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Do You Need Annuals
or Perennials for your Garden
|Do I Need Annual
or Perennial Plants?
The crocus delights us in early spring as it dares to peek through the snow
and lift its face to the sun. Soon after follow tulips,
narcissus, iris, lilacs… all perennials that welcome spring with
vibrant color and fragrance. Perennial plants bloom at different
times during the growing season and delight you with variety in
color and size from earliest spring to late autumn. However,
many perennials like those mentioned, bloom only for a few short
weeks and then disappear from the landscape until the following
Annual plants provide a garden with continuous bloom and color throughout
the summer. The “mission” of an annual is to produce seed. Seeds
sprout, foliage grows, flowers bloom and then the plant goes to
seed. When the annual completes its mission, the entire plant—
flower, foliage, and root system —dies.
Some annuals have a very short life span and depending upon when they are
planted, may reseed and go through two or more growing cycles
per season. Other annual plants grow continuously from spring
planting until the first frost of autumn.
Since annual plants die completely at season end, they need to be replaced
yearly. Depending on the cultivar, annual seeds can be planted
directly into a garden or sprouted indoors for transplanting
when weather conditions and soil temperatures are right for
Annual transplants are also available each spring at gardening centers and
many are sold in inexpensive flats that contain four or more
plants. Annual plants can often be closely grouped to fill in
barren areas of your landscape whereas perennials often need
space to multiply and/or to grow to maturity.
Although some perennial plants are more expensive to purchase than annuals,
in the long run you may find them less expensive since they last
for longer than a single growing season. You can also purchase
groups of assorted perennial bulbs in very inexpensive packs.
Perennial foliage and flowers also die at the end of a growing season, but
contrary to annuals, the root systems of perennial plants live
over winter and resprout with new growth each spring.
Another advantage of perennial plants is that although flowers and foliage
die back, the branches of perennial shrubs offer some visual
appeal to a winter landscape.
Perennial plants may take more than one season to reach full maturity.
Because perennials propagate from root structures, many types of
perennials also need to be divided after three or four seasons
to reduce crowding and maintain their vigor.
Although all perennial plants are able to resprout for multiple seasons,
perennials are divided into to categories of hardy perennials or
tender perennials according to the temperature zone in which
they are grown.
Hardy perennials are those that can be left in the ground to return the
following season. Except for occasional division and/or pruning,
hardy perennial plants need little care once established.
Bulbs like tulips and daffodils are among the easiest plants to grow and
excellent choices for a beginning gardener. Tender perennials
need your help to survive the winter. Some can over winter when
covered with a layer of mulch or otherwise protected from the
elements with gardening appurtenances such as rose cones. Some
tender perennials need to be lifted and stored indoors over
So the question remains, do you need annual plants or perennials? Each type
of plant is ripe with “pros” and short on “cons” if you love
flowers. The best solution is to experiment by planting some of
each to get a summer full of color, variety, and pure gardening
About the author:
Linda is leading author of Gardening Guides.com You place for
information on gardening topics and free e-books