Do you know the difference between annual and perennial plants? I’ll share the strengths that each plant type has and how each can benefit your gorgeous garden.
Many gardeners grow both annual and perennial plants, giving a garden the best of worlds.
In this post, I will explain…
- the differences between an annual and perennial plant.
- benefits and what to love about annuals and perennials.
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I’m a self-taught hobby gardener, not a Master Gardener. Everything I share with you on my blog is my personal opinion and things that worked for me along the way.
What is an Annual?
An annual flower has only a single growing season but has a very long blooming time.
Many annuals will increase their flower production and continue blooming until the first frost of the season when deadheaded. Deadheading, the process of removing spent flowers, will prevent seed formation.
If you want a garden full of blooms all season long, annuals are a great option. They basically put all of their energy into developing flowers.
Annual plants can be sown from seed or purchased as plants for a blooming head start.
What to Love About an Annual Plant
- Adds a burst of bright color to containers and garden beds when many perennials haven’t bloomed yet.
- Perfect for temporarily filling in bare spots in established gardens or refreshing containers through the season.
- Fills in gaps when early-season vegetable crops are harvested.
- Attracts pollinators to increase edible crop production.
- Matures faster than perennials and biennials and can bloom until the first frost of the season.
- They’ll often bloom all summer long, until the first frost, especially if you practice “deadheading”.
Three Categories of Annuals
HARDY OR COOL-SEASON ANNUALS
These annuals thrive in the cool to moderate temperatures of early spring and fall and can tolerate exposure to light frost without being protected.
TENDER OR WARM-SEASON ANNUALS
These annuals, native to tropical or subtropical climates, need heat to grow and thrive. Wait to plant in containers or garden beds until late spring to guarantee their survival.
These are the most common types of annuals and tolerate a wide range of temperatures, including cooler weather near the beginning or the end of the gardening season.
What is a Perennial?
Perennial plants are typically cold-hardy plants that can live for three or more growing seasons, returning each spring.
These plants generally bloom for a shorter period of time than annuals, and each variety has its own blooming season.
Many perennials are low-maintenance plants but some will benefit from division every few years which will extend the life of the plant.
In some growing zones, one plant might be a perennial but only grow as an annual in other growing zones.
Most perennials don’t grow as well from seeds as annuals do, so buying potted plants is usually a better bet, which costs more than seeds.
What to Love About Perennials?
- Although perennials tend to cost more than annuals initially, they are a good long-term investment because they return year after year.
- Perennials that don’t have a long life span can be divided or reseeded so you never really have to say goodbye.
- Most perennials require less water once established, perfect for drought-prone areas.
- Planting perennials that are native to your area creates the perfect habitat for pollinators and local wildlife.
Plants such as foxglove, hollyhock, and dianthus are actually biennials, not perennials.
These plants take two years to complete their growth cycle before dying and don’t bloom until their second year.
Mixing Annuals and Perennials in Your Garden
Mixing annuals and perennials in the garden combine the best of both worlds for a bountiful tapestry of color, shape, and form. To avoid empty spaces lacking color before perennials bloom or as their color wanes, add annuals. You also can place annuals near a prized perennial for contrasting or complementary color.
Many gardeners choose to fill containers with annuals each year and place them around the garden or home to balance perennial plant color. Having a garden design with a mixture of annuals and perennials adds interest through texture, form, and color.
There are endless pleasing combinations of annuals and perennials that can delight a gardener all through the growing season. Keep in mind that it helps to plant perennials and annuals with similar light and water needs together so both will be healthy and produce their dazzling best.
I hope you can see how both annual and perennial plants can benefit your garden. Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,