Perennials vs Annuals
May 1, 2017

Perennials vs. Annuals: What’s the Difference?

Do you know which plants and flowers in your garden will need to be replanted next spring? How about which ones will bloom by themselves? The difference between perennials and annuals is one of the foundations of home gardening. Here’s a quick guide to help you decipher between the two.

The Short Answer
Perennials typically bloom for a short period of time each year, returning on their own each growing season for a number of years. Many perennials will return for two to five years before reaching maturity. However, some can last for 20 years or more. Common perennials in NJ include daylilies, roses and black-eyed Susans. Most trees and shrubs are perennials as well.

Annuals, on the other hand, must be replanted each growing season. They usually bloom for longer than perennials, bringing the bright pops of color that signify spring. Popular annuals in NJ include marigolds, pansies and impatiens. 

Cool Season and Warm Season Annuals
There are different types of annuals, namely cool season annuals vs. warm season annuals. Cool season annuals thrive in spring and fall, when temperatures are cooler. Marigolds, petunias and primroses are all cool season annuals. Meanwhile, warm season annuals, such as pansies, snapdragons and sweet peas, prefer the warmer months of summer and early fall.

Don’t Forget Biennials
In addition to perennials and annuals, there is a third category that many beginning gardeners don’t recognize: biennials. True to their name, biennials have a life cycle of two years, blooming in the second year. HGTV explains:

“Biennials can be tricky to get started because they need care over the winter between their first and second growing season. But once they’ve lived out their second season, biennials will drop seeds and in two years, you’ll have blooms from the new generation. Gardeners often stagger plantings in order to have blooms every year. Poppies, Sweet William and foxgloves are three popular kinds of biennials.”

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