Easy to Grow Plants for Beginning Gardeners: Annuals Sweet Alyssum, Marigold, and Nicotiana for a Garden Hobby

Beginning gardeners will have success with easy to grow plants. First, choose annual plants with the same growing conditions. A garden hobby is more fun and less expensive when starting with plants that will last outside all summer.

Easy to Grow Annual Plants

Sweet alyssum, marigold, and Nicotiana are annual plants that grow in full sun and moist well-draining soil. They have fragrant flowers that attract butterflies all summer.

Grown together or individually in gardens beds or containers, these easy to grow plants will tolerate a similar environment. However, each plant has its own characteristics and qualities to consider.

Sweet Alyssum

Sweet alyssum is a low growing annual plant commonly thought of as an edging plant. It will spill over the hard edge of a container or sidewalk but is not a long trailer such as vinca vine in a hanging basket. Alyssum has the effect of softening sharp edges by growing in pockets of, for example, stonewalls. In a garden bed it will spread easily filling in empty spaces.

Sweet alyssum flowers in primarily cool or pastel colors. In 2017, sweet alyssum comes out in a new variety called ‘Allure Mix.’ The compact plant will have flowers that bloom in seven colors opening very early in the season. By contrast, ‘Royal Carpet’ has violet-purple colored flowers.


Botanically known as Tagets, but most often referred to as marigold, it is an upright plant that fills out as it grows. Marigolds come in several heights and flower sizes; compare the space they will be growing with the height range found on the plant tag.

Marigolds have serrate edged leaves that are fragrant; also the flowers attract hummingbirds. Marigold flower colors include yellow, gold, orange, red and cream. The Durango series has plants with flowers of multiple colors. A 2017 introduction by Thompson & Morgan Seeds is called ‘Durango Bee.’


Nicotiana is the botanical name for a plant sometimes referred to as flowering tobacco. The trumpet shaped flowers attract hummingbirds and, for this type of garden, will contrast nicely with marigolds. Nicotiana is heat and drought tolerant for short bursts of time but is not suitable for a xeriscape garden. Marigolds and Nicotiana benefit from deadheading to keep plants healthy and flowering throughout the season.

Popular flower colors include white, red and pink. The ‘Heaven Scent’ cultivar has a mix of pink, rose, white and red flower clusters each growing eight inches long. Nicotiana x sanderae ‘Lime Green’ has an unusual flower color; the plant grows 30 inches tall. The lime green colored flowers work well with the purple flowers of sweet alyssum.

Beginner Gardening Terminology

As a gardener’s hobby expands, learning and using gardener’s jargon will be helpful. Here is a short glossary of garden terms frequently used and found in this article:

  • Annual plant – a plant that sprouts, matures and dies in one year.
  • Full sun – seven to eight hours in direct outside sun.
  • Moist well-draining soil – describes soil that will allow a plant to soak up water before draining away and not dry out completely before the next watering.
  • Deadheading – removing dead or dying flowers off the plant.
  • Cultivar – a plant selected and given a name for particular qualities. The cultivar words are designated by single quotation marks.
  • Botanical name – a scientific name of a plant to distinguish it from any other.

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