Spring sowing is suitable for annuals (plants which are sown, flower and die in one year) that tolerate light frosts. A spring sowing differs from an autumn sowing in that it tends to produce a later flowering display. Seed catalogues often use the abbreviation (HA) to describe hardy annuals.
It should be noted that although these plants usually withstand frosty conditions without protection, some hardy annuals may need covering with horticultural fleece or a cloche when a heavy frost is forecast.
Hardy annuals to try
The following are some suitable hardy annuals requiring no protection unless the winter is particularly severe:
Calendula officinalis (pot marigold): Slightly aromatic leaves and single or double daisy-like flowers in shades of orange or yellow flowers from summer to autumn.
Eschscholzia californica (California poppy): Ferny foliage and cup-shaped flowers of yellow, orange, red or white in spring or summer.
Limnanthes douglasii (poached egg plant): Masses of dainty cup-shaped yellow-centred white flowers from summer to autumn.
Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist): Saucer-shaped flowers in shades of blue, rose, pink or white, surrounded by a ruff of ferny foliage. Good for cut flowers and seed pods can be dried for winter decoration.
Papaver somniferum (opium poppy): Single or double flowers in shades of deepest purple, lilac, pink and white, some are blotched at the base. Self seeds easily.
P. rhoeas (Shirley poppy): Single flowers have a white base and come in shades of scarlet, pink and white.
P. commutatum (ladybird poppy): Scarlet flowers have central black ladybird-like blotches. Self seeds readily.
Agrostemma githago ‘Milas Purple Queen’ (corn cockle): With purple-red flowers.
Briza maxima (quaking grass): With creamy-white shimmering spikelets, ideal for dried arrangements.
Cerinthe major var. pupurascens: With fleshy blue-green leaves and dark purple-blue flowers.
Cleome chilensis: Has neat palmate foliage and white flowers.
Moluccella laevis (bells of Ireland): With fragrant green flowers are ideal for flower arranging.
Nemophilia menziesii ‘Penny Black’: With masses of attractive deepest-purple flowers, edged white.
Nicandra physaloides (shoo-fly plant): With blue bell-shaped flowers and papery Chinese lanterns.
Orlaya grandiflora: Has distinctive ferny foliage. Lacy pure-white flower umbels are ideal for flower arranging.
Good for wildlife
As well as being ornamental, some hardy annuals will provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other insects. Phacelia tanacetifolia, pot marigolds, cornflowers and sunflowers are all suitable. Those with attractive seedheads such as Nigella and poppies can provide a valuable food source for birds.
For additional varieties, see Seed: sowing hardy annuals in autumn