These are Monty Don’s favorite tender annuals – and his top tips for growing them successfully

Growing tender annuals is very rewarding if you like lots of bright colors in the garden. Garden guru Monty Don has long been committed to planting garden borders with these pretty and varied plants. They only last one season, but they make a dramatic difference to your garden – and are some of our favorite summers Garden ideas.

Below, Monty shares a few firm favorites for planting together – and practical tips for successfully growing tender annuals.

What are tender years?

Tender annuals include a wide variety of plants including begonias, zinnias, cosmos, impatient, and many others. Tender annuals have one thing in common that they will not come back next summer unless you re-sow them or rearrange them from cuttings. They die after the first frost.

According to the University of IllinoisTender annual plants need both warm soil and warm air temperatures to grow well. These cannot tolerate frost and, if placed too early in cold soil, tend not to grow much until the temperatures are warm. ‘

See: Ideas for flower beds – beautiful ways to create floral decorations in your garden

Monty Don’s favorite tender annuals for a flowering border

Tithonia or Mexican sunflower

Monty has been planting tender annuals in his garden for years. In a series of Gardening world, he demonstrates how to plant a new season of Salvias, Zinnias, Kosmos, Callas – “You can buy all of this in the garden center”, but you can also grow them yourself from cuttings, seeds or parts of existing plants.

See: How to grow zinnias – Beautify your garden with these summer flowers

Monty also particularly recommends tithonia or Mexican sunflower for the intensity of its bright orange color. “It blooms from July until the first frost,” says Monty of this beautiful annual flower. “Use this orange to bring out all of the purples and blues in your garden,” says Monty.

Cosmos ‘Dazzler’ is another favorite as it is ‘easy to grow from seeds as long as it has some sunshine’ and gives you an ‘intense magenta hue’ well into fall. Monty’s favorite salvia is Salvia guaranitica – a violet flower that contrasts vividly with the orange of the tithonia‘.

If you have patience when you have created your blooming borders, Monty advises: “They will look like nothing for a few weeks”, but soon “colorful”.

In one recently blog entry, Monty also shares his top tip for making annuals look more natural in the garden: “I like to use tender annuals both in pots and in borders, and with the latter I don’t use them as beds, but to enrich the entire carpet of the entire planting . So I put them in groups so that they create drifts and clumps rather than straight lines.

Monty Don's tender annual tips - pink cosmos

Pink cosmos

Monty’s top tip for growing tender annuals

Monty Don's annual tender tips - zinnias


You probably already feel like it has to do with patience. Monty urges gardeners to harden their tender annuals before planting them out – even if you bought your plant from a garden center.

  • See: Garden jobs for May – what to do, sow seeds and plant flowers

“Hardening is important and means much faster growth and longer lasting flowers – so if you buy one of these annuals at a garden center in the next few weeks, don’t plant them out right away; keep them in a sheltered spot around you for a week to get used to your yard as they have likely been kept sheltered for best retail display. ‘