Best West Coast Annual Plants: Growing Annuals In Western Gardens

Orange Annual Flower
western annual
(Image credit: katskap)

California has more microclimates than any other state and is just one of a few western states in the U.S. Still, some West Coast annual plants grow naturally throughout the region and are excellent choices for annual flowers for California.

Whether you are planting a summer or winter annual garden, you’ll find information here about easy-care annuals for western U.S. gardens.

Annuals in Western Region

Annuals are plants that complete a life cycle in one growing season. This means they germinate, flower, seed, and die all in one year. Most gardeners think of annuals for western U.S. gardens in terms of summer or winter annuals.

Summer annuals are plants that light up your summer garden then die off in fall. Winter annuals grow in the winter and early spring in regions with mild winters.

Annual Flowers for California Summers

Since California includes USDA hardiness zones 5 through 10, your choice of plants will depend on where you live. Summer annuals, however, are a different matter since hardiness is not an issue. You can probably plant all summer annuals in western region gardens.

However, if you are hoping for easy-care annuals that thrive without much maintenance, you will do well to consider annuals that are native to the area. For example, the state flower is the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and, while an annual, it is definitely a keeper. You can spot the bright orange flowers almost anywhere in the state, from prairies and mountain slopes to city gardens. This is one annual that reseeds itself reliably, so poppies this year can mean poppies next year too.

Other Annuals for Western Regions

Another bright native annual for western region gardens in summer is lupine (Lupinus succulentus). It grows in the wild throughout much of California as well as in sections of Arizona and Baja California. It is a popular landscaping annual thanks to its low water requirements and splashy blue flowers.

If you need a yellow native annual for a California garden or even a pond, consider the monkey flower (Erythranthe guttata). This wildflower thrives in a wide range of habitats from the Pacific Coast to Yellowstone National Park in alpine meadows and barren fields, even growing as an aquatic annual in small bodies of water. It provides nectar for bees and hummingbirds and reseeds itself year after year.

Winter Annuals for California

If you live in a mild winter area of California, you may also want annuals for your winter garden. Two excellent choices are calendula (Calendula officinalis) and pansies (Viola wittrockiana). These are common West Coast annual plants, but in many areas must be planted in spring. However, they can also be planted in the fall to provide a burst of color through the mild winter. Calendulas offer bright orange or yellow blooms while the pretty faces of pansies come in a rainbow of colors.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.