The Differences Between Annual & Perennial Plants

Perennial and annual plants fill different roles in the garden. Perennials return each year, and annuals have a one-season life cycle. In most gardens, combining a mix of perennials with annuals provides the optimum bloom time with the least amount of repetitive purchasing and planting.

Initial Cost vs. Annual Cost

Perennials are plants that return year after year in your garden. Many multiply and can be divided every few years, providing plants for other areas or to share with friends. Perennials generally cost more than annuals, so you will have a greater initial expense. Annuals cost less per plant but have to be repurchased and planted each year, giving you an annual expense versus a one-time investment. Although some annuals do reseed on their own, and it is also possible to take cuttings from annuals in the fall and overwinter them indoors to eliminate having to repurchase them each year, for the most part, plan to repurchase annuals each year.

Permanent vs. Temporary

Perennials can help provide a structure and stability to your garden. You know that you can count on reliably having plants of a specific size and blooms at a certain time. You can also integrate evergreen perennials to provide winter interest for your garden. With annuals, however, you have the opportunity to reinvent your garden on a yearly basis, choosing new color schemes and different types of plants.

Limited Bloom vs. Continuous Bloom

Most perennials are in bloom for only a limited time each year, and then return the next year to bloom again. Annuals bloom non-stop for the growing season, giving you continuous blooms from spring to fall. At the end of the season, annuals complete their life cycle by setting seed and dying. By combining a variety of perennials with annuals, you can have blooms all season yet have a number of plants that return reliably each year. Select perennials that bloom at varying times, and either intersperse them with annuals or dedicate a certain planting area only for annuals.

Popular Perennials and Annuals

Popular sun perennials include cone flowers, rudbeckias, salvias, daisies, day lilies, chrysanthemums and iris. Popular shade perennials include hostas, ferns, hydrangeas, toad lilies and azaleas. All of these have many varieties, colors and bloom periods, providing you with an infinite number of possible combinations for your yard. Popular sun annuals include petunias, zinnias, geraniums, angelonia, sunflowers and pansies. Popular shade annuals include impatiens, torenias, caladiums and coleus.

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