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15 annual plants and their botanical names

Flowering plants all follow a similar life cycle. They grow flowers which eventually produce fruit and seeds. 

Flowering plants that complete their life cycle within one growing season are called annuals. Perennials are flowering plants whose life cycle extends up to three years.

Below is a list of annual plants and their botanical names

1. Marigolds (Tagetes erecta)

Marigolds (Tagetes erecta)
Marigolds (Tagetes erecta). Image: Sarangib

Marigolds are some of the most common garden flowers. These annual flowers have a strong scent that repels insects. 

Marigolds are native to southwestern North, South, and Central Americas. There are 30 recorded Marigold species

Characteristics

  • Marigolds grow up to 160 cm in height.
  • They come in red, orange, or yellow colors
  • They do well in sunny weather

Fun Fact: Marigolds are edible. Their flowers contain lutein, which is good for our eyes.

2. Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans). Image: Alicja from Pixabay

This plant is native to North America, where it is a common garden flower. There are 22 recorded Zinnia species of herbs and shrubs.

Zinnia is perennial when growing in the nativity, mostly in the Southern United States and Mexico.

Zinnia are annuals in other areas.

Characteristics

  • Zinnia grows up to a height of 120cm.
  • Colors range from white, green, red, pink, yellow, orange, salmon, lavender, and mauve.
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3. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Sunflower (Helianthus annuus). Image: Pixabay/1195798

Sunflowers are annual plants grown mainly for their seeds. 

These plants are native to the United States of America, with approximately 70 species available.

Characteristics

  • Sunflowers grow up to 180cm tall
  • Sunflower leaves are long and grow out in spirals
  • The head of a sunflower plant can have a diameter of up to 30cm

Quick facts about sunflowers

  1. Sunflowers can absorb harmful substances from the soil – scientists are known to plant sunflowers to help the land recover in areas affected by nuclear disasters.
  2. Sunflowers follow the sun –These miniature suns have biological clocks that help them follow the sun as it moves during the day, then back to their original position by night.
  3. The tallest sunflower ever recorded was at a height of 9 meters.

4. Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)

Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
Petunia (Petunia x hybrida). Image: Pixabay/RitaE

Petunias are among the most easily recognizable flowers worldwide. They are annual flowering plants that belong to the nightshade family. Petunias are native to South America.

The common garden varieties are grouped into 2: the compact, erect type, which grows to a height of 15-25cm. On the other hand, the long-stemmed petunias grow up to 46cm tall.

Characteristics

  • Petunia leaves are oval-shaped and have smooth margins
  • The flowers have a funnel shape with five petals and sepals.
  • Grows well in a temperate climate

5. Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus). Image: Leejongsung

These annual ornamental flowers are native to Mexico and South America. 

Cosmos has a total of 40 species on record. The more common garden varieties are Cosmos sulphureus and Cosmos bipinnatus.

Characteristics

  • Cosmos foliage has a fern-like appearance
  • The flowers of the common garden varieties come in shades of pink|yellow to dark rose, orange or red

6. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus). Image: Peggy from Pixabay

Nasturtium is an annual flower native to Spain. These plants have a mild peppery flavor with a mustard-like aroma. Both the leaves and petals of this plant have nutritional value.

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The plant contains high levels of Vitamin C, which helps improve the immune system. The leaves are most effective before flowering because of their antibiotic properties.

Characteristics

  • Nasturtium leaves are almost circular and have light-colored leaves.
  • The flowers are brightly colored red, yellow, and orange and spread over 21/2 inches wide.
  • These plants can grow to a height of 30cm.

7. Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)

Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana)
Impatiens (Impatiens walleriana). Image: Pixabay/JackieLou

More commonly known as Touch-Me-Not, Impatiens are perennial flowers native to Kenya and Mozambique. 

The plant has also naturalized in other parts like North America and Australia.

Characteristics

  • Impatiens can grow to 61 cm tall
  • The leaves have a glossy appearance, with toothed edges that have pointed tips

Fun fact: Impatiens get the name touch-me-not because a ripe seed capsule can explode violently when touched.

8. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima). Image by jfduque from Pixabay

Also known as sweet alison, sweet alyssum is an annual plant grown as a short-lived perennial. 

The herb is native to the Mediterranean region.

Characteristics

  • Sweet alyssum has four-petaled flowers in lavender, purple or pink.
  • The flowering stalks grow to 30cm tall.

9. Barley (Hordeum vulgare)

Barley (Hordeum vulgare)
Barley (Hordeum vulgare). Image: Claire Young

Barley is the fourth largest grain crop after wheat, rice, and corn. It is also an annual crop whose nativity can be traced back to Egypt.

This annual crop is commonly used for baking, although primarily grown as animal fodder and malt for alcoholic beverages.

Characteristics

  • Barley grows from erect stems with few alternate leaves
  • The plant thrives near desert areas

10. Oats (Avena sativa)

Oats (Avena sativa)
Oats (Avena sativa). Image: Juliet d-h

Oats are annual plants originating in Asia Minor. These crops are a breakfast staple in many places around the world. 

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Countries widely cultivating oats include Russia, the USA, Poland, China, Canada, France, and Australia.

Characteristics

  • Oats can grow to a height of 1.5 meters
  • Grow well in temperate regions

11. Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)

Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor)
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). Image: Pixabay/sarangib

Sorghum is also known as great millet or Indian millet. 

This annual plant originates from Africa and is grown as a food crop.

Characteristics

  • Sorghum grows to a height of 2.4 meters. Sometimes it grows as high as 4.6 meters.
  • Sorghum stalks and leaves are coated with a whitish wax.

12. Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)

Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum)
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum). Image: greenprotocol

Cotton is an annual crop native to tropical and subtropical regions worldwide, like Africa, USA, and India.

Characteristics

  • Grows to 1.2 meters in height
  • Leaves are broad and heart-shaped with coarse veins

13. Sisal (Agave sisalana)

Sisal (Agave sisalana)
Sisal (Agave sisalana). Image: Build Africa

Sisal is a perennial plant native to Mexico. This succulent plant is grown for its fiber.

Its characteristics include the following:

  • Sisal plant stalks can grow to 90cm tall.
  • Sisal stalks are 60-180 cm long and 10-18cm wide.
  • Its flowers are yellow.

14. Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius)

Safflower  (Carthamus tinctorius)
Safflower  (Carthamus tinctorius). Image: Flickr/PINKE

Safflower is an annual flowering plant. It is native to parts of Africa and Asia. 

Dried safflowers can be used to obtain a red dye used in textiles.

Characteristics

  • Grows up to 1.2 meters tall
  • Flowers come in red, yellow, orange, or white

15. Red deadnettle (Lamium purpureum)

Red deadnettle (Lamium purpureum)
Red deadnettle (Lamium purpureum). From: Pixabay/sandustefan

Red or purple deadnettle is an annual flowering plant native to Europe and Asia.

The most common features of a red deadnettle are:

  • It grows to a height of 10-30cm
  • Its stems are square-shaped

Characteristics of annuals

In general, these are the characteristics of annual plants:

  • They produce flowers and fruit within the first year of growth
  • Their growth cycle falls between Spring and Summer

How many types of annual plants are there?

Annual plants can be grouped into three categories according to their uses:

  • Annual crops
  • Seasonal flowers
  • Garden weeds

Annual crops

The perfect example of annual crops is cereals like wheat (Triticum aestivum). Others include corn, rice (Oryza sativa), and oats (Avena sativa). 

Most legumes and vegetables like beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) and peas (Pisum sativum) are also annuals.

Seasonal flowers

Most seasonal flowers are garden favorites. Seasonal flowers maintain their life cycle regardless of whether they’re in their place of origin or have been planted elsewhere. 

Sunflowers (Helianthus annus) are the most common seasonal flowers.

Garden weeds/ wild plants

Garden weeds are annual plants that grow abundantly in the wild. Most of the plants in this category are used in herbal medicine. 

For instance, Poppy (Papaver sp.) flowers are considered a pain reliever for mild aches and pains.