What's the Difference Between Annual and Perennial Plants?
When you're choosing which types of plants you want in your yard, the very first decision you have to make is whether you want annuals, perennials or a combination of the two. What's the difference you ask? Annuals have to be planted every year, or annually. Perennials come up year after year after year, or perennially.
Examples of annuals include petunias, pansies and impatiens. At garden stores, you can buy large trays of annuals, which are called flats. Flats contain 48 young blossoming plants, and they typically cost about $15. Garden stores usually place these toward the front of their displays in spring because they're bursting with color. They're also irresistible to avid gardeners who can't wait to get their hands in the dirt. They're usually fairly inexpensive--but they must be purchased and planted every single spring.
Perennials are a great choice for people who don't have a burning desire to dig in the dirt. You plant them once, and you're done. Unless, of course, they die, in which case you have to replace them. Examples of perennials include daisies, butterfly bushes and hostas. Perennials are more expensive than annuals. They are sold individually, and cost anywhere from $6 to $30 depending on whether it's a flower, bush or tree.
Certain types of perennials are only available as bulbs. They must be planted in the fall so that they will bloom in the spring. Examples include tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, irises and daffodils.
You can also purchase annuals and perennials as seeds--but that's not really recommended if you're not an avid gardener. It's much cheaper to purchase seed packets, which usually cost $2 or less for about 50 seeds--but it involves much more effort to grow the plants. That's because you have to dig the soil to just the right depth, space the plants appropriately, provide consistent and ample watering until the plants are established, and possibly thin them once they're established. You also have to beware of squirrels and chipmunks digging up the seeds and ruining all your effort. Seeds are best left to very hardy plants such as sunflowers, which also provide a fun and easy gardening project for children. It's much, much easier to buy plants that are already well-established.
If you want a low-maintenance but attractive yard, perennials are definitely the way to go. Here are some perennials that are easy to grow, hardy and proliferate easily:
You will want to avoid high-maintenance perennials that require a lot of pruning, fertilizing and thinning. Such high maintenance varieties include:
What many people do is fill their landscape primarily with perennials, then add splashes of color here and there with annuals. Annuals can also be purchased in hanging planters or be planted in pots to perk up a porch or deck.