If you’re planting a garden or shopping for plants at a nursery, you’ve probably noticed that some plants are called “annuals,” and others are called “perennials.” These two terms are some of the most common ways to categorize garden plants. But what do these terms mean, and what is the difference between an annual and a perennial plant?
There are a lot of nuances to these definitions, but at its most basic, annual plants have a lifespan of only one growing season and will die off completely in the frost. In contrast, perennial plants will die back in the frost but return in early spring for multiple growing seasons.
Here is everything you need to know about annual and perennial plants and their differences.
Which is Better: Annuals or Perennials?
No type of plant is necessarily better than the other — it all depends on your garden and your goals. Many gardeners like to plant a combination of annuals and perennials in their flower beds for the best variety.
Each plant is different, but annuals tend to have big, showy blooms that last for a long flowering season. You can even extend the bloom cycle of annual plants by deadheading (pruning) old blooms to encourage new growth throughout the season. Adding a lot of annuals to your garden can make a big statement and keep things fresh every year. However, they can be a lot of work and need water to maintain their large blooms.
Perennials tend to have a shorter blooming season, but they make up for their shorter bloom time by returning the following spring. They tend to require less water than annuals, so they can be better suited for dry climates or gardeners who don’t have a lot of time to commit to watering. Planting many perennials can also be a great way to create a stable habitat for pollinators like bees.
Which Cost More: Annuals or Perennials?
Perennials tend to cost more than annuals initially. They can be a bit of an investment. However, the cost of perennials can even out over their lifespan as they regrow year after year. Annuals tend to be less expensive, but the costs can add up if you buy new plants each spring.
If you’re looking to save money, many annuals grow well from seed, so that you can purchase a seed packet instead of a mature plant. Some annuals can also self-seed, spreading seeds that will turn into plants the following season. However, you never know exactly how many plants will get seeded or where these plants will turn up, so it is not a guarantee.
Tips for Planting Annuals and Perennials
Annuals and perennials can complement each other well, so planting a combination in your garden is recommended. Planting a mix of annuals and perennials can also help make your job much easier and more enjoyable. Having a solid foundation of perennials in your garden can give you something to rely on and look forward to year after year while being able to plant new annuals each year can keep things fresh and exciting.
No matter what you decide to plant, a good tip is to be patient and have fun! New perennial plants can take a couple of flowering seasons before they get established and put out beautiful blooms all season, and it might take you a few tries to get your annual plants just right.
Ensure your flower beds get the right amount of sun and water, and let them all get established. Weed your flower beds regularly and deadhead and prune any plants as necessary. The maintenance and care will pay off when the neighbors start to compliment you on your beautiful flower garden!
Is it Better to Plant Annuals for Trial and Error?
Trial and error gardening can be a great way to learn as a new gardener. It can also be a great way to understand your new flower bed if you’ve recently moved locations or climates. Trial and error gardening can help you understand what types of plants do best in your area to optimize your flower bed.
While planting annuals can be a lower risk for trial and error, it can be hard to get much information since they only last one season. It can also be challenging to get meaningful information from annuals because they are often transplanted to your garden bed as mature plants after being cultivated at a nursery. Alternatively, perennials are more of an investment, but you can monitor how well they perform yearly. You can also get more meaningful information from perennials because they are typically raised in your garden bed for their entire life cycle.
Types of Annual Flowers
There are many types of annual flowers. Some of the most popular annual flowers include:
Types of Perennial Flowers
There are many types of perennial flowers. Some of the most popular perennial flowers include:
- Black-Eyed Susans
Conclusion: What is the Difference Between Annual and Perennial Plants?
At its simplest, annual plants last for one season, whereas perennial plants last for many seasons. Annual plants tend to have big, bold flowers with long blooming seasons, while perennials can be more subtle and low-maintenance flowering plants.
Regardless of their differences, annual and perennial plants can produce beautiful flowers and bring joy to any garden. Many gardeners tend to plant a strategic combination of annual and perennial plants in their flower beds to make the best of both worlds, as they can complement each other very well!