What’s the difference between annuals and perennials? If you’re a novice gardener, you’ve probably asked yourself that question when picking out flowers at your local garden store.

Annual and perennial are classifications based on the lifespan and bloom cycle of a particular flower. It’s something that gardeners need to pay particular attention to so they can make sure their blooms thrive.

Annuals and perennials bloom at different times and need to be maintained differently, so be sure you know what type of flower you’re planting before putting it in the ground (or flowerbed, or pot).

What kind of plants should you choose? We’re here to help you decide. Dig in to discover everything you ever wanted to know about annuals and perennials.

Annuals and perennials: What’s the difference?

The biggest difference is the length of time these two types of flowers live: Annuals last only one year and perennials come back every year.

Annuals produce constant color, while the blooming period for perennials is short (just six to eight weeks). And maintaining annuals is far less demanding than perennials, which require more work and are better prospect for active gardeners.

Annuals offer color

Annuals expend all of their energy in a single year, which gives them brighter colors, says Mark Ruibal of Ruibal’s Plants of Texas. But this also means they have a shorter lifespan. However, some annuals planted in the spring will make it all the way through the summer—it just depends on the type of flower.

While annuals look great in just about any garden on your property, a popular place to plant them is near the front porch, where their bright colors create curb appeal. Plus, you can change your color scheme once a year!

Not sure which annuals to plant? Our experts recommend starting with these:

  • Angelonia
  • Begonias
  • Caladium
  • Calibrachoa
  • Coleus
  • Dragon wing begonia
  • Impatiens
  • Marigolds
  • Petunia
  • Torenia
  • Vinca

Note: Depending on your location, some of these annuals might be considered perennials. So, it’s best to read the plant’s tag and talk to your garden center expert about which blooms will thrive in your climate.

Perennials come back each year

Perennials will bloom in their peak season and then go back to green. You can divide your perennials into three seasons of blooms, Ruibal says—spring, summer, and fall—so you always have a portion of the perennials in peak form. That also means you’ll have a garden that encourages pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds all year round.

Perennials are a better choice if you have the time and patience to maintain them. They have spreading roots that usually require more water and fertilization than annuals, and regular pruning is also a must. They can also get damaged during an unusually wet winter, so you need to make sure there’s good drainage; otherwise, the flowers’ roots will rot.

“That’s the biggest problem for why mums don’t come back,” says Rick Effinger of Effinger Garden Center in Belleville, IL.

Here are some perennial suggestions:

  • Astilbe
  • Butterfly weed
  • Coneflower
  • Coreopsis
  • Daylily
  • Dianthus
  • Fern
  • Hardy geranium
  • Hardy hibiscus
  • Heuchera
  • Hosta
  • Milkweed
  • Mum
  • Nepeta
  • Sedum
  • Shasta daisy

Tips for planting

Before adding plants to your garden, check the plant’s tag for information about sunlight and height. Figure out how much light your yard gets (specifically the area you want to plant in) and then choose plants accordingly.

Some thrive in the direct sunlight. Others like partial sun, while still others prefer the shade.

Also, look at the eventual height of that plant to make sure it fits your garden. You don’t want a plant to take over your garden and leave full sun plants in the shade. If you get a tall perennial, put it in the back of the bed with shorter items in front so that they can enjoy the sun, says Sandi Hillermann McDonald of Hillermann Nursery & Florist in Washington, MO.

No matter what type of flower you plant, you must make sure to put them in the right soil. This means preparing your beds before planting.

You should turn over the soil and add compost or fertilizer.

“You want to make sure your bed is nice and loose, so more nutrients get to the roots,” Ruibal says.

Then try adding time-release fertilizer to the soil, so your plants will get a continuous stream of nutrients.

Mulch your garden after you plant. Adding mulch helps with irrigation, prevents weeds, and protects the plants’ roots during extremes of temperature.

Should you plant annuals or perennials?

Annuals and perennials are about the same price, so cost doesn’t need to be a factor in helping you decide what to plant.

Think about your garden’s goal: If you want a splash of color, go with annuals. If you’re going to tend to your garden, enjoy bringing cut flowers inside, and want to welcome back your plants each year, decide on perennials.

Selling your house in the near future? Effinger recommends planting a healthy dose of colorful annuals and throwing down a fresh half-inch of mulch.

“Color drives everything,” he says. “Color sells houses.”

Of course, you can always add both annuals and perennials to your garden. Going that route creates a well-rounded garden of color and yearly staples.

“Mixing both annuals and perennials gives you the best of both worlds,” McDonald says. “Constant color, great pollination options, and reduced yearly planting expenses.”

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Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/annuals-and-perennials-difference/