Annuals vs Perennials: The Complete Guide

Annuals vs Perennials

Introduction

Gardening is a wonderful passion that could even be considered a lifestyle more than a hobby. Without the farmers and gardeners of the world, bees would not survive, crops would not grow, and consequently, humanity would cease to be.

Though it’s obvious that we need vegetables and grains to eat, flowers are just important. Those daffodils growing in your front yard are not just a pretty face for your landscaping. The can help feed pollinators and other insects that are vital to our being.

It’s common knowledge that bees and butterflies use the fragrant nectar from flowers to pollinate other vegetation which keeps the world alive and green. Not to mention the wonderful result of sweet, golden honey that bees create with it.

The green-thumbs of our world know how beneficial flowers are in protecting your garden. Different species ward off unwanted critters like fleas, whiteflies, and other harmful plant eaters. They also attract the good bugs, like ladybugs and lacewings that feast on the bad bugs.

Now that you know why it’s a good idea to have flowers in your garden let’s talk about the two different types: annuals and perennials.

Annuals

Simply put, annual flowers only grow for one year (or growing season) and then die off. They experience rapid flower and seed growth, and they release their seeds after flowering. This self-seeding process sometimes causes new plants to sprout the next year – but, more often than not, they don’t.

Annuals bloom sooner and for a longer period of time through the growing season. Their flowers are brightly colored and have showy displays. They are generally cheaper than perennials and require less maintenance.

Annuals vs Perennials

Popular types of annuals include: 

  • Petunias – These incredibly fast-growing flowers come in a large variety of types. They grow a few inches per day and come in every size and color imaginable.
  • Marigolds – Part of the sunflower family, this bright and sunny annual attracts butterflies and cheer to the garden. The most popular marigold colors are orange or yellow.
  • Pansies – Pansies are a cool season annual that range from pink, purple, orange, and red. These are another easy to grow annual.
  • Begonias – These are another flower with a large variety of colors and sizes. Different begonias can be anywhere from six inches to three feet tall. They most commonly have pink, white, and red flowers, but you can find begonias in a full spectrum of colors.

Perennials

Perennials are flower and plants that come back every growing season. Biannual flowers only last for two years. When taken care of properly, perennials will last longer. Certain types of perennials do require some maintenance, but they are generally very hardy low-care plants.

Annuals and perennials differ in how long they last and the way that they grow. Perennials have structures that allow them to use vegetative reproduction, instead of self-seeding, to live year after year. This means that instead of seeds, they have special stems, bulbs, and crowns that can survive dormant periods during cold, dry weather.

Annuals vs Perennials

Popular types of perennials include: 

  • Coneflowers – As their name states, coneflowers are cone-shaped. They love lots of sunlight and usually are purple, white, and magenta in color. They are a wildflower, native to prairie lands.
  • Yarrow – This is a tough plant that is low-maintenance. They grow in flat-topped clusters and come in a variety of colors. Yarrow grows low to the ground and blooms from late spring to early fall.
  • Chrysanthemums – Commonly known as mums, chrysanthemums are a cool-season flower that blooms in the fall. They are the perfect harvest time color, growing in shades of orange, purple, red, and white.
  • Hosta – These are a tropical looking plant that grows in the shade. They are mostly made up of green leaves, but they bloom spikey flowers in pink, light purple, and white. Hosta flowers are a favorite of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Affordability

Most garden centers sell annuals in packs, while perennials are sold individually. This is because annuals only last for one growing season, making them more affordable to purchase in bulk. Perennials are usually higher priced, but it’s a better value in the long run because they last for years when cared for properly.

Deciding Which to Buy

Essentially, a pack of six annuals can be a better deal, but it really depends on what type of flower you are looking for. There is an incredibly diverse selection to choose from in both the annual and the perennial family.

To decide what kind of flowers are best for your garden, ask yourself why you are looking to purchase them. Is it for aesthetics and landscaping, or are you looking for a more specific benefit like keeping pests out of the garden? You also need to determine what your growing zone is and shop for flowers that do well in your climate and soil type. Once you decide these factors, research online or ask a garden center expert to find out which flowers are right for you.