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  • Writer's pictureAlex Frie

What's the Difference Between Annuals and Perennials?


A flower bed with annuals and perennials


It’s the lifelong question: what is the difference between annual flowers and perennial flowers? And what kind of flower is each? 


Chances are, almost every garden has a little bit of both. Both annuals and perennials have a lot to offer in terms of color, variety, and general aesthetic. But what is the difference between annuals vs. perennials, and which kind should you plant? 


The short and easy answer is that perennials are typically planted once and can last a few years without needing to be replanted, while annuals need to be planted, well, annually. Both can look stunning in just about any garden, but the trick is to know when to plant each and how to care for them, since they require different approaches to keep your home garden colorful and smelling great. 


Annuals


Annual flowers have short lifespans, typically lasting just one planting season. While you have to plant annuals every year, some may actually set their own seed and be planted and ready to go the next spring. 


The pros of annuals vs. perennials include having a longer blooming period; compared to perennials, most annuals will show their full colors and bloom most of the season, giving your garden a beautiful, luscious look all summer and into the fall. (Extra tip: deadheading, or trimming your annuals throughout the season, will encourage faster, more aggressive growth from the plant and give you bigger bursts of color, although it reduces the likelihood of having the seeds self-set.)


The cons include needing to replant them every year, and they generally require a bit more care (pruning, watering, timing of the planting), than their perennial counterparts. 


Examples of annual flowers include:


  • Petunias

  • Zinnias

  • Marigolds

  • Impatiens

  • Geraniums

  • Sunflowers


Perennials


In general, the lifespan of perennials is much longer than annuals, where the flower above the ground will die off every year, but the roots and core of the plant will go dormant and re-bloom the following season. 


The pros of perennials are obvious: generally less maintenance, and potential cost-savings by not having to buy new seeds every year. But while their lifespan is long, their blooming periods are typically much shorter than annuals. They will bloom for a short period of time during the season and then will go dormant, meaning you want to have a variety in your garden so that you aren’t suddenly left with a dirt patch in your front yard!


Examples of perennial flowers include:

  • Milkweed

  • Daylilies

  • Hostas

  • Hibiscus


Biennials


There is actually a lesser-known third type of plant that you can incorporate into your garden this year! Biennials have a two-year lifespan, where the first year focuses on growing roots and resulting in small leaves or potentially flowerless stems. The second year is the blooming year for biennials, giving you a bit of delayed gratification. 


What’s Right for My Garden? Annuals vs. Perennials


The short answer? It depends. 


Most gardens tend to have a healthy mix of both annuals and perennials. Typically, perennials lay the foundation of the garden, acting as the anchors that you can build the rest of your landscape around. Perennials typically are a bit bigger and bulkier than annuals, so they are great to start with and work around. 


Then, you can consider what annuals you want to incorporate. What colors do you want to feature? What style or vibe are you looking to create in your outdoor haven? Do you want to create a native landscape for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators? How does your soil impact your garden's growth?


Depending on your goals for your garden, you may choose a few different types of annuals vs. perennials. The nice thing about both is that there are a lot of varieties that come in different styles, colors, shapes, and sizes. Installing both annuals and perennials can transform your curb appeal and make your yard into an outdoor escape. Incorporating these flowers into larger landscaping projects or gardening projects such as fairy gardens can be a fun way to bring your garden to life. 


Looking for some inspiration, or have ideas for your next big garden or landscaping project? SunKissed Landscapes can help transform your yard with your choice of annuals, perennials, and other softscapes. Our team knows the best time to plant each, and we can offer suggestions for your space! 


Get in touch with Alex and Caine for a free quote, and start your next landscaping project this summer. 


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