Annual flower plants are great little additions to any garden or outdoor space. They come in various colors, shapes, sizes, and textures and bloom only once a year.
Annual flowers are fragrant and often last much longer than their perennial counterparts. A number of annual flowers are commonly sold at nurseries and home centers, such as petunias and geraniums.
What actually annual flowers and perennials? What's their difference? Let's find out.
What are annual flowers?
Annuals, also called biennials or short-lived perennials, bloom and die each year. Annuals have a simple life cycle—the seeds germinate in the spring, grow into plants, flower for one season, then wither away until next spring when they start over again.
Some annuals can be grown as garden ornamental shrubs and trees. Others are used as houseplants. Most annuals are propagated by seed, although some are grown from cuttings or divisions. In addition, many annual flowers are available commercially.
The most common annual is probably the dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), which has been cultivated for its edible leaves since ancient times. The plant provides nectar to bees and butterflies and has medicinal uses.
Other popular annuals include petunias, marigolds, cosmos, zinnia, impatiens, begonias, gladiolus, cosmos, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, lilies, and phlox.
Annual flowers may be divided into tender annuals and hardy annuals. Tender annuals require temperatures above 50°F (10°C) for several weeks during the growing season, while hardy annuals can survive frost.
When choosing annuals, look for plants with large blooms, strong stems, and good foliage. You should avoid plants that droop or turn brown after flowering. A few exceptions to this rule are listed below.
Types of annual plants:
Annual plantings aren't all about the flowers. The pretty foliage of 'Aaron' caladium, boasting heart-shaped leaves with dark green borders and pale centers, makes it a go-to annual for landscape designer Daniel McCurry of Father Nature Landscapes.
Technically a tender perennial, you can enjoy it as an annual in most areas throughout the U.S. and Canada. It does well in full sun but will tolerate light shade if given enough water. Its rich red fall color adds interest to landscapes and floral arrangements.
This easy-care, drought-resistant annual looks best planted in a group. The daisy-like flowers have a sweetly scented fragrance that attracts bees and butterflies. ‘Mountain Rose’ produces up to 20 yellow blossoms per stem on tall stalks. Plant in drifts or masses of three to five plants for maximum effect.
With chocolate-brown foliage and a central pink star, these annuals make a big impact on your yard. ‘Goldkist’ produces 12 to 15 white or cream-colored flowers atop long stalks, followed by round, orange fruit. This fast-growing, easy-to-grow annual thrives in full sun and average soil conditions.
These sweet, fragrant annuals produce showstopping displays of flowers in shades of pink, purple, white, and blue. Their compact habit allows them to fit easily into small spaces. They're great for container gardens where there's little room for sprawling plants.
Asters, carnations, and other Aster family members make lovely additions to the garden. These perennials bloom from early spring through late summer and produce plenty of colorful blooms. Dianthus are known for their ability to withstand harsh winter conditions.
Known for their cheerful, spiky flower heads, echinacea is also an effective insect repellent. The species E. purpurea produces bell-shaped, lavender-pink flowers; the cultivar ‘Snowflake’ offers more intense colors and longer blooming periods. Echinaceas grow quickly and don’t need much care.
The popular Impatiens genus includes popular bedding geraniums like I. pallida and I. balsamina, along with many others. All boast abundant blooms in various hues, including bright blues, pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds. They thrive when grown in moist soils and sunny locations.
The striking lantana is one of the first annuals to start popping up each spring. With large, trumpet-shaped flowers, they attract insects and hummingbirds alike. Lantanas are heat tolerant and adaptable, making them perfect for hot climates.
Reason to plant annuals:
Annuals are easy to grow and require little maintenance. You plant seeds directly in the ground in spring, water regularly, and harvest when the flowers fade. While it takes longer to produce mature fruits and vegetables, annuals are ready to eat sooner than most perennial plants.
They’re also easier to care for. All you do is fertilize once during the growing season, and they don’t need much attention beyond watering. Annuals are ideal for beginners because they’re simple to start and maintain.
You can use annuals in almost every part of your garden. Plant them in pots, planters, window boxes, hanging baskets, beds, borders, and even under trees.
What is perennial?
Perennials live more than two years. Many perennials grow back every year after dying down during winter. Annuals generally do not return unless planted every year.
This is because they reproduce through seed, which means that they will produce new plants the following spring. While this may seem like an advantage, it makes annuals less desirable than perennials due to their limited lifespan.
Perennials are usually harder to maintain than annuals. To keep healthy, perennials must be regularly watered and fertilized throughout the growing season. And while annuals don't need to be divided, perennials should be pruned every few years to promote growth and prevent overcrowding.
Perennials can be used as groundcovers but tend to grow taller than most annuals. If you'd rather have shorter plants, consider choosing annuals instead.
Types of perennial:
Delphinium is a genus of flowering plants in the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. The name "delphinium" comes from the Ancient Greek δελφίνοι (dialephíni), meaning dolphin or porpoise, referring to the shape of some species' flowers; Linnaeus first used it in 1753.
Most delphiniums are biennials, producing only one round, daisylike flower per stalk before going to seed in autumn. Species include D. Nobile, D. formosum, D. grandiflorum, and D. elatum.
Dianthus is a genus of flowering plant in the sunflower family, Asteraceae. It contains about 700 species and subspecies, mostly native to temperate areas of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and South America. Dianthus has been cultivated since ancient times, and many types still exist today.
Eryngo is a genus of flowering shrubs in the mint family Lamiaceae. There are over 300 known species worldwide, all of which are herbaceous perennials. The genus takes its name from the Greek word ἔργω (ergo), meaning 'I work.'
Gerberas are popular flowering bulbs found throughout temperate regions. Gerberas are among the earliest bulbs to bloom in spring. In addition to beautiful blossoms, they also have distinctive foliage.
Impatiens is a genus of flowering herbs in the Balsaminaceae, commonly called balsams, with about 250 species distributed widely across tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
Lantana is a genus of flowering, evergreen shrubs, and small trees in the verbena family Verbenaceae. Lantana is sometimes considered a subgenus of Verbena. The name lantana comes from the Latin for "spotted."
The common English names marigold and pot marigold refers to the plant itself and the yellow petal color. Marigolds are members of the genus Tagetes, related to the carrot family Apiaceae. They are grown primarily as ornamental plants, although several cultivars are cultivated for use as food plants, such as germinated oilseed rape.
The iris genus offers a wide range of species and varieties that offer something for almost every garden need. Dwarf iris did well in rockeries and raised beds, whereas sumptuous-flowering bearded iris need full sun and well-drained soil.
Moisture-loving species thrive in boggy soil near pond edges, while bearded iris love beds with lots of water. Summer is the best time to see the iris bloom.
Reason to plant perennials:
Whether you're looking for something that lasts longer than annuals, want to help beautify your yard, or simply want to support the environment, there are many reasons why choosing perennials over annuals makes sense. Perennial flowers offer various benefits, including lasting beauty, low maintenance requirements, and the ability to grow even during a drought.
Even though perennials generally live much longer than annuals, some varieties die yearly. However, most perennials can be divided or reseeded each spring to keep their populations healthy and vibrant.
Many perennials produce seeds that germinate easily and propagate themselves naturally, while others must be planted by hand. Some species are self-seeding, meaning that they spread without human intervention. Others depend on natural predators like birds or insects to do the job for them.
Which is best? Annual or perennial?
I'd say it's a matter of personal preference. I prefer annuals, but my garden isn't very big, and I don't grow many plants. If you have the space for perennials, though, they're generally more attractive and easier to maintain than annuals.
Suppose you want something that will last longer than one season. In that case, perennial flowers will probably work better for you because they come back year after year.
You'll still get blooms in summer, but you won't lose any of those pretty purple, pink, orange, red, white, or blue flowers until next spring. And if you decide to divide your perennials every year, you can always replant new shoots in spring.
If you're interested in supporting the environment, perennial flowers are an excellent choice. Most perennials require little care once established, so they tend not to compete with other plants for nutrients or sunlight. Plus, when you buy a perennial instead of an annual flower, you're helping to save money and resources.
Perennials also make good choices for people who want to create a beautiful outdoor space that requires little effort to maintain. Although they may take up a bit of room initially, perennials are easy to transplant and divide into smaller plants, which means that you can enjoy fresh blossoms all season long.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do annual flowers benefit you?
The easiest way to remember this is that planting annual flowers is like filing your taxes.
2. In what sense are perennial plants defined?
Generally, perennial plants grow from a part that survives from growing season to growing season, generating new herbaceous growth each time. In addition to tree and shrub species, some herbaceous plants and ground covers (nonwoody) are perennials as well.
3. Which flower is the most durable?
Almost anywhere in the sun will produce abundant blooms of daylilies (Hemerocallis). Their wide range of colors and bi-colors make them drought-tolerant and insect-resistant. You can also find daylilies that bloom in the early, mid, and late seasons.
4. What is the hardiest annual flower?
Moss Rose is the hardiest annual flower.
5. Which is the most delicate flower?
Any floral arrangement could benefit from the soft touch of tulips, one of the most delicate flowers on this list. Funerary flowers can benefit from their graceful stalks. From vibrant and pop colors to subtle pastels, tulips come in an array of hues.
Neither an annual nor a perennial should be compared with one another. Each of them has its own specialty that makes them stand out from the rest. Whatever you decide to plant, it doesn't matter what you choose to do. Just start gardening and help the environment.