Annuals vs. Perennials: What’s the Difference?

As warmer weather beckons, those amateur gardeners among us may be left pondering the age-old question: What’s the difference between an annual and a perennial, again? 

In short, annuals blossom all season long, then fall fallow with the frost, and cease to bloom again; whereas perennials live to flourish the following season, and for several thereafter, so long as they are properly cultivated and cared for.

A Season of Growth

Popular annual bedding flowers include petunias, lantanas, marigolds, zinnias, and New Guinea impatiens. Those looking for more exotic options may be interested in spider flower, flowering vinca, wishbone flower, and fan flower. Others, such as varieties of coleus, are renowned for their attractive foliage, and can add months of vibrant color and texture to any landscape design.   

Though annuals’ lifespans are limited—they sprout, flower, seed and die all within the same year—they tend to bloom all season long and are often bright and showy. Given their brief shelf life, annuals are typically less expensive than perennials and present shorter commitments for more fickle gardeners. 

Annuals should ideally be transplanted from their original containers as soon as possible to provide optimal opportunity for them to flourish.

Blooms That Keep on Blossoming

Perennials have been known to last three or more growing seasons, blossoming each year from the same roots that go dormant in the winter. Where annuals typically bloom a large number of flowers, perennials put more energy into strengthening their roots over time, so as to last for a longer duration. 

Popular perennials include daylilies, hostas, tickseeds, black-eyed Susans, coneflowers, and peonies. As they bloom at various times throughout the year, perennials are often paired with annuals to maintain constant bursts of color. Perennials should be planted in drifts, or grouped together for continuity, serving as ideal borders. 

Available in both sun and shade varieties, full sun requires a minimum of six hours per day of unimpeded light; areas under trees, between shrubs, or blocked by roof overhangs and trellises are classified as shady. Perennials can also be interspersed among groundcovers, used as accents in containers or herb gardens, and make ideal cut garden flowers. 


For guidance on the types of annual and perennial plants best suited for your landscape design, contact our experts at Dodds & Eder today.