Let’s look at the differences between annual and perennial flowers in the garden because there are some major differences you should be aware of.
Annual plants are killed by frost or cold weather. They live for one growing season
Perennial plants live through and over this cold weather – in very cold climates, the leaves die, the plant hibernates to reappear in the spring. Perennials may last anywhere from 2 to 50 years depending on the perennial in question.
Hellebore (very hardy perenial)
Annuals tend to flower for a very long time. If deadheaded, they can be encouraged to produce more blooms.
Perennials tend to flower for a 6 week time – some shorter and some longer but very few bloom all summer.
Perennial Anemone ‘September Charm’
Annuals are mostly grown from seed and you can save your own with most plants. Some of the fancier hybrids are produced by cuttings or tissue culture and these are mostly patented or branded plants put out by large nurseries.
Perennials can also be grown from seed but only the species plants. The fancy hybrids need to be propagated by asexual methods (cuttings, division, tissue culture) Seeds from hybrid plants will not come true from seed.
Cost of Growing
Annuals can be extremely inexpensive if grown at home from seed. A package of seed can produce an entire garden’s worth of blooms for an entire season and then the seed can be saved for future years (always assuming the plant isn’t a hybrid)
Perennials tend to be more expensive than annuals but they live for several years. Some gardeners say that if you’re buying your plants (not starting your own) then buying perennials makes sense because you buy the hardy ones that last for years and you never have to buy them again. Higher upfront costs but lower ongoing costs.
Ease of Growing
Annuals. Toss them in the ground, water and feed and you can get blooms. Considered the easiest of plants to grow in the summer garden.
Perennials can be trickier in that there is a greater variation in plant origin and plants have to be selected for hardiness zones. There is little point trying to grow a very tender plant in a very cold climate. There is a steeper learning curve with successful perennial gardening than with annuals.
Difference between Annuals and Perennials
The difference between annual and perennial flowers is one of degree and interest. If you only want simple gardening, then plant annual flowers that self-clean (impatiens) and don’t require deadheading and/or perennials that live for a very long time and don’t require a lot of work (daylilies)
Mixed annuals and perennials
Amount of Work
Annuals are relatively easy. You work the ground, plant, deadhead, weed and then pull out the old plants when the frost hits. Repeat year after year for ongoing blooms.
Perennials take work. You work the ground (usually only once) then you plant. Deadhead, weed and then leave plants in ground for winter. You can do this for a year or two but then your perennials are going to require division to keep them blooming. Now you get to dig them all up, divide them up and replant them. This is usually the time you dig and enrich the soil again in the area around where you grow that plant.
So while many people say that perennials are less work, they can be much more unless you pick low-maintenance plants. Any comparison between annual and perennial flowers needs to take this into consideration. If you think you’re going to install a perennial garden because it’s “less work” then you might want to think again.