You will often have heard of flowering plants being referred to as ‘annuals’ and ‘perennials’. The following explains is the difference between these two plant categories, with some common examples of plants in each category.

Annual Plants

Annuals are flowering plants that complete their full life cycle – from seed through flowering to producing the next season’s seeds- in one spring – autumn season. Because they have a short time to complete the cycle, annuals grow quickly, and flower profusely. Dead-heading annual plants can encourage masses of blooms. As such, annuals make beautiful summer bedding plants. They die off once seeded, but you can plant the same beds with winter bulbs for winter season colour in your garden.

Some annuals may need to be replanted in the next season, but many seed themselves prolifically, re-emerging, each season without human help.

The ‘Annuals’ category can be broken down into 3 sub-categories:

  • Hardy (cool season) annuals: Can withstand light frost and cooler temperatures, increasing blooming time. Some flower in autumn and winter months in mild climates.
  • Half-hardy annuals: Can be planted in early spring and last until late autumn but might not survive very cold snaps.
  • Tender (warm season) annuals: Ideally planted once weather is consistently warmer. They usually die off with the first frost or significant drop in temperature, even if they have not yet seeded themselves.

EXAMPLES OF POPULAR ANNUALS: Melissa, Foxgloves (image below), many species of Daises, Nasturtiums…to name just a few…

Fox glove an annual plant

Perennial Plants

Perennials are cold-hardy plants that won’t die off after one season. Some perennials take up to three years to flower and seed, though many flower in the first year without seeding and dying off. This makes perennials more of a long-term commitment in your garden. They are slower growing, but they can also get a lot bigger than most annuals.

EXAMPLES OF POPULAR PERENNIALS: Perennial Daisies, Forget-Me-Nots, Penstemon and Inca Lilies (image below)…to name a few…

Some plants combine the properties of annuals and perennials – flowering to seed in one season, but not dying off over winter. These plants fall into the ‘Bi-Annuals’ category.

We’ll be covering more on these categories in the coming months, and how to combine them for year-round colourful gardens, so stay tuned!

Inca Lilly perennial plant