What is the Difference Between Annuals and Perennials?

What is the difference between annuals and perennials

Every spring, garden centers and nurseries are filled with a dizzying array of blooming plants, each one clearly marked either annual or perennial. This information is critical because annuals and perennials have very different habits. 

Exactly what is the difference between annuals and perennials, and which one should you choose? Here is a quick rundown on the primary qualities of each.

Annuals and Perennials: The Lifespan


An annual plant lives its entire lifespan in a single growing season. It germinates, sprouts, blooms, and produces seeds before it dies in autumn. 

Examples of annuals include petunias, zinnias, lobelia, snapdragon, sunflower, impatiens, cosmos, and most vegetables, such as broccoli, beans, carrots, corn, and cabbage.  

On the other hand, perennials return every spring. They live at least three growing seasons, and sometimes much longer. 

Examples of popular perennials include roses, mums, daylilies, black-eyed susans, clematis, hydrangea and rhododendron. Bulbs such as tulips and daffodils are long-lasting perennials. 

Edible perennials include asparagus, rhubarb, blueberries, strawberries, rosemary and horseradish.

Annuals and Perennials: What are the Benefits?


Most gardeners like to plant a variety of both annuals and perennials, primarily due to the differences in their growing seasons.

Annuals are showy plants that provide a quick burst of color, usually blooming from spring until the first hard frost in autumn with very little attention. Annuals are useful in beds, but they are especially valuable in containers. 

Because they are short-lived, annuals must be replanted every year. However, some act much like perennials, dropping seeds in late summer and returning for another round of blooms every spring. 

Perennials are dependable plants that bloom every spring. However, the blooming period is short, usually lasting only one to four weeks. Perennials such as hostas and ferns are valued for their foliage.

Some perennial plants are considered to be frost- tender perennials, which means they are perennial only in warmer climates. In cooler climates, tender perennials are grown as annuals. Examples include fuchsia and tuberous begonias.



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