) is an upright, hardy annual. Under favorable conditions, it will grow to a height of 3’ or 4’ feet. 

Its attractiveness comes from the many small, four-petalled, white flowers with numerous brownish-red stamens protruding beyond the petals and the small leaf-like bracts crowding the stems.

This plant thrives in ordinary soil in full sunlight and produces a profusion of blossoms from early summer until frost. 

In autumn or spring, sow seeds of the spider flower and cover three-fourths to one inch deep. Plants require little cultivation and are very pleasing to hummingbirds and bees.

Sand Verbena

The leathery, winged capsules of the sand verbena (Abronia fragrans) turn a glistening pinkish tint with age and look like a mass of exotic blossoms when seen at a little distance.

A member of the four-o’clock family, the sand verbena is also known as the sand puff plant and heart’s delight. It is a quick-growing, hardy, trailing annual with prostrate stems that often reach 3′ to 5′ feet long. 

Entirely covering a plant, the pinkish-purple to lavender, fragrant flowers look very much like those of the four o’clock. 

They are in clusters or heads, similar to verbenas, but the clusters are rounded instead of flat. This plant blooms in early spring and often again in the fall.

Easily grown by planting seeds (either autumn or spring) to a depth of about 1″ inch in sandy loam, the sand verbena is the perfect answer for a ground cover, especially where water is scarce. However, it is best to remember that just one plant will cover a considerable area.

Although the flowers are very attractive, the main charm of this plant, in my opinion, is the unusual seed pods. If gathered before falling from the plant, the winged pods retain their bright color and can be used most effectively in dried floral arrangements.

Wild Golden Glow

Wild golden glow (Bidens chrysanthemoides), or Spanish needles, is a showy plant, 3’ to 6’ feet high, with a profusion of large, sunflower-like blossoms, coming out in late summer and early autumn. 

The flowers are yellow, with brownish-yellow, button-like centers, and are long-lasting when cut.

This plant resembles the popular domesticated golden glow, and it has a strong preference for rich, wet soil. In its native habitat, it is seen growing on the banks of creeks, ditches, and lakes.

Plant in Early Spring

Seeds should be planted in early spring, and soil must be kept moist. This plant requires more attention than many, but it is also true that it produces a wealth of beautiful blossoms when others have quit blooming.

In some areas, the wild golden glow is a biennial. In others, it is annual.

44659 by Jewell Casey