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A Beginner's Guide to Annual and Perennial Flowers

Updated on October 17, 2018
alezafree profile image

I'm a freelance writer social distancing in the desert with my husband, son, two dogs, a kitten, and the occasional spider.

A healthy mix of annuals and perennials makes for a beautiful garden.
A healthy mix of annuals and perennials makes for a beautiful garden. | Source

Annual vs. Perennial

If you're new to gardening and unclear about the pros and cons of annuals and perennials, you're not alone. Many first-time gardeners have encountered this flower-filled dilemma during fall and spring planting seasons.

Read on to for some basic differences between the two types of plants, as well as a third type called the biennial.

With just a little bit of planning and planting, your garden will bloom with flower power.

In This Corner: The Annual

Petunias | Source

An annual is a plant or flower that lives for only one growing season. In other words, annuals enjoy their entire lifecycle during one season: They germinate, blossom, produce seed and ... alas ... die. Although their lifecycle is short, they are bright and colorful.

Pros of annual flowers

  1. Beautiful colors will fill your garden all year long – Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter – as long as you replace the flowers after each blooming season.
  2. You will never get sick of your flowers or your garden because you're changing them out on a regular basis.
  3. These flowers are good in containers or garden beds.
  4. They add a bit of brightness and color to any location where they're planted.

Cons of annual flowers

  1. These flowers are a bit more high maintenance since they need to be replaced every few months.
  2. They will die season to season and will need to be removed from your garden. So don't get too attached!

Marigolds | Source

Examples of annual flowers

  • Marigold
  • Pansies
  • Petunia
  • Sunflower
  • Verbena
  • Zinnia

In This Corner: The Perennial

Daisies | Source

A perennial plant or flower has a life-cycle of more than two years. That means your perennials will stick around for awhile, spread and add substance to your garden. That's because perennials survive winter and drought, then re-bloom during growing seasons. Perennials may even attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.

Pros of perennial flowers

  1. Low maintenance with a long lifespan.
  2. They will rebloom for several years.
  3. You won't have to constantly plant and replant.

Cons of perennial flowers

  1. Perennials often reproduce, which may cause overcrowding, so they may need thinning.
  2. They won't necessarily provide color all year long.
  3. Once their roots are established, it's best to leave them where they are.

Dahlias | Source

Examples of perennial flowers

  • Baby's Breath
  • Daffodils
  • Irises
  • Tulips
  • Peonies
  • Dahlias

Are you an Annual Person or a Perennial Person?

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Curveball: The Biennial

Sweet William
Sweet William | Source

Biennials are a bit like short-lived perennials. They grow and grow, but will not bloom until two years after being planted. They will only bloom once, then die.

Two years may seem like a long time to wait for one blooming cycle, but if you plan your garden accordingly, it's worth it. Think of it like waiting for a Scotch to age or making an investment.

Some examples of biennials include:

  • Poppies
  • Foxgloves
  • Canterbury Bells
  • Hollyhock
  • Sweet William

And the Winner is ...

A little from column A, a little from column B, a little from column ... P.

Life is too short to take sides, especially when it comes to gardening. So why not mix and match? Plant annuals, perennials and biennials. You will have a beautiful garden all year round, and you'll also be able to customize a bit from season to season.


Submit a Comment
  • Brook Health Care profile image

    Linda Shanabrook 

    8 years ago

    So true! Thank you for the article.

  • Pamela-anne profile image


    8 years ago from Miller Lake

    I am all for flower power I no longer have a yard but I have lots of flowers on my balcony and my landlady just commented on how lovely they look. Thanks for sharing.

  • mvillecat profile image

    Catherine Dean 

    8 years ago from Milledgeville, Georgia

    Flowers are very addicting! Try gardening with native plants, too. It is very good for the environment. I voted up.

  • alezafree profile imageAUTHOR

    A Freeman 

    8 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

    Thanks @toomuchmint and @Patsybell! I definitely know the feeling of too much mint. I actually found mint growing in my garden by accident. Now I have a huge crop!

  • toomuchmint profile image


    8 years ago

    I'm definitely a perennial person. Thanks for such an entertaining read. Voted up and awesome.

  • Patsybell profile image

    Patsy Bell Hobson 

    8 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Enjoyed. voted up and useful. Good information and rgis is a very thoughtful HUB.

  • alezafree profile imageAUTHOR

    A Freeman 

    8 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

    Thanks @RTalloni. I've been trying to turn my blue thumb green, one flower at a time.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    A hub to make a gardener smile. Indeed, that is the power of the flower. :)


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