Understanding Differences Between Perennials and Annuals

You don’t have to be a landscape expert to know the difference between perennials and annuals. Most people know the basics: annuals live and die in one season, and perennials come back. At Piedmont Landscape Management, our experts can recommend the perfect mix of annuals and perennials to keep color in your yard all year round. Keep reading to find out more about these plants.

All about annuals

Most annuals germinate, flower, set seed, and die all in one season. Because their goal is simply to reproduce, most annuals will flower like crazy until this mission is accomplished. If you prevent seed formation – mostly by deadheading - many annuals will continue to bloom profusely until the first frost. There are a few exceptions, but you'll have to replant most annuals the next spring to get a repeat performance.

Annuals are usually subdivided into three groups:

  • Hardy (cool season) annuals thrive in the cool to moderate temperatures of early springand fall and can tolerate light frost. Includes pansy, snap dragons and mustards.
  • Tender (warm season) annuals are native to tropical or subtropical climates and requireheat to grow and thrive. Wait until late spring to add these plants. Includes marigolds, begonias, vinca and petunias.
  • Half-hardy annuals are most common. They tolerate a range of temperatures, including cooler weather near the beginning or end of the gardening season. Includes forget-me-not and larkspur.

Growing annuals lets you experiment with new plants and color schemes without making a long-term commitment. They are perfect for temporarily filling in bare spots in established gardens or for refreshing containers throughout the season.

Annuals mature faster than perennials and often bloom from planting time until frost, and in some cases beyond.

If you want a lot of blooms, annuals are the answer. They put all of their energy into developing flowers.

Now for the perennials

Perennials are mostly cold-hardy plants that will return in the spring. They bloom for only one season each year. When grown in favorable conditions, perennials often live a long time. As far as care and maintenance, perennials vary greatly. Some might need to be pruned and divided regularly, but others almost thrive on neglect.

Perennials tend to cost more, but they return year after year. Even perennials that don’t have a long life span can often be propagated to get more.

Most perennials require less water once they are established, which is good for people who garden in drought-prone areas and want to reduce their water consumption. Planting perennials that are native to your region creates a welcome habitat for pollinators and local wildlife.

If you’re not sure whether annuals or perennials are better choices for your landscape, just ask the experts at Piedmont Landscape Management.