The difference between annuals and perennials

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The difference between annuals and perennials is given away in the name of each. An annual plant lives for one year and then dies. It has to be started again each year in spring. Perennials live year after year. Once the plant is in the ground, it will live for several years and possibly indefinitely. Both types of plants serve a purpose in the garden. Most gardeners expect to have annuals and perennials in their flower and plant beds.

Annuals tend to be less bushy and more showy.


While some annuals grow to more than 36 inches in height, most are confined to about 10 to 15 inches. The often branch out nicely and produce many flowers on each plant. Some annuals on flower once, but the vast majority keep adding new blooms from the time the plant reaches a mature size until they are killed off by the cold weather of fall and early winter.

Most annuals are fairly well known to everyone.


Marigolds, pansies,and impatiens are among some of the more well known varieties of flowering annuals. There are scores of varieties of annual flowering plants. Some people prefer to start these plants indoors and move them in pots to theoutdoors. All garden centers and many stores carry annuals that are already blooming and are ready for transplanting. There is little work to transplanting an annual because the varieties sold in stores and shops are quite hardy and a simple insertion into the soil of a fresh pot is all that is required.

Some annuals can be brought indoors to extend their life for a while longer.


Very few people bring their annuals inside in the winter because they do not often survive the winter. The lack of sunlight and the end of the plant’s life cycle conspire together to thwart the good intentions of the gardener who invites annuals indoors. The best plan is to snip the blooms in late fall and enjoy the final flowers of your annuals as bouquets in your home. Some of the better smelling flowers can be dried and used for potpourri later.

Perennials are built to stand up to the winter cold.


Perennials react to the changing seasons in different ways. Some go dormant like the trees and deciduous shrubs. However, some are evergreen. They do not flower in the winter, but they continue to grow and do not become dormant. Many bedding plants follow this latter trend. Even those that go dormant will reuse their stems in the spring. Unless you have to trim them back, leaving the stems in place will cause early leaves to pop out in the spring and may be necessary because flower buds are set in the fall before the plant goes dormant. It is best to learn all that is possible about caring for your annuals during the fall and winter.

Perennials are more likely to produce fewer flowers or only put on one good show per year.


Tulips are a good example of a perennial that flowers once and is finished for the year. Many varieties of hostas do this also. Hostas will tend to keep growing and making a great show with their leafy appearance. Some varieties have beautiful leaves that rival most flowers. Some perennials do flower all summer. The dianthus is a good example of a flowering perennial that keeps blooming throughout the growing season right up to the snow fall in some cases. They will go dormant for the rest of the winter.

Unlike annuals, perennials need some care for the winter.


It is always a good plan to cover perennials during their dormant stage to protect them from excessive freezing both above and below the ground. A good mulch serves this purpose quite well and helps to enrich the soil at the same time. Using a good water based fertilizer at the end of the season to nourish the perennial plants before the go dormant helps strengthen them for the winter and also puts food in the soil to aid them in early spring.


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