Do You Need Annuals or Perennials for Your GardenThe crocus delights us in early spring as it dares to peek through the snow and lift its face to the sun. Soon after follow tulips, narcissus, iris, lilacs… all perennials that welcome spring with vibrant color and fragrance. Perennial plants bloom at different times during the growing season and delight you with variety in color and size from earliest spring to late autumn. However, many perennials like those mentioned, bloom only for a few short weeks and then disappear from the landscape until the following year.
Annual plants provide a garden with continuous bloom and color throughout the summer. The "mission" of an annual is to produce seed. Seeds sprout, foliage grows, flowers bloom and then the plant goes to seed. When the annual completes its mission, the entire plant — flower, foliage, and root system — dies.
Some annuals have a very short life span and depending upon when they are planted, may reseed and go through two or more growing cycles per season. Other annual plants grow continuously from spring planting until the first frost of autumn.
Since annual plants die completely at season end, they need to be replaced yearly. Depending on the cultivar, annual seeds can be planted directly into a garden or sprouted indoors for transplanting when weather conditions and soil temperatures are right for growth.
Annual transplants are also available each spring at gardening centers and many are sold in inexpensive flats that contain four or more plants. Annual plants can often be closely grouped to fill in barren areas of your landscape whereas perennials often need space to multiply and/or to grow to maturity.
Although some perennial plants are more expensive to purchase than annuals, in the long run you may find them less expensive since they last for longer than a single growing season. You can also purchase groups of assorted perennial bulbs in very inexpensive packs.
Perennial foliage and flowers also die at the end of a growing season, but contrary to annuals, the root systems of perennial plants live over winter and resprout with new growth each spring.
Another advantage of perennial plants is that although flowers and foliage die back, the branches of perennial shrubs offer some visual appeal to a winter landscape.
Perennial plants may take more than one season to reach full maturity. Because perennials propagate from root structures, many types of perennials also need to be divided after three or four seasons to reduce crowding and maintain their vigor.
Although all perennial plants are able to resprout for multiple seasons, perennials are divided into to categories of hardy perennials or tender perennials according to the temperature zone in which they are grown.
Hardy perennials are those that can be left in the ground to return the following season. Except for occasional division and/or pruning, hardy perennial plants need little care once established.
Bulbs like tulips and daffodils are among the easiest plants to grow and excellent choices for a beginning gardener. Tender perennials need your help to survive the winter. Some can over winter when covered with a layer of mulch or otherwise protected from the elements with gardening appurtenances such as rose cones. Some tender perennials need to be lifted and stored indoors over winter.
So the question remains, do you need annual plants or perennials? Each type of plant is ripe with "pros" and short on "cons" if you love flowers. The best solution is to experiment by planting some of each to get a summer full of color, variety, and pure gardening enjoyment!
Linda is leading author of Gardening Guides.com Your place for information on gardening topics and free e-books.
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