Winter and Spring Annual Flowers for Arizona's Intermediate to High Deserts

Flowers blooming in winter brighten barren gardens with delightful color and fragrant delights.  These plants withstand some frost and bloom through the winter and spring. Plant these flowers in the early or mid-fall.  Check garden centers and nurseries for transplants starting in mid-September.  Many of these flowers can be grown from seed, too.  Keep seeds or new transplants moist but not soggy until they are established.  Use frost cloth or plastic to protect plants from unusually cold temperatures during the winter, if necessary. Plant some flowers for fall and winter color this year.

Pansy and Viola

Pansy Flower

Pansy and Viola - Color All Winter

Pansies and violas bloom profusely during cool weather.  Pansies have larger (but fewer) flowers while violas smother themselves with smaller flowers.  Flower color ranges from blue, purple and lavender shades, to warm yellow, orange, and red.  Pansies reach 6 to 12 inches tall and wide.  Plant pansies from six-packs or 4 inch pots in from October to February. Pansies keep blooming through May.


Stock Blooms Early in the Spring and has Fragrant Flowers

Stock (Matthiola incana)

Plant Stocks for their intoxicating fragrance.  The plants are upright and tidy and bear tall spikes of cool pastel flowers that are good for cutting.  Stocks grow between 12 and 24 inches tall and work well in garden beds and containers.  Space plants 8 inches apart.

Iceland Poppy

Iceland Poppies brighten the last days of winter and all of spring with their beautiful blossoms.

Iceland Poppy (Papavar nudicale)

Iceland poppies decorate the winter and spring with cheery flowers in bright colors. Long stems topped with one delicate flower. The ruffled flower petals resemble crêpe paper.  Plant from seed or transplants from October to December. Iceland poppies are short-lived annuals in the desert. Iceland poppies grow 12 to 18 inches tall. Shirley Poppy (Papaver rhoes) is a related species with red flowers.

Sweet William

Sweet William flowers

Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)

Flowers of Sweet Williams bloom combine red, white, and pink. Plant Sweet William in full sun or in a spot with afternoon shade.  Space Sweet William plants 8 to 12 inches apart.  Mature plants grow to 18 inches tall. Sweet William has a mild scent but is usually grown for its tidy appearance and cool-season blossoms. Deadhead the plants regularly or shear them back when flowering slows down.

Dusty Miller

Image of Dusty Miller Foliage

Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)

Dusty Miller brings attractive silver foliage to the cool-season flower garden in Arizona.  The silvery foliage looks right at home with desert plants or lush flower beds.  Plant in the fall from transplants and space plants 8 to 12 inches apart.  Cut the yellow flowers off if they detract from the foliage.


Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) flowers bloom

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

Cornflower is a hardy cool-season annual that blooms before the heat of summer. Blue, pink, or white flowers bloom on 24 inch tall stems.  Cornflower makes a good cut flower. Grow from seed planted in October or November or plant from transplants.  Space plants 12 inches apart. Cornflowers often self-sow.  Easy to grow and tolerates alkaline desert soils.


Candytuft (Iberis umbellata)

Candytuft (Iberis umbellata)

Use Candytuft as a low-growing edging plant mixed with other cool-season flowers.  Flowers boom in shades of white and pink.  Plant from seed or transplants in the early fall.

Calandula or Pot Marigold

Calandula or Pot Marigold (Calandula officinalis)
Credit: Carl Lewis

Calandula or Pot Marigold (Calandula officinalis)

Calendula have sunny yellow or orange flowers and bloom best in the late winter and early spring. Cut Calendulas for cut flowers for an early spring bouquet.  Calendula grow to 15 inches tall and spread 8 to 12 inches wide.  Plant Calendula from seed in October or plant from six-packs or 4 inch pots from October to December.  Protect Calendulas from hard frosts with frost cloth or floating row covers.



Snap Dragon (Antirrhinum majus)

Snap dragons are best known for their dragon-faced flowers that come in a range of colors. Use tall snap dragons for cut flowers and use smaller varieties for flower beds or edging.  Plant snap dragons from six-packs or 4 inch pots between October and February. Flowers continue to bloom through May.  They also make great plants for containers and window boxes.

Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus)

Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odoratus)

Sweet Peas are annual vines that produce lots of brightly colored, fragrant blooms.  Cut Sweet Pea flowers for use in bouquets. Plant Sweat Peas in early to mid-October for spring bloom. Some varieties grow to 6 feet or more while others form compact mounds. Sweet Peas bloom in early and mid-spring in Arizona until killed by summer heat.