The 16 Best Annual Flowers to Plant in Southern California Gardens

Written by Patrick MacFarland
Published: February 27, 2024
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Southern California is a magical place. It has sunny weather all year, you can go and hit the beach whenever you want, and if you’re in Los Angeles you may spot a few celebrities doing their thing. One of the things that Southern California is known for is that it is pretty much a desert. This dry region lacks rain. However, sometimes the region will get bouts of rain. When that happens, it’s time to plant flowers so you can see them grow and bloom in the spring. So let’s take a look at the 16 best annual flowers to plant in Southern California gardens.


Zinnias are native to the southwestern United States and South America, with the most abundant diversity in Mexico.

©Sutta kokfai/

Southern California is known for being hot and dry, and zinnias are amazing flowers that can be planted in the spring and have some beautiful blooms by summer. Zinnias (Zinnia) require the full sun to grow.


Cosmos are native to Mexico and can also be found in the United States and South America.

©Alex Manders/

You should plant cosmos (Cosmos) in early spring and expect a bloom by summer. Because these flowers are native to drier regions, they require the full sun to grow.


The flower is native to various places around the world, especially rocky areas.

©271 EAK MOTO/

Snapdragons (Antirrhinum) are best planted either in the autumn or early spring months. You should expect a bloom sometime later in the season, as well. Snapdragons require sunny conditions to grow.


The flower is native to various places around the world including North America and Europe.


Lobelias (Lobelia) are best planted in the spring and will bloom in the summer. They are vibrant plants that do great with full sun and sometimes even partial shade.


Marigolds are native to the Americas, specifically Mexico.


This beautiful orange flower called Marigold (Tagetes) is best planted in the spring and it’ll take a few months to bloom. These flowers require full sun to grow.


These flowers, which contain 400-600 species are native to Europe.

©Marina Bagrova/iStock via Getty Images

Pansies (Viola tricolor var. hortensis) are flowers that are best planted in the early spring for blooming soon thereafter or even late summer for blooms during autumn. These flowers require full sun, but also some shade.


These flowers are native to South America.


Petunias (Petunia) should be planted around late spring or early summer. They will bloom shortly thereafter. It’s also imperative that they get 5-6 hours of full sunlight for them to grow beautifully.


You can find nasturtiums all over Central and South America from Mexico down to Chile.

©Nadya So/iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum) should be planted around the springtime, between March and May. These beautiful orange flowers will then start to bloom around the late summer and continue to bloom until autumn. Nasturtiums require full sun to grow beautifully.


These beautiful flowers are native to Europe and Asia, however, they have been found in other places around the world.


For best results, you should plant dianthuses (Dianthus) in the spring for blooms in the summer. These gorgeous flowers do require full sun to bloom fantastically.


There are many species of salvia, and they come from different areas of the world.

©The Friends of Manito, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons - License

The best time to plant your salvia flower (Salvia) is in late May or even early June. This will give the flower the best possible outcome to bloom beautifully by summer. Like other flowers on this list, you need to have full sun for these flowers to bloom gorgeously.


These beautiful flowers are native to North America, as well as Central America.

©Davis Dorss/

Amaranths (Amaranthus) grow best when planted in late springs so they can bloom perfectly in the midst of summer. These flowers love the sun and heat, which means full sun is required for amaranths to grow.


These beautiful flowers are native to Australia.

©Kathy D. Reasor/

Strawflowers (Xerochrysum bracteatum) can be planted in the springtime for a bloom in early summer. That’s when they grow best because they’re used to warm weather. For strawflowers to grow beautifully, they will require full sun.


These flowers are native to North America.


Geraniums (Geranium) grow best with full sun so they can bloom fantastically. You should plant these flowers in the late spring for a summer bloom or even in the fall for a late autumn bloom.


You may think these beautiful flowers are native to France, but the reality is they are native to Mexico and North America.

©Alex Manders/

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) are called as such for a reason; they need the full soon to grow into beautiful sun-looking flowers. You should plant them around May so they bloom in mid-summer, like August.


These beautiful flowers are native to the Mediterranean region of Europe or Eastern



© Kolubai

Celosias (Celosia) are beautiful flowers that need the full sun to bloom gorgeously. You should plant them around early spring so they can bloom beautifully in early summer.


Caucasian pincushion flower (Lomelosia caucasica or Scabiosa caucasica) Pincushion-flower, Caucasian scabious, Garten-Skabiose or Kavkaska zvjezdoglavka

These flowers are native to various places in Europe and Asia.

©Mario Krpan/

Scabiosa (Scabiosa) needs the full sun so it can grow into the majestic flowers they are. You should plant the scabiosa in early spring so they can bloom around three months later.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kseniia Perminova/

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About the Author

Patrick Macfarland is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering travel, geography, and history. Patrick has been writing for more than 10 years. In the past, he has been a teacher and a political candidate. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science from SDSU and a Master's Degree in European Union Studies from CIFE. From San Diego, California, Patrick loves to travel and try new recipes to cook.

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