The Five Best Annual Flowers For Zone 8

Written by Peralee Knight
Updated: September 30, 2022
© iStock.com/Katie Simmons
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Gardening is a wonderful hobby, but it can be tricky to pick out plants and flowers that will thrive where you live. This is especially important when selecting annuals for your garden in Zone 8, where the tradeoff for a long growing season is unpredictable weather. The best overall annuals for Zone 8 are butterfly milkweed, sunflowers, ornamental peppers, cosmos, and begonias. Each of these plants is simple to grow, tolerant, and a gorgeous addition to your garden for different reasons. To show off these annuals to their full potential, we have to learn more about them!

What Are Plant Zones?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed and maintains the Plant Hardiness Map. This map is broken down into 13 Zones to help you pick plants that will thrive in your area. Zones are blocked out according to the lowest average winter temperatures in those areas, much like a weather map. Each zone is also classified as northern or southern as well. For example, Zone 8a indicates the area is in the north and Zone 8b indicates the south.

Zone 8 is known for its long growing season, cold winters, hot summers, and unpredictable weather. It experiences a ton of rainfall variation as well, and both flooding and droughts are common.

What Is An Annual Plant?

There are two basic types of plants or flowers commonly grown in a garden, annuals, and perennials. An annual plant or flower blooms for one growing season. Perennials are plants that continue to come back during their growing season year after year. That means that any annual plants or flowers placed in your garden will need to be replaced every year. In some cases, plants may be classified as perennial but are more popularly used as annual. Additionally, some plants and flowers are considered annuals in some Zones but may be classified as perennial in warmer Zones.

Best Zone 8 Annual For Gardening Beginners: Cosmos

For the gardener novice, no flower is easier to plant and maintain than the cosmos. Classified as a half-hardy annual for Zone 8, cosmos come in a staggering variety of colors and types. Cosmos come in three main types, chocolate cosmos (Cosmos astrosanguineus), Mexican Asters (Cosmos bipinnatus), and Sulphur Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureous).

Generally, the cosmos is identified by its thin, delicate stems, small leaves, and wide blooms. Cosmos is a versatile, low-maintenance, low-pest option that can be placed nearly everywhere in the garden.

For the gardener novice, no flower is easier to plant and maintain than the cosmos.

©iStock.com/Passakorn_14

Best Zone 8 Annual For Full Sun: Sunflower

When the conversation turns to sun-loving annual blooms, the showstopper in Zone 8 is the sunflower! The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a sun-loving annual that can reach staggering heights. This is a native plant in Zone 8, and sizes range anywhere from 1 ½ to an impressive 8 feet tall!

Sunflowers are members of the Aster Family, and both ornamental and food-grade varieties can be grown in a home garden. As the name suggests, this annual requires full sun and well-drained soil to thrive. Sunflowers are easily identified by their wide hairy branches, dark glossy leaves, and signature bright yellow open blooms.

Sunflowers at Sunset
The common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is a sun-loving annual that can reach staggering heights.

©iStock.com/Katie Simmons

Best Zone 8 Annual For Color Variety: Begonia

Begonias are a hugely popular annual flower in Zone 8, with over 1,500 species to choose from. This is a shade-loving flower that blooms constantly throughout the zones long growing season but should be planted well after the last frost. Most begonia species are around 12-14 inches high, with blooms that range from reds and pinks to yellow and white. This plant prefers well-drained soil to prevent root rot and grows beautifully in both beds and containers.

Red begonia prefers well-drained soil to prevent root rot and grows beautifully in both beds and containers.

©iStock.com/deaw59

Best Zone 8 Annual For Attracting Pollinators: Butterfly Milkweed

Milkweed is a native plant throughout Zone 8, meaning that the ideal conditions for many ornamental varieties are a given. While it is classified as a perennial, it is often used as an annual plant like many other tuberous plant types. Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) grows between 1-2 feet high with unique clusters of red or orange flowers and bushy greenery. This plant prefers full sun and well-drained soil, which makes it a great drought-resistant plant for summer.

Additionally, milkweed is highly beneficial to pollinators, including the honeybee, one of the most important insects in the world. Other pollinators that come running when you plant this annual are hummingbirds, other bee species, and of course, butterflies!

butterfly weed plant
Milkweed is highly beneficial to pollinators, including the honeybee, one of the most important insects in the world.

©iStock.com/McKinneMike

Best Zone 8 Annual For A Unique Addition: Ornamental Pepper

Peppers might not come to your mind when thinking about ornamental plants, but don’t discount them! Ornamental pepper plants bring both beautiful glossy leaves and bright red and yellow pops of color to an ornamental bed or container. In zone 8, ornamental peppers thrive on the extended growing season and full sun throughout the summer months. The peppers are also edible, though some may consider them too spicy. This has the added benefit of keeping common pests, such as rabbits and deer, out of your flowerbeds naturally!

Ornamental pepper plant
Ornamental pepper plants bring both beautiful glossy leaves and bright red and yellow pops of color to an ornamental bed or container.

©Wuttichok Panichiwarapun/Shutterstock.com

Up Next

If you would like to learn more about plants and gardening, check out some of the articles listed below!


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Sunflowers at Sunset
Sunflowers come in a wide variety of colors and sizes.
© iStock.com/Katie Simmons

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FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What are planting zones?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed and maintains the Plant Hardiness Map. This map is broken down into 13 Zones to help you pick plants that will thrive in your area. Zones are blocked out according to the lowest average winter temperatures in those areas, much like a weather map.

What annuals are most popular in Zone 8?

Cosmos, begonias, sunflowers, milkweed and ornamental pepper annual plants are common and popular in zone 8.

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